Human Rights Issues

Human Rights Issues

Candid notes on the NHRC’s status deferral

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About NHRC;

Mains level: Human Rights; NHRC; Paris Principles;

Why in the News?

The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) was formally informed late last week that the deferral of its status would continue for a year more.

  • The deferral was put in place by the Sub-committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) for a year, in 2023.

About the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC)

    • The NHRC is a statutory body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, of 1993.
    • It is mandated to promote and protect Human Rights in India, investigate complaints of human rights violations, and take serious cognizance of human rights issues.
    • The NHRC plays a crucial role in ensuring accountability and justice for victims of Human Rights abuses.
  • It’s Deferral status:
    • The deferral of NHRC’s status means that its accreditation is temporarily postponed, pending improvements in its compliance with the Paris Principles.
    • The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) accredits National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) based on compliance with the Paris Principles, a set of international standards for NHRIs.

About Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI):

  • The GANHRI is an international network that brings together National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from around the world.
  • It was established in 1993 as the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
  • In 2009, it was renamed GANHRI to better reflect its global scope and mission.

How Indian NHRC is drifting away from the Paris Principles?

  • Ideological Conflict: The mention of the ‘Manusmriti’ in the NHRC document sparked outrage among historically disadvantaged communities, who view it as a source of discrimination and violence they have endured during ancient times.
    • The foundational values of ‘Equality’ in the Indian Constitution and Paris Principles conflict with Manusmriti’s ‘caste-division’ principles.
    • In early 2017 also the NHRC was placed in the deferral category by the GANHRI, which was later lifted after a review.
  • Significance of ‘A’ Status: NHRC had emphasized the significance of ‘A’ status accreditation in its public note on a previous occasion.
    • ‘A’ status grants participation in the work and mechanisms of GANHRI, the Human Rights Council, and other UN mechanisms.

Way forward:

  • Comprehensive Review: Conduct a thorough review of NHRC’s policies, practices, and organizational structure to identify areas of improvement and address deficiencies.
  • Strengthen Compliance: Need to take proactive measures to ensure compliance with the Paris Principles, including enhancing autonomy, independence, and effectiveness in addressing human rights violations.

Mains PYQ:

Q Though the Human Rights Commissions have contributed immensely to the protection of human rights in India, yet they have failed to assert themselves against the mighty. Analysing their structural and practical limitations, suggest remedial measures. (UPSC IAS/2021)

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Human Rights Issues

In news: National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) Accreditation 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NHRC, GANHRI

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is gearing up to defend India’s human rights processes at a critical meeting of Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in Geneva.
  • A decision on retaining India’s NHRC’s “A status” accreditation is imminent at this summit.

About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Details
Establishment
  • A Statutory Body;
  • Established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
Functions
  • Inquire into any violation of human rights
  • Recommend immediate interim relief to victims or their families
  • Intervene in court proceedings involving human rights violations
  • Review constitutional and legal safeguards for human rights
  • Study international instruments on human rights
  • Promote human rights literacy
  • Support the efforts of NGOs working in the field of human rights
Powers
  • Regulate its own procedure
  • Possess all the powers of a civil court
  • Proceedings have a judicial character
Chairperson
  • Must be a former Justice of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
  • Appointed by the President of India
Members
  • Four full-time members;
  • Chairperson: former Supreme Court Justice or Chief Justice;
  • Other Member: former Judge of the Supreme Court;
  • Other Member: former Chief Justice of a High Court;
  • Three Members: with knowledge or experience in human rights, including at least one woman –
  • Seven ex-officio members:  Chairpersons of National Commissions viz., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women , National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
Appointment
  • Appointed by the President, based on a committee recommendation including the Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Home Minister, Leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and others
  • Consultation with the Chief Justice of India for judicial appointments
Removal
  • Removal by order of the President of India
  • Consultation with the Supreme Court before removal
Terms of Office
  • Hold office for a term of three years or until the age of 70
  • Ineligibility for further government employment after office
  • Eligible for reappointment
Salaries Determined by the Central government
Reporting
  • Submits annual or special reports to the Central government and the concerned State government
  • Reports laid before the respective legislatures, along with a memorandum of action taken on the recommendations and reasons for non-acceptance of any recommendations
Limitations
  • The commission is not empowered to inquire into any matter after the expiry of one year from the date on which the act constituting the violation of human rights is alleged to have been committed
  • Functions are recommendatory in nature, with no power to punish or award relief to violators
  • Limited role concerning armed forces violations

 

GANHRI Concerns about India’s NHRC

India’s NHRC faced a potential downgrade in its accreditation status in 2023 due to concerns raised by the SCA regarding its operational independence and composition.

  • Political Interference: The NHRC-India faced objections related to political interference in appointments, compromising its independence.
  • Police Involvement: Involving the police in probes into human rights violations raised concerns about impartiality and fair investigations.
  • Lack of Cooperation: The NHRC’s poor cooperation with civil society was criticized, hindering its effectiveness in protecting human rights.
  • Lack of Diversity: The GANHRI highlighted the lack of diversity in staff and leadership positions within the NHRC. There is also lack of gender and minority representation.
  • Insufficient Protection of Marginalized Groups: The NHRC was found to have taken insufficient action to protect marginalized groups, contrary to the U.N.’s principles on national institutions (the ‘Paris Principles).

Back2Basics: GANHRI (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions)

Purpose Promote and protect human rights globally
Year Established 1993
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Members National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from 114 member institutions
Key Functions
  • Promoting and strengthening NHRIs worldwide
  • Advocating for human rights at national, regional, and global levels
  • Facilitating cooperation and sharing of best practices among NHRIs
  • Providing capacity-building support to NHRIs etc.
Organizational Structure
  • President: Elected from GANHRI members for a specified term
  • Bureau: Assists the President in overseeing GANHRI’s work
  • Sub-Committees: Focused on specific thematic or regional issues
Key Documents
  • Paris Principles: Provide guidance for the establishment and operation of NHRIs
  • GANHRI Strategy: Outlines the organization’s strategic objectives and actions
Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA)
  • Part of a five-year peer evaluation cycle for all 114 member institutions of GANHRI.
  • Accreditation status holds significance as it determines its voting rights at international human rights forums.

 

PYQ:

[2011] Consider the following:

  1. Right to education.
  2. Right to equal access to public service.
  3. Right to food.

Which of the above is/are Human Right/Rights under “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Human Rights Issues

Understanding the world of the informal waste picker

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

Mains level: acknowledging waste pickers' crucial role in plastic recycling is imperative for sustainable waste management

 

High time to address occupational hazards of waste pickers

Why is it in news?  

  • On March 1, International Waste Pickers Day, waste pickers across the world will pay homage to fellow pickers who were murdered in Colombia in 1992.

Who are informal waste pickers?

  • The International Labour Organization defines the informal sector in waste management as ‘individuals or small and micro-enterprises that intervene in waste management without being registered and without being formally charged with providing waste management services’

Background:

  • Informal waste pickers, often overlooked and marginalized, play a crucial but unseen role in India’s waste management systems. They are vital yet often forgotten members of the waste value chain ecosystem, deserving recognition and understanding.
  • These workers are the primary collectors of recyclable waste, playing a critical role in waste management and resource efficiency by collecting, sorting, trading and sometimes even reinserting discarded waste back into the economy.
  • Yet, they face systemic marginalisation due to non-recognition, non-representation, and exclusion from social security schemes and legal protection frameworks.

What data shows?

  • While reliable estimates of informal waste pickers are difficult to come by, the Centre for Science and Environment reported that the informal waste economy employs about 5%–2% of the urban population globally.
  • Many are women, children and the elderly, who are often disabled, are the poorest of the urban poor, and face violence and sexual harassment often. The Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-18 indicates that there are nearly 1.5 million waste pickers within India’s urban workforce, with half a million being women.

Challenges Faced by Waste Pickers

  • Work Conditions: Waste pickers labor for 8 to 10 hours daily, collecting 60 kg to 90 kg of waste, often without safety equipment, exposing themselves to hazards.
  • Health Issues: They suffer from dermatological and respiratory problems, alongside regular injuries, due to their hazardous work conditions.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Low income, irregular work, and harassment exacerbate their precarious livelihoods, compounded by their subordinate position in the caste hierarchy.

Impact of Private Sector Participation in waste collection

  • Exclusion: Private sector involvement in waste management alienates waste pickers, depriving them of their rights and exacerbating their vulnerability.
  • Marginalization: As noted by the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers (AIW) 2023 report, Private actors employ expensive machinery, marginalizing informal waste pickers by offering competitive rates to waste generators, forcing them into hazardous scavenging activities.
  • Loss of Rights: Private players and municipal authorities often cordon off dump sites, further limiting waste pickers’ access and exacerbating their vulnerability.

Importance of Waste Pickers in Plastic Management

  • Global Contribution: Waste pickers globally collect and recover up to 60% of all plastic waste, contributing significantly to its recycling efforts, as highlighted in the 2022 World Economic Forum report.
  • Underappreciated Role: Despite their crucial contribution to sustainable recycling, waste pickers’ work is undervalued, and they struggle to earn a decent livelihood.
  • Quantitative Impact: Reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Pew state that informal waste pickers collected 27 million metric tonnes of plastic waste in 2016 alone, representing 59% of all plastic material collected for recycling, thereby preventing it from ending up in landfills or oceans.
  • Relevance in India’s Context: In India, where per capita plastic waste generation is rising, waste pickers’ role becomes even more critical, especially considering that the country is among the top 12 responsible for 52% of the world’s mismanaged waste, as per a recent CPCB report.
  • Harnessing Traditional Knowledge: Waste pickers possess traditional knowledge about waste handling, which could significantly enhance the effectiveness of the EPR system if integrated properly.
  • Rethinking EPR Norms: In light of this, there is a need to reconsider the formulation of EPR norms to ensure the inclusion and empowerment of millions of informal waste pickers within the new legal framework.

Understanding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • Objective: EPR aims to enhance plastic waste management by transferring the responsibility of waste management from municipal authorities to commercial waste producers.
  • Promises of EPR: EPR holds the potential for social inclusion for waste pickers and other informal grassroots actors by promoting accountability among commercial waste producers.

Analysis of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Guidelines

  • Stakeholder Identification: The EPR guidelines in India recognize various stakeholders, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), producers, brand owners, industry, industry associations, civil society organizations, and citizens.
  • Uncertainty Regarding Inclusion: It remains unclear whether these stakeholders include informal waste pickers or their representing organizations, raising questions about the extent of their involvement in the EPR framework.
  • Discrepancies with Solid Waste Management Rules 2016: While the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 mandate the inclusion of waste pickers in municipal solid waste management systems, informal waste pickers are evidently missing in the prioritization within the EPR guidelines.
  • Omission in EPR Guidelines 2022: The EPR Guidelines 2022, published by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, have blatantly ignored the role of informal waste pickers in waste management and recycling, further exacerbating their exclusion from the formal waste management framework.

Challenges in Implementation

  • Redirection of Waste: Despite its promises, EPR often redirects waste away from the informal sector, posing a threat of large-scale displacement for informal waste pickers.
  • Concerns Raised by WIEGO: Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) have noted the potential negative impacts of EPR on informal waste pickers, highlighting the need for careful consideration and mitigation of such effects.

In conclusion, acknowledging waste pickers’ crucial role in plastic recycling is imperative for sustainable waste management. Efforts should focus on integrating them into formal systems like the Extended Producer Responsibility mechanism while addressing their socio-economic vulnerabilities for a more equitable and environmentally sound future.

 

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Human Rights Issues

Express View on student suicides: After Niharika

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: the societal issues leading to student suicides

Insights into Editorial: Preventing student suicides - INSIGHTSIAS

Central Idea:

The article highlights the alarming increase in student suicides, particularly in Kota, as a consequence of the intense pressure and expectations associated with high-stakes competitive exams such as JEE and NEET. It emphasizes the need for a collective effort from parents, teachers, institutions, and policymakers to address the underlying issues leading to these tragic outcomes.

Key Highlights:

  • Kota witnessed 29 student suicides in coaching centers last year, reflecting the profound toll of competitive exam stress.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau’s 2022 report revealed that students and the unemployed constituted a significant portion of total suicides.
  • The article points to a deeper societal issue originating in parental ambitions and culminating in high-pressure attempts to secure seats in prestigious institutions.
  • The cost of such aspirations includes prolonged study hours, loneliness, and relentless pressure on young individuals.

Key Challenges:

  • A societal emphasis on unrealistic goals and expectations from parents can lead to severe mental health issues among students.
  • The pressure to succeed in competitive exams contributes to anxiety and desperation among the youth.

Key Terms:

  • JEE: Joint Entrance Examination.
  • NEET: National Eligibility cum Entrance Test.

Key Phrases:

  • “Disquieting spike in student deaths.”
  • “Cost of aspiration: interminable hours of studying, loneliness, and unrelenting pressure.”
  • “Recognizing potential as a gesture of confidence or a source of despair.”

Key Quotes:

  • “The future need not be one of anxiety and duress, of expectations so onerous that they become the sole metric of achievement.”
  • “Change requires everyone to own responsibility, a conscious effort to open up minds, and rethink ways of seeing.”

Key Statements:

  • “The article highlights the alarming increase in student suicides, particularly in Kota, as a consequence of the intense pressure and expectations associated with high-stakes competitive exams.”
  • “The future need not be one of anxiety and duress.”

Key Examples and References:

  • The case of Niharika Solanki, an 18-year-old student who died by suicide in Kota.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau’s 2022 annual report.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Kota witnessed 29 student suicides in coaching centers last year.
  • Students and the unemployed constituted 7.6% and 9.2% of total suicides, respectively.

Critical Analysis:

  • The article effectively points out the societal issues leading to student suicides but does not delve deeply into specific solutions or policy recommendations.
  • There is an implicit call for a more compassionate and realistic approach to education and societal expectations.

Way Forward:

  • A collective effort is needed from parents, teachers, institutions, and policymakers to address the root causes of student stress and suicides.
  • There is a necessity to redefine success and achievement, focusing on holistic development rather than narrow metrics.
  • Encouraging open conversations about mental health and providing adequate support systems can contribute to a more balanced and compassionate educational environment.

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Human Rights Issues

The issue of genocide and the world court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Erga Omnes Obligation

Mains level: rules-based international order

GENOCIDE CONVENTION ON THE PREVENTION OF THE CRIME OF 1948

Central Idea:

The article discusses the legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) initiated by South Africa against Israel, alleging violations of the Genocide Convention in the conduct of military operations in Gaza. The international legal context, arguments presented by both sides, and potential provisional measures are highlighted.

Key Highlights:

  • South Africa’s legal action against Israel based on the Genocide Convention.
  • Debate and international reactions to the case, with Bangladesh and Jordan supporting South Africa, and Germany supporting Israel.
  • The significance of provisional measures in protecting rights before a final determination.
  • Challenges in proving the specific intent for genocide and contrasting arguments from South Africa and Israel.
  • Potential outcomes and the broader context of international law legitimacy.

Key Challenges:

  • Demonstrating specific intent for genocide.
  • Varying international reactions and political divisions.
  • Crafting effective provisional measures acceptable to both parties.
  • Addressing the split between formerly colonial powers and others in international law opinions.

Key Terms:

  • Genocide Convention: An international treaty prohibiting acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.
  • Provisional Measures: Interim orders issued by a court to protect rights pending a final determination of a case.
  • Erga Omnes Obligation: The obligation of states to take action to prevent genocide, a duty owed to the international community as a whole.
  • Dolus Specialis: Specific intent required to establish the crime of genocide.
  • International Criminal Court (ICC): An international tribunal that prosecutes individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
  • Rules-Based International Order: A system where international relations are governed by agreed-upon rules and principles.

Key Phrases:

  • “Provisional measures” as interim orders.
  • “Erga omnes obligation” for states to prevent genocide.
  • “Dolus specialis” indicating specific intent for genocide.
  • “Rules-based international order” questioned by the proceedings.

Key Quotes:

  • “Provisional measures are issued pending the final determination of a case.”
  • “The split seems to track the divide between formerly colonial or imperial powers and others.”
  • “The legitimacy of international law itself is at stake.”

Key Statements:

  • South Africa’s claim based on being unrelated to the conflict but having an obligation to prevent genocide.
  • Israel’s defense focused on the absence of a dispute and the multiple interpretations of statements.
  • International law viewed as invented by the imperial “West.”

Key Examples and References:

  • The Gambia versus Myanmar case.
  • Germany’s contrasting positions in different legal cases.
  • Alleged genocidal statements by Israeli politicians echoed by soldiers on TikTok.

Key Facts:

  • December 29, 2023: South Africa initiates ICJ proceedings against Israel.
  • January 11-12, 2024: ICJ hearing on provisional measures.
  • 24,000-plus deaths in Gaza during the present war.
  • Destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza.
  • Germany’s intervention in The Gambia versus Myanmar case.

Key Data:

  • Data includes 24,000-plus deaths in Gaza during the present war and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

Critical Analysis:

The article critically examines the challenges of proving genocide, the international split in opinions, and questions the legitimacy of the “rules-based international order.” It underscores the broader implications of the ICJ’s decision on the perception of international law.

Way Forward:

  • Await the ICJ’s ruling on provisional measures.
  • Consider potential alternatives for provisional measures, such as a humanitarian ceasefire or facilitating resource entry into Gaza.
  • Observe how nation-states respond to the ICJ’s decision and its impact on international law legitimacy.

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Human Rights Issues

Dream destination, nightmarish journey

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: desperate and perilous journeys of Indian migrants seeking illegal routes to the U.S. and Canada

Donkey routes: En route Europe, how Indians visit several countries to  create 'travel history' | Explained News - The Indian Express

 

Central idea 

The grounding of a chartered plane in France reveals the desperate and perilous journeys of Indian migrants seeking illegal routes to the U.S. and Canada. It emphasizes the role of agents, tragic incidents, and the necessity for international collaboration to address the root causes and dismantle illegal immigration networks, highlighting the human cost of such endeavors.

Key Highlights:

  • A chartered plane from the UAE to Nicaragua, carrying 303 Indians, was grounded in France for a human trafficking probe.
  • The flight was hired by a non-European client, and passengers were possibly trafficked, leading to a French investigation.
  • The passengers claimed they boarded willingly, and the flight was eventually forced to return to Mumbai.
  • Gujarat and Punjab have high numbers of illegal Indian migrants to the U.S. and Canada, often taking risky “donkey routes.”

Key Challenges:

  • Lack of opportunities in Gujarat pushes people to seek better prospects abroad, leading to illegal migration.
  • Human trafficking networks operate, exploiting the desperation of individuals seeking a better life.
  • The dangers of “donkey routes” involve traversing various countries with lenient visa policies, risking lives in harsh conditions.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Donkey routes: Illegal migration paths involving multiple countries with lenient visa policies.
  • Human trafficking: Exploitative practices involving illegal transportation of individuals.
  • Chartered flight: Private aircraft hired for specific travel purposes.
  • Asylum seekers: Individuals seeking protection and refuge in a foreign country.

Plane grounded in France lands in Mumbai

Key Quotes:

  • “The French authorities had received a tip-off and took it very seriously.”
  • “The episode has once again called attention to the staggering number of Indians who migrate illegally to the U.S. or Canada.”
  • “People don’t find any opportunities here. There are no well-paying jobs and sometimes no jobs at all.”

Anecdotes:

  • Two passengers seeking asylum in France carried multiple passports and a substantial amount of money.
  • Families taking extreme risks, like freezing to death near the U.S. border or drowning in attempts to cross rivers.

Key Statements:

  • French authorities stopped exploring human trafficking angle after passengers claimed they boarded willingly.
  • Gujarat Police cracking down on agents facilitating illegal immigration through donkey routes.

Key Examples and References:

  • Shashi Kiran Reddy, a Hyderabad-based agent, behind the chartered flight facilitating illegal immigration.
  • Instances of families freezing to death near the U.S. border or drowning while attempting to cross rivers.

Critical Analysis:

  • Lack of opportunities and frustration in Gujarat and Punjab contribute to the high number of illegal migrants.
  • The existence of human trafficking networks highlights the exploitation of individuals seeking better prospects.

Way Forward:

  • Address root causes like lack of opportunities and corruption to discourage illegal migration.
  • Strengthen efforts to dismantle human trafficking networks, collaborating with international agencies.
  • Enhance awareness about legal migration pathways and associated risks to deter individuals from choosing illegal routes.

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Human Rights Issues

75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Mains level: Not Much

human rights

Central Idea

  • 75th Anniversary: December 10 marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in Paris.
  • Foundation of International Order: Post-World War II, this declaration laid the groundwork for the international order, aiming to prevent future atrocities.

Understanding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Document Structure: Comprising a preamble and 30 articles, it outlines fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • Key Provisions: Articles emphasize equality in dignity and rights, non-discrimination, the right to life and liberty, prohibition of slavery and torture, fair trial rights, asylum rights, and freedoms of religion, opinion, expression, and assembly.
  • Right to Education: The declaration also enshrines the right to education for all.

Origins and Development

  • Post-War Sentiment: Born from the “never again” resolve after the world wars and the Holocaust, it served as a “road map” for individual rights.
  • Drafting Process: Chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the drafting committee represented diverse geographical regions, with over 50 countries contributing to the final draft.
  • Global Participation: Despite being drafted during widespread colonial rule, the declaration represented a collective effort, ensuring rights for all, including gender equality.

Impact and Legacy

  • Non-Binding Nature: While not a treaty or legally binding, its principles have influenced national laws and international human rights treaties.
  • Inspiration for Movements: It spurred decolonization, anti-apartheid, and various human rights movements globally.
  • Universal Standard: Despite criticisms, it remains a universal human rights standard, influencing various subsequent human rights agreements.

Current Challenges and Relevance

  • Contemporary Conflicts: The declaration’s anniversary comes amid ongoing human rights challenges in conflicts like Israel-Hamas, Russia-Ukraine, and internal strife in Myanmar and Sudan.
  • U.N. Secretary-General’s Concerns: Antonio Guterres noted the misuse and abuse of the declaration, with some governments undermining it.
  • Amnesty International’s View: The organization sees the declaration as a testament to the feasibility of a global human rights vision.
  • Volker Türk’s Perspective: The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasizes the declaration’s enduring relevance, urging the world to recognize its successes and learn from its shortcomings.

Conclusion: Upholding the Universal Declaration

  • Inherent Human Rights: The declaration underscores that human rights are intrinsic to every individual.
  • Leaders’ Responsibility: Leaders are reminded of their duty to uphold these rights, essential for the well-being of the people they serve.

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Human Rights Issues

In news: Operation Storm Makers II

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Operation Storm Makers II

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • The Interpol operation Storm Makers II against fraud schemes fuelled by victims of human trafficking has unearthed further evidence that the trend is expanding beyond the Southeast Asian region.

About Operation Storm Makers II

  • This operation was a special mission organized by Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France.
  • The operation took place from October 16 to 20.
  • It involved law enforcement in 27 countries across Asia and other regions.

The operation targeted human trafficking and cyber scams. It resulted in:

  1. Rescue of 149 human trafficking victims
  2. Hundreds of arrests
  3. More than 270,000 inspections and police checks

Back2Basics: INTERPOL

Details
Full Name International Criminal Police Organization
Member Countries Comprises 195 member countries
Function Facilitates coordination among police forces globally; shares data on crimes and criminals
Headquarters Located in Lyon, France
Global Complex Has a Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore
Satellite Offices Several regional offices in different parts of the world
India’s Membership Joined in June 1956
National Central Bureau (NCB) Each member country has an NCB; in India, it’s under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)

NCBs are the contact points for Interpol’s General Secretariat and other NCBs; run by police officials of the country

Databases Manages 19 police databases with real-time access to information on crimes and criminals
Investigative Support Provides forensic, analysis, and assistance in locating fugitives globally
Red Notice (RN) Issued to alert police worldwide about fugitives wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence; for provisional arrest pending extradition or similar legal action

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Human Rights Issues

The hypocrisy of Western democracy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: Israel’s “right to defend”

Understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict - Frontline

Central idea 

The article explores the tragic situation in Palestine, emphasizing the West’s complicity in enabling Israel’s actions. It highlights the suppression of freedom of expression, media bias, and challenges in Europe, calling for an exposé of Western democracies’ hypocrisies and a truthful reckoning to address the root causes of Palestinian oppression.

Key Highlights:

  • Tragic Toll: The passage reveals the staggering death toll of over 17,000 Gazans since October 7, underscoring the magnitude of the ongoing tragedy.
  • West’s Enabling Role: The West is implicated in enabling Israel’s actions through support, framing the conflict, and reducing Palestine to the actions of Hamas.

Key Challenges:

  • Freedom of Expression Suppression: Western societies, despite professing democracy, are suppressing freedom of expression, particularly in universities, where pro-Palestine advocates face public exposure.
  • Media Bias: The media, a significant influencer, is criticized for its overwhelming bias towards Israel, neglecting the historical roots and international illegality of Israeli occupation.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Zionism and Apartheid: These terms highlight ideological aspects and the discriminatory nature of certain Israeli policies.
  • Genocidal Intent and Settler Colonialism: These phrases emphasize the severity of actions and the historical context of Israeli actions in Palestinian territories.

Key Quotes:

  • “The West has shockingly enabled this [tragedy] in various ways,” pointing to the culpability of Western nations.
  • “The media has been key in framing the Palestine-Israel conflict for 75 years,” exposing the media’s role in shaping public perception.

Key Examples and References:

  • University Actions: Instances of Harvard and Columbia exposing details of pro-Palestine students highlight the suppression faced by advocates.
  • European Countries’ Stance: The passage cites bans on pro-Palestinian protests in countries like the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy as concrete examples of European support for Israel.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Death Toll: Over 17,000 Gazans killed since October 7, quantifying the scale of the tragedy.
  • Harvard’s Philanthropy Dependency: Highlighting that 45% of Harvard’s revenue in 2022 came from philanthropy underscores the potential influence of donors.

Critical Analysis:

  • Suppression of Free Speech: The critical analysis underscores the severe impact of suppressing freedom of expression on informed dialogue.
  • Media’s Role: Emphasizing media bias prompts reflection on the potential manipulation of public opinion.

Way Forward:

  • Expose Hypocrisies: Advocates for change should actively expose the hypocrisies of Western democracy, challenging the status quo.
  • Acknowledge Complicity: A call to acknowledge Western complicity in Palestinian oppression encourages introspection and accountability.
  • Listen to Dissenting Voices: Encouraging the acknowledgment of dissenting voices, including Jewish dissenters, fosters a more inclusive dialogue.
  • Truthful Reckoning: Highlighting the need for a truthful reckoning emphasizes the importance of understanding historical roots and actions for a sustainable resolution.

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Human Rights Issues

The Ambedkar touch in rethinking social justice policies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: affirmative action policies to empower Dalit and Adivasi

Insights into Editorial: Dr BR Ambedkar: “Architect of the Indian  Constitution” - INSIGHTSIAS

Central idea 

The article highlights the contrast between Babasaheb Ambedkar’s vision for inclusive post-colonial India and the current erosion of state support for Dalits and Adivasis under neo-liberalism. It calls for a redefined social justice framework aligned with Ambedkar’s principles, emphasizing inclusive integration into the economic order for marginalized groups.

Key Highlights:

  • Democracy’s Vision: Modern democracy aspires to social harmony and reforms, especially for historically marginalized groups like Dalits and Adivasis.
  • Ambedkar’s Vision: Babasaheb Ambedkar envisioned post-colonial India as distinct, ensuring equal opportunities for all communities in economic and political development.
  • Neo-liberal Impact: Neo-liberal economic development has disrupted traditional support for Dalits and Adivasis from state institutions.

Key Challenges:

  • Elite Dominance: Various sectors witness the dominance of social elites, perpetuating the control of the conventional ruling class.
  • Tokenistic Representation: Socially marginalized groups experience tokenistic representation in power and privileges.
  • Neglect in Neo-liberalism: Concerns of Dalits and Adivasis are neglected in the neo-liberal economic model.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Neo-liberal Economic Development
  • Social Justice Policies
  • Tokenistic Presence
  • Exploitative Brahmanical Past
  • Market Economy
  • Crony Capitalist Mode
  • Economic Order
  • Pluralist and Cooperative Mode

Key Quotes:

  • “With the ascent of neo-liberal economic development, the conventional support that Dalits and Adivasis have received from state institutions has derailed.”
  • “It is an appropriate time to imagine how the worst-off social groups can become an integral and substantive part of the new economic order.”

Key Statements:

  • Neo-liberal Market Critique: The neo-liberal market is alien to ethical values, celebrating the exclusive control of a few corporate bodies and businessmen.
  • State’s Role: The state, in the neo-liberal realm, has become a passive associate of big business, deviating from its social responsibilities.

Key Examples and References:

  • Ambedkar’s Principles: Reference to Babasaheb Ambedkar’s principles of social justice.
  • Neo-liberal Impact: Mention of the neglect of Dalit and Adivasi concerns in the neo-liberal economic model.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Impact on Support: Decline in traditional support for Dalits and Adivasis with the rise of neo-liberal economic development.
  • Tokenistic Representation: Socially marginalized groups experience tokenistic representation in positions of power.

Critical Analysis:

  • Neo-liberal Evaluation: Assessing the impact of the neo-liberal economic model on social justice policies and the neglect of marginalized groups.
  • Ambedkar’s Vision: Evaluating Ambedkar’s vision as a corrective measure for making institutions more democratic and representative.

Way Forward:

  • Policy Expansion: Expansion of social justice policies to the private economy for democratizing working classes and reducing poverty.
  • Inclusive Integration: Integration of Dalits and Adivasis as influential contributors to the market economy.
  • Affirmative Action: Adoption of affirmative action policies to empower Dalit and Adivasi groups as industrialists, market leaders, and influencers.
  • Redefining Capitalism: Redefinition of capitalism as a pluralist and cooperative mode ensuring substantive participation of marginalized groups.

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Human Rights Issues

Only 3% of Kota’s students have visited a mental health professional

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NCRB

Mains level: Mental Health

Mental Health

Central idea

The article sheds light on the alarming rates of student suicides in Kota, primarily attributed to academic pressure. It explores the various pressures students face, their coping mechanisms, and the significant impact on mental health, emphasizing the urgent need for institutionalized counseling and holistic well-being programs.

Key Highlights:

  • Student Suicides in Kota: According to NCRB data in 2021, student suicides in India accounted for 8% of total suicides. Kota, a prominent coaching hub, witnessed 25 suicides this year, raising concerns about academic pressure.
  • Impact of NEET and JEE Exams: Students believe clearing these exams is crucial for a better life, leading to heightened stress. Almost 20% often suffer from thoughts related to under-performing, impacting mental health.
  • Contributing Factors: Parental pressure, financial stress, and peer pressure contribute to students’ anxieties. Loneliness is prevalent, with 53% experiencing it occasionally.

Different Kinds of Pressures:

  • NEET and JEE Significance: Students perceive success in NEET and JEE exams as vital for a better future, intensifying academic pressure.
  • Fear of Under-Performance: Nearly 20% constantly grapple with thoughts of potential consequences if they under-perform, leading to heightened stress levels.
  • Immediate Family Influence: Students with family members who studied in Kota before them often face additional academic pressure.
  • Parental Expectations: Almost 10% experience frequent parental pressure, while a quarter encounters it occasionally, affecting mental well-being.
  • Gender Disparity: Girls tend to face slightly higher parental pressure compared to boys, highlighting gender-specific challenges.
  • Financial Pressure: 6% of students frequently feel financial stress, and 25% experience it occasionally, adding to the array of pressures.

Impact on Mental Health:

  • Post-Coaching Mental Health: Close to 30% report a decline in mental health after joining coaching classes, indicating the adverse impact of the academic environment.
  • Body Pain and Emotional Changes: A significant portion experiences heightened nervousness, mood swings, and physical discomfort, adversely affecting mental health.
  • Loneliness Prevalence: More than half (53%) experience loneliness occasionally, reflecting the emotional toll of the academic journey in Kota.
  • Psychological Strain: Emotional challenges such as increased nervousness, mood swings, and loneliness affect approximately three in every ten students.
  • Anger and Frustration: Nearly 30% feel a rise in anger, and over a quarter report increased frustration and fear, showcasing the multifaceted impact on emotional well-being.

Challenges and concerns:

  • Deteriorating Mental Health: Close to 30% feel their mental health worsened after joining coaching classes. Over 40% feel more fatigued, and many report increased nervousness, loneliness, and mood swings.
  • Limited Professional Help: Despite poor mental health indicators, only 3% seek assistance from mental health professionals, emphasizing a lack of awareness and proactive initiatives.
  • Need for Proactive Measures: Almost half (48%) don’t feel the need for mental health visits, underlining the necessity for more proactive efforts in promoting mental well-being.
  • Advocacy for Mental Health: The data highlights the urgency of institutionalized counseling mechanisms and increased awareness to encourage young individuals to prioritize mental health.

Way Forward:

  • Implementing Comprehensive Counseling: Establishing structured counseling services within coaching centers and Kota to address students’ mental health needs.
  • Promoting Awareness: Conducting awareness campaigns to emphasize the importance of seeking professional mental health support.
  • Integrating Holistic Approaches: Incorporating holistic well-being programs that address not only academic stress but also overall physical and mental health.
  • Educational Initiatives: Launching educational initiatives to equip students with coping skills and stress management techniques.
  • Scholarship Programs: Expanding scholarship programs to ease financial burdens and create a more inclusive educational environment.

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Human Rights Issues

Narayana Murthy just gave some very bad advice

Narayana Murthy

Central idea

Narayana Murthy’s advice to work 70 hours a week sparks debate on the balance between productivity and workforce well-being. The article explores the challenges, gender disparities, and global work hour comparisons, emphasizing the need for adaptable work strategies in a post-COVID era to achieve sustainable growth without compromising individual lives.

Key Highlights:

  • Narayana Murthy’s Advice: Murthy advises young IT professionals to work 70 hours a week to address India’s low productivity concerns and meet global changes.
  • Productivity Concerns: Murthy emphasizes the need for a cultural shift toward determination, discipline, and hard work, especially among the youth.
  • Global Work Hours Comparison: Data from the International Labour Organisation shows South and East Asia having the highest average weekly work hours, contrasting with North America and Europe.
  • Work-Life Balance Challenges: Murthy’s approach raises concerns about the impact on stress, income, and work-life balance, particularly for women in the workforce.

Challenges and Concerns:

  • High Working Hours: South and East Asia, including India, have high average weekly work hours, impacting the well-being of the workforce.
  • Gender Disparities: A 24/7 work culture may disproportionately affect women, with unrealistic professional standards and limited concessions for family responsibilities.
  • Workplace Expectations: Murthy’s emphasis on extended working hours may contribute to a culture valuing presence over contribution, potentially affecting mental health and family life.

Analysis:

  • Nation Building vs. Workforce Well-being: The tension between nation-building efforts and the well-being of the workforce is highlighted, raising questions about sustainable growth.
  • Workplace Changes Post-COVID: The article suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the workplace, emphasizing the need for practical expectations and support mechanisms.

Key Data:

  • Average Work Hours: South and East Asia have the highest average weekly work hours, with South Asia at 49 hours and East Asia at 48.8 hours.
  • Global Comparison: North America records 37.9 average weekly work hours, while Europe ranges from 37.2 to 37.9 hours.

Key Terms:

  • Flexi-time: Flexible working hours allowing employees to choose their work hours within certain limits.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): The culture where an individual fears missing out on opportunities or experiences, often applied in the context of work.
  • Work-Life Balance: The equilibrium between professional and personal life to ensure overall well-being.
  • Remote Work: Work performed outside the traditional office setting, often enabled by technology.
  • Job Flexibility: Adaptable work arrangements, including flexi-time and remote work, to accommodate employees’ needs.

Concerns for Future Work Strategies:

  • One-way Work Culture: The traditional approach of work as a one-way street, potentially overlooking the changing dynamics of the modern workplace.
  • Impact on Lives: The need for work strategies that consider individual lives, relationships, and personal aspirations alongside professional goals.

Way Forward:

  • Adaptable Work Policies: Organizations should embrace adaptable work policies, including flexi-time and remote work, to accommodate diverse needs and promote work-life balance.
  • Equal Opportunities: Ensure equal opportunities and concessions for both genders, challenging traditional norms that disproportionately affect women in the workforce.
  • Rethinking Productivity: Shift the focus from sheer working hours to productivity and contribution, fostering a culture that values efficiency over extended presence.
  • Support Mechanisms: Establish robust support mechanisms, acknowledging the changing dynamics post-COVID, to nurture employee well-being and mental health.
  • Continuous Dialogue: Encourage ongoing dialogue between employers and employees to understand evolving needs and collectively shape a work environment that aligns with the aspirations of the workforce.

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Human Rights Issues

The present and future of Dalit politics

 

 

Central idea:

  • The decline of independent Dalit political parties is linked to changing aspirations and a failure to address the rising class of politically aspirant Dalits, who seek economic mobility. The need for a shift from conventional identity-based politics to a more dynamic, economically focused approach is crucial for the survival of these parties. Ensuring democratic functioning and preventing dynastic tendencies is essential for relevance in the evolving political landscape.

Who Are Dalits?

  • Dalits, historically known as untouchables, are marginalized and oppressed communities in India who have faced severe discrimination and social exclusion based on their caste. They constitute a significant portion of the Indian population.

Dalits in India:

  • The latest data on the number of Dalits in India is from the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) 75th Round Survey, which was conducted in 2017-18. The survey found that there are approximately 272 million Dalits in India, which is about 17% of the total population.
  • This means that the Dalit population has increased by about 3% since the 2011 Census. This increase is likely due to a number of factors, including population growth, improved census methodology, and increased awareness of Dalit identity.

 

Dalit Movements in India:

  • 19th Century: The Self-Respect Movement, led by E.V. Ramasamy Naicker, challenged the caste system and advocated for social justice for Dalits.
  • Early 20th Century: The Depressed Classes Movement, led by B.R. Ambedkar, fought for the rights of Dalits, including education, employment, and political representation.
  • 1950s: The Indian government passed a number of laws to protect the rights of Dalits, including the Untouchability (Offences) Act of 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.
  • Late 20th Century: Dalit movements continued to fight for social justice and equality, including the Dalit Panthers movement in the 1970s and the Bahujan Samaj Party movement in the 1980s.

 

Changing Political Landscape:

  • While dalit political parties played a crucial role in empowering Dalits, they are facing organizational challenges and a decline in electoral performance.
  • Some Dalit leaders are shifting to mainstream political parties, further weakening independent Dalit politics.
  • Rising aspirations among Dalit communities, driven by education and affirmative action, are leading to a quest for political space in other parties.
  • Social welfare schemes by major political parties are influencing Dalit voters, creating a new Dalit mentality.

 

What Is the Need for Democratic Functioning of dalit parties?

  • Adapting to Changing Aspirations: Independent Dalit parties need to adapt to the evolving aspirations of Dalit communities, which now emphasize socio-economic mobility alongside identity politics.
  • Preventing Dynastic Tendencies: Ensuring democratic functioning within these parties is essential to prevent the growth of dynastic political culture, enabling grassroots leaders to have a say in the party’s direction.
  • Balancing Identity and Socio-economic Goals: These parties should develop a political agenda that combines the politics of identity with the economics of identity to cater to the new aspirations of the Dalit community.
  • Safeguarding Grassroots Participation: By allowing grassroots leaders to have a role in the party’s decision-making process, independent Dalit parties can ensure that the concerns and needs of the most marginalized Dalits are addressed effectively.

 

Status of Dalit politics:

  • Weakening Independent Dalit Parties: RPI and BSP face declining influence and organizational challenges.
  • Fragmentation and Desertion: Internal divisions, leader departures, and shifting alliances affect party stability.
  • Loss of Base Voters: RPI, BSP losing votes to dominant parties like BJP and Congress.
  • Changing Aspirations: Dalits now seek meaningful political space due to education and affirmative actions.
  • Shift from Identity to Aspiration: Transition from identity politics to socio-economic mobility aspirations is challenging traditional modes.

Decline in performance of Dalit political parties

  • Electoral Erosion: Dalit political parties, including the BSP and RPI, have experienced a decline in their electoral performance, losing ground to mainstream parties.
  • Loss of Base Support: Many Dalit parties have witnessed a loss of their core voter base to dominant regional and national parties like the BJP and Congress.
  • Changing Aspirations: Evolving aspirations among Dalit communities, driven by education and affirmative actions, are challenging the parties’ ability to connect with their constituents.
  • Shift to Socio-economic Focus: The traditional focus on identity politics is waning, and Dalit parties are struggling to adapt to the new emphasis on socio-economic mobility and development.

Future of Dalit Politics:

  • Uncertainty for Independent Parties: Independent Dalit parties like RPI and BSP face an uncertain future due to internal issues and declining influence.
  • Deepening Democracy: Some believe that as Indian democracy matures, mainstream parties may better represent Dalit interests, diminishing the need for separate Dalit parties.
  • Aspiring Political Space: Dalits aspire for greater political participation, which could shape the future of Dalit politics.
  • Socio-economic Focus: The future may see a shift from identity-based politics to socio-economic goals, aligning with evolving Dalit aspirations.

Significance of dalit politics:

  • Empowerment of Dalits: Independent Dalit political parties have played a pivotal role in raising the political consciousness of Dalits and advocating for their rights and dignity.
  • Political Representation: These parties have been instrumental in increasing the political representation of Dalits in India, giving them a platform to voice their concerns and grievances.
  • Awareness and Solidarity: The existence of independent Dalit political parties has created awareness about Dalit issues and fostered a sense of solidarity among marginalized communities.

 

Challenges:

  • Electoral Erosion: Independent Dalit political parties are facing a gradual decline in their electoral influence, with many Dalit leaders defecting to dominant regional and national parties.
  • Shifting Aspirations: Rising aspirations among Dalit communities, driven by education and affirmative action, are causing a shift from identity-based politics to socio-economic mobility aspirations. This transition poses a challenge for Dalit parties that fail to adapt.
  • Competition from Mainstream Parties: Dominant national and regional parties are actively vying for Dalit voters, further challenging the influence of independent Dalit political parties.

 

Initiatives and schemes by Indian Government for Dalits:

  • Reservation Policy: India implements reservations for SC, ST, and OBC in education and government jobs, aiming to provide opportunities for historically marginalized communities.
  • Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: Enacted in 1989, it legally protects Dalits and Adivasis from caste-based discrimination and violence, with strict penalties for offenders.
  • Ambedkar Post-Matric Scholarship: A financial support program for Dalit and economically disadvantaged students pursuing higher education, covering tuition fees, books, and related expenses.
  • Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana (AHVY): Launched by the Ministry of Textiles, it aids Dalit artisans through training, market linkages, and financial support to promote their traditional handicrafts and skills.

 

Way Forward:

  • Independent Dalit parties need to redefine their political agendas by integrating socio-economic mobility with identity politics.
  • Democratic functioning within these parties must be encouraged to give space to grassroots leaders.
  • A multi-polar Dalit politics may emerge as leaders, cadres, and Dalit masses disperse among different political parties, emphasizing their rising political values.
  • The government should continue its affirmative action policies and address the socio-economic disparities faced by Dalits.

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Human Rights Issues

The Controversy Surrounding White Phosphorus Munitions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: white phosphorus

Mains level: White phosphorus munitions , applications and effects and concerns

What’s the news?

  • Global human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have accused the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of using white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas in Gaza and Lebanon.

Central idea

  • Global human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have accused the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of using white phosphorus munitions in Gaza and Lebanon, allegedly in violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The use of such munitions in densely populated areas raises serious concerns about civilian safety, though the IDF has vehemently denied these allegations.

White Phosphorus: A Pyrophoric Substance

  • White phosphorus is categorized as a pyrophoric substance, meaning it spontaneously ignites when exposed to oxygen, emitting intense heat and thick smoke. I
  • It is classified under Pyrophoric solids, category 1 in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, indicating its high level of instability.
  • White phosphorus is also distinguishable by its garlic-like odor.

What are the military uses of white phosphorus?

  • Smokescreen: White phosphorus is dispersed in artillery shells, bombs, and rockets to create a smokescreen. This smokescreen serves as a visual obscurant, making it difficult for enemy forces to see and target troops or vehicles. It provides cover for troop movements and other tactical operations.
  • Visual Obscurant: In addition to obscuring visibility, the smoke generated by white phosphorus can disrupt the enemy’s ability to use infrared optics and sensors, which are commonly used in guided missile systems.
  • Incendiary Weapon: White phosphorus can also be used as an incendiary weapon, as demonstrated during the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004.

How harmful is white phosphorus?

  • Severe Burns: Upon exposure to white phosphorus, it can cause severe burns, often reaching down to the bone. Even burns covering as little as 10 percent of the body can be fatal, according to Human Rights Watch.
  • Respiratory Damage: Inhaling white phosphorus particles or smoke can lead to respiratory damage and harm to internal organs. This inhalation can have long-term health consequences for those exposed.
  • Impaired Mobility: Survivors of white phosphorus burns often experience a lifetime of suffering, including impaired mobility and painful, disfiguring scars.
  • Environmental Damage: Beyond its effects on individuals, white phosphorus can cause extensive environmental damage. It can ignite fires that devastate infrastructure, property, and crops, potentially leading to significant economic and ecological consequences.

Historical Use of White Phosphorus Munitions

  • White phosphorus munitions have a long history of use, dating back to late 19th-century Irish nationalists.
  • They were extensively used in World War I and have since appeared in various conflicts worldwide, including the Normandy invasion in World War II, the US invasion of Iraq in 2004, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
  • Most recently, accusations arose regarding Russia’s use of white phosphorus bombs during the invasion of Ukraine.

Legal status of white phosphorus munitions

  • White phosphorus munitions are not globally banned but are subject to regulation under international humanitarian law (IHL).
  • They are not categorized as chemical weapons because their primary function is based on heat and smoke production rather than inherent toxicity.
  • The legal framework governing their use is the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), specifically Protocol III, which addresses incendiary weapons.
  • While some countries like Palestine and Lebanon have ratified Protocol III and are bound by its regulations, Israel has not ratified it.
  • Protocol III has certain limitations and loopholes. It restricts the use of airdropped incendiary weapons in areas with concentrations of civilians but does not entirely ban ground-launched incendiary weapons in such areas.
  • The protocol’s definition of incendiary weapons includes those primarily designed to set fire to and burn people, potentially excluding multipurpose munitions containing white phosphorus, as they are considered primarily smoking agents.

Conclusion

  • The controversy surrounding white phosphorus munitions highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the regulations governing their use in armed conflicts. International Humanitarian Law must evolve to address the potential harm these munitions can inflict on civilians and the environment, ensuring a safer and more just world for all.

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Human Rights Issues

GANHRI defers accreditation of India’s NHRC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GANHRI, NHRC

Mains level: Alleged HR violations in India, Western propaganda behind

india nhrc ganhri

Central Idea

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a UN-recognized organization, has deferred the accreditation of India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC-India) for the second time in a decade.

GANHRI (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions)

Purpose Promote and protect human rights globally
Year Established 1993
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Members National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from various countries
Key Functions – Promoting and strengthening NHRIs worldwide

– Advocating for human rights at national, regional, and global levels

– Facilitating cooperation and sharing of best practices among NHRIs

– Providing capacity-building support to NHRIs etc.

Organizational Structure President: Elected from GANHRI members for a specified term

Bureau: Assists the President in overseeing GANHRI’s work

Sub-Committees: Focused on specific thematic or regional issues

Key Documents – Paris Principles: Provide guidance for the establishment and operation of NHRIs

– GANHRI Strategy: Outlines the organization’s strategic objectives and actions

 

Reasons for India’s Deferment

The GANHRI’s letter to the NHRC cited several reasons for the deferment of accreditation, including:

  • Political Interference: The NHRC-India faced objections related to political interference in appointments, compromising its independence.
  • Police Involvement: Involving the police in probes into human rights violations raised concerns about impartiality and fair investigations.
  • Lack of Cooperation: The NHRC’s poor cooperation with civil society was criticized, hindering its effectiveness in protecting human rights.
  • Lack of Diversity: The GANHRI highlighted the lack of diversity in staff and leadership positions within the NHRC.
  • Insufficient Protection of Marginalized Groups: The NHRC was found to have taken insufficient action to protect marginalized groups, contrary to the U.N.’s principles on national institutions (the ‘Paris Principles).

Concerns highlighted against India

  • Many NGOs such as Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders etc. wrote a joint letter to GANHRI expressing their objections to NHRC India’s ‘A’ rank.
  • They highlighted the commission’s failure to protect marginalized communities, religious minorities, and human rights defenders.
  • The letter emphasized that the NHRC’s functioning has regressed since 2017, undermining its independence and adherence to the Paris Principles.

Paris Principles and Accreditation Criteria

The United Nations’ Paris Principles, adopted in 1993, serve as international benchmarks for accrediting National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). The Paris Principles outline six main criteria that NHRIs must meet:

  • Mandate and Competence: NHRIs should have a clear mandate and the necessary expertise to protect human rights effectively.
  • Autonomy from Government: NHRIs must operate independently from government influence or control.
  • Independence: NHRIs should have their independence guaranteed by a statute or constitution.
  • Pluralism: NHRIs should ensure diversity and inclusivity in their staffing and leadership positions.
  • Adequate Resources: NHRIs should have sufficient resources to carry out their mandated functions effectively.
  • Powers of Investigation: NHRIs should possess adequate investigative powers to address human rights violations.

Background of NHRC-India

  • The NHRC-India was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act enacted by Parliament in 1993.
  • It has held ‘A’ status accreditation since the beginning of the NHRI accreditation process in 1999, which it retained in 2006, 2011, and 2017, despite a previous deferment.
  • This status allows participation in the work and decision-making of GANHRI, the Human Rights Council, and other U.N. mechanisms

Response from India

  • The NHRC clarified that the deferment by the Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA) does not affect its current ‘A’ status accreditation and associated privileges.
  • The reaccreditation process is still ongoing, and the SCA has recommended advocating with the government and Parliamentarians for legislative amendments to improve compliance with the Paris Principles.
  • The NHRC assured that they have addressed most of the issues raised by the SCA and will submit a response shortly as part of the ongoing process.

Way Forward

To address the concerns raised by GANHRI and human rights organizations, the NHRC-India should take the following steps:

  • Strengthen Independence: Ensure that the NHRC operates independently without political interference, safeguarding its credibility and effectiveness.
  • Promote Diversity: Take measures to enhance diversity in staffing and leadership positions within the NHRC to ensure a broader representation of society.
  • Improve Protection of Marginalized Groups: Develop comprehensive strategies and policies to provide effective protection and support to marginalized communities, religious minorities, and human rights defenders.
  • Address Legislative Amendments: Actively engage with the government and Parliamentarians to advocate for necessary legislative amendments that align with the Paris Principles and enhance compliance with international human rights standards.

Conclusion

  • By implementing these measures, the NHRC-India can strengthen its functioning, regain the confidence of GANHRI and human rights organizations, and ensure the effective protection of human rights in India.

 

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Human Rights Issues

Decriminalization of Adultery and the Duty and Discipline

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 33

Mains level: Decriminalization of Adultery

Adultery

Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court of India decriminalized adultery in 2018, but the Union of India sought clarification from the Court concerning its implementation in the armed forces. The court’s observations suggest that the armed forces may still discipline for adulterous acts under their special legislations. However, recent court cases show that an act must have some nexus with the discharge of duties to be considered misconduct, and private affairs cannot be subjected to moral policing under the Service Conduct Rules or Article 33 of the Constitution.

What is mean by Adultery?

  • Adultery is a term used to describe a consensual sexual relationship between a married person and someone who is not their spouse.
  • It is generally considered to be a breach of marital fidelity and can have legal, social, and religious consequences.
  • In some societies and cultures, adultery is considered a crime or a sin, while in others it may not be explicitly prohibited but is still frowned upon or considered morally wrong.

Adultery In the Indian context

  • Joseph Shine v. Union of India: Adultery was a criminal offense under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) until September 2018, when the Supreme Court of India decriminalized it in a landmark judgment in Joseph Shine v. Union of India.
  • Law applied to men only: Before the judgment, adultery was punishable by up to five years of imprisonment or a fine or both, and the law only applied to men who had sexual relations with someone’s wife without the husband’s consent.
  • Law did not consider women as an offender: The law did not consider a woman who had an affair with a married man as an offender or the husband as a victim.

What is Article 33?

  • Fundamental rights of armed forces personnel can be curtailed by law for discipline: It empowers the Parliament to restrict or modify the fundamental rights of armed forces personnel, including members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, to ensure the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them. This means that the fundamental rights of armed forces personnel can be curtailed or modified by law to the extent that it does not hinder their duties or impact discipline.
  • Laws may be different from the general laws: The article gives special powers to Parliament to make laws that may not necessarily be in line with the fundamental rights guaranteed to Indian citizens under the Constitution. These laws may be different from the general laws applicable to Indian citizens, and their enforcement may be specific to the armed forces personnel.
  • Application: The article applies not only to the armed forces personnel but also to members of the police force and intelligence agencies involved in maintaining public order. However, the restrictions imposed on these personnel should be in line with the principles of the Constitution and not infringe on their right to privacy or other fundamental rights.

Decriminalization of Adultery

  • Civil wrong: In 2018, The Joseph Shine judgment removed the criminalization of adultery and declared it a civil wrong that can be a ground for divorce.
  • State should not interfere in matters of personal relationship: The judgment recognized that the right to choose one’s partner and engage in consensual sexual relations is a fundamental right and that the state should not interfere in matters of personal relationships between consenting adults.
  • Violation of fundamental Rights: The provisions were found to be violative of Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Recent Court Cases

  • Rajasthan High Court: In Mahesh Chand Sharma versus State of Rajasthan and Others (2019).
  • The court set aside departmental proceedings against a police inspector who allegedly had illicit relations with a woman constable and had a child from illicit relations.
  • The court held that no employer could do moral policing on its employees beyond the domain of their public life.
  • Gujarat High Court: In Maheshbhai Bhurjibhai Damor versus State of Gujarat and 3 other(s) (2022).
  • The court quashed and set aside the dismissal order of an armed police constable arising from allegations that he had developed illicit relations with a widow.
  • The court held that allegations of misconduct must have some nexus with the duties to be performed by the government servant.
  • Private affairs cannot be subjected to moral policing under the Service Conduct Rules or Article 33 of the Constitution.

Government’s argument

  • Sought clarification: The Union of India sought clarification from the Court on implementing the decriminalization of adultery in the armed forces.
  • Special legislations must govern: The Union of India argued that special legislations, such as the Army Act, Air Force Act, and Navy Act, should govern promiscuous or adulterous acts among members of the armed forces.

Conclusion

  • The recent court cases show that the decriminalization of adultery does not inhibit the parameters of departmental proceedings or enlarge them. Private affairs cannot be subjected to moral policing under the Service Conduct Rules or Article 33 of the Constitution unless it has some nexus with their duties. The sacrosanct right to privacy available to the members of the armed forces cannot be taken away unless it interferes with the discharge of duties.

Mains Question

Q. What is mean by Adultery? The Supreme Court of India decriminalized adultery in 2018. Discuss the reasons for doing so?


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Human Rights Issues

Voting Rights of Migrant Workers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Migrants and their problems

Voting

Context

  • It is very worrying that a third of the eligible voters, a whopping 30 crore people, do not vote. Among the many reasons, including urban apathy and geographical constraints, one prominent reason is the inability of internal migrants to vote for different reasons.

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Voting

What are the efforts by election commission to address the problem?

  • Committee of Officers on Domestic Migrants: The Election Commission had earlier formed a “Committee of Officers on Domestic Migrants” to address this issue. The Committee’s report submitted in 2016 suggested a solution in the form of “remote voting”.
  • All party representative: To further address this serious problem, the EC invited representatives from all recognised national and state political parties to discuss the legal, administrative, and statutory changes to resolve the issue.
  • All party consensus: The discussion took place in the presence of a technical expert committee. It is important to recall that the last major decision about the voting system was the introduction of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), with the consensus of all political parties in 2010.

Migrant workers and their voting rights

  • Least represented group: The Constitution guarantees freedom of movement to every citizen and freedom to reside in any part of the country. However, migrant workers, especially circular or short-term migrants, constituting tens of millions of citizens are some of the least represented groups in the ballot.
  • Lack of access to vote: The issue of disenfranchisement faced by migrant workers is not one arising out of deliberate denial of the right to vote, but for lack of access to vote.
  • Fundamental right: The Supreme Court, in a series of cases, has conclusively interpreted the freedom to access the vote as within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a).

Voting

Problems related to migrant workers and Voting

  • Large scale migration: According to the 2011 Census, the number of internal migrants stands at 450 million, a 45 per cent surge from the 2001 census. Among these, 26 per cent of the migration (117 million) occurs inter-district within the same state, while 12 per cent of the migration (54 million) occurs inter-state.
  • Alienation by residency criteria: The root cause of the migrant voters’ issue is that the individual’s inalienable right to vote is conditioned by a rather strict residency qualification. As a consequence, it tends to disenfranchise the migrant population.
  • 60% migrants could not vote: In the survey report, ‘Political inclusion of Seasonal Migrant Workers in India: Perceptions, Realities and Challenges’ by Aajeevika Bureau, it was found that “close to 60 per cent of respondents had missed voting in elections at least once because they were away from home seeking livelihood options”.

What is the way forward?

  • Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System: Section 60(c) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 empowers the Election Commission of India, in consultation with the government, to notify “classes” of voters who are unable to vote in person at their constituencies owing to their physical or social circumstances. Once notified, the voters are eligible for the ETPB system (Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System). In the 2019 general elections, the ETPB system was accessed by 18 lakh defence personnel across the country.
  • Postal ballots for migrants: In 2019, in the backdrop of a PIL before the Supreme Court, a bill was floated to extend a similar remote voting possibility to over 10 million adult NRIs in order to “boost their participation in nation-building”. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, more than 28 lakh votes were received via postal ballots.
  • Migrants are also equal citizens: In the existing system, remote voting within the constituency by voting via postal ballot is available to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and Covid-affected personnel. The postal ballot voting outside the constituency is available only to service voters, persons on election duty and persons on preventive detention. The Indian migrant worker too deserves the secured right to have access to vote through some mechanism.
  • Remote electronic voting machine: The Election Commission has proposed the use of remote voting for migrant workers wherein a modified version of the existing model of M3 EVMs will be placed at remote polling stations. In fact, the Electronic Corporation of India Ltd. has already developed a prototype of a Multi-constituency Remote EVM (RVM) a modified version of the existing EVM which can handle 72 constituencies in a single remote polling booth. Technical details will be available only after the crucial demonstration.

Voting

Conclusion

  • Migrant workers are also the equal citizens of the country. Social-economic and structural barriers should not the hurdle in there right to vote. Election commission of India has taken the step in the right direction. However, consensus needs to be built over the voting rights of migrants.

Mains Question

Q. What are the problems faced by migrant workers in exercise of there voting rights? What is the way forward towards ensuring voting rights to migrants?

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Human Rights Issues

Towards better Prison architecture

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Status of prisons in India and associated challenges

Prison

Context

  • Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi (L-G) Vinay Kumar Saxena directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to allocate 1.6 lakh square metres of land to Delhi’s prison department to construct a district prison complex in Narela.

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Background: Recent prison reform debate

  • Speech by president of India: At the Constitution Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court in November 2022, President Draupadi Murmu shared a snippet of her journey with the audience.
  • Prisoners unaware of their rights: She reflected on her visits to prisons across India and the circumstances of those incarcerated. She highlighted that these individuals were often unaware of their fundamental rights and had been incarcerated for prolonged periods for minor offences, while their families, struggling with poverty, were unable to bail them out.
  • All organs of state must work together: President Murmu emphasised how the judiciary, executive, and legislature must work together to help them, and concluded by poignantly asking: How are we claiming that we are progressing as a nation, if we are still building prisons to address the issue of overcrowding?

Prison

What is the problematic architecture of Prison?

  • High security prison in Delhi: In phase 1, which is expected to be completed by April 2024, a high-security jail is to be built in the complex with a capacity to lodge 250 high-risk prisoners.
  • Stringent security measures: The prison administration has incorporated stringent security measures in the design such as constructing high walls between cells to prevent inmates from viewing others, and interacting with each other, as well as building office spaces between cells to facilitate surveillance.
  • Intention of torture: Architecture of prisons is often used as a tool to surveillance, torture, and break the souls of inmates.
  • Physical and mental health of prisoners: With this prison design, the Delhi prison administration is essentially creating solitary confinement which will have a severe detrimental effect on prisoners’ mental health.

Prison

Present condition of prisons in India

  • Governed by colonial act: Prisons in India are still governed by the Prisons Act, 1894, a colonial legislation which treats prisoners as sub-par citizens, and provides the legal basis for punishment to be retributive, rather than rehabilitative.
  • Caste biases in laws: These laws are also highly casteist, and remain largely unchanged since they were drafted by the British. For example, some jail manuals continue to focus on purity as prescribed by the caste system, and assign work in prison based on the prisoner’s caste identity.
  • Colonial mindset in prison governance: Organisations such as the Vidhi Centre of Legal Policy have taken us one step further in identifying colonial legal continuities that India must shred, and the manner in which she can do so.
  • SC/ST community suffers more: Furthermore, Dalits and Adivasis are over-represented in Indian prisons. The National Dalit Movement for Justice and the National Centre for Dalit Human Rights’ report ‘Criminal Justice in the Shadow of Caste’ explains the social, systemic, legal, and political barriers that contribute to this. Legislations such as the Habitual Offenders Act and Beggary Laws allow the police to target them for reported crimes.

What should be way forward?

  • Preventive measures are necessary: We must take preventive measures before we realise that we have travelled far down this road, and have subjected several people to unnecessary trauma and confinement.
  • Prison reforms rather than more prisons: With the warning signs beseeching us, we must amplify President Murmu’s message on the need to de-carcerate and stop building more prisons, so that the L-G takes adequate steps in that direction.

Conclusion

  • Many prisoners in India continue to suffer for petty crimes just because of lack education and legal assistance. More than 70% of them are economically poor people. Government must address the false cases by police and judicial delay before building more prisons.

Mains Question

Q. Critically examine the present condition of prisons in India? prisons reform should be prior step than building more prisons. Comment.

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Human Rights Issues

Personal freedom and the panel on Intercaste/Interfaith Marriages

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Right to life, right to marriage, Associated Constitutional provisions

Mains level: Intercaste/ Interfaith marriages, legislation and issues of freedom of choice and religion

Interfaith

Context

  • Following a report in this newspaper, the Maharashtra government has decided to limit the mandate of the recently constituted Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee (state level) to gathering information on interfaith marriages.

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Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee

  • Work under Women and child development: The renamed Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee will be under the state Women and Child Development Ministry.
  • Will Track frauds: The committee besides providing support and rehabilitation, when necessary, ostensibly track fraud committed in the name of love jihad.
  • Development come after walker case: The development came after the Shraddha Walkar case came to light in November. Walkar, 26, was murdered by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawalla in May, 2022
  • Other states with anti-conversion legislation: With states such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand already having brought in anti-conversion legislation.

What is love jihad?

  • “Love jihad” is a term often used by activists to allege a ploy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into religious conversion through marriage.

Interfaith

How the initiative will work?

  • Will collect and keep details of interfaith marriages and ensure communication: This initiative will provide a platform for the women in intercaste/interfaith marriages and their families to access counselling, and communicate or resolve issues.
  • Committee will hold regular meetings: The committee has been assigned to hold meetings with district officials, and review work on seven parameters, including, gathering information about interfaith or inter-caste marriages from stamp duty and registrar offices, and collect information on such registered or unregistered marriages, among others.

Interfaith

What are the concerns raised?

  • Control over the lives of individual citizens: Such vigilance remains yet another indication of the State’s disproportionately burgeoning and utterly unacceptable interest in, and demand for, control over the lives of individual citizens.
  • Denial of women’s own choice: It is not just violative of one’s rights of freedom and equality, it also reeks of misogyny in its steadfast denial of a woman’s choice of partner as her own free will and not an act of coercion.
  • Committee can be armed: There is the IPC for all genuine complaints so the committee could be weaponised.
  • It will limit the freedoms of men and women: In every aspect, monitoring of a citizen’s life for her own supposed benefit is a cautionary tale, a limitation of the freedoms of men and women, designed to deter them from leading fuller, freer lives.

Interfaith

Basics: Right to Marriage

  • Comes under Right to life: The right to marry is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • As an integral part of Right to Life: Various courts across the country have also interpreted the right to marry as an integral part of the right to life under Article 21.
  • Stated under Human rights Charter: The right to marriage is also stated under Human Rights Charter within the meaning of the right to start a family.
  • Universal right: The right to marry is a universal right and it is available to everyone irrespective of their gender.
  • Forced marriage is illegal: A forced marriage is illegal in different personal laws on marriage in India, with the right to marry recognized under the Hindu laws as well as Muslim laws.

How is religious freedom protected under the Constitution?

  • Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
  • It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.
  • However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.

Conclusion

  • The marriage between politics and communalism is not a new phenomenon but to try to inhibit that idea of openness and possibility by casting communal aspersions on personal choice might be a travesty. There needs an innovative and inclusive approach to address the issues arise out of interfaith marriages.

Mains question

Q. Recently the Maharashtra government has set up a panel named “Intercaste/Interfaith marriage-family coordination committee (state level)” to gather information about couples in such marriages. Discuss the utility and concerns of such initiative?

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Human Rights Issues

Religious conversion and Fundamental right to freedom of religion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fundamental right to freedom of religion

Mains level: Isuues of forced religious conversion and Fundamental right to freedom of religion

religion

Context

  • While hearing a petition seeking a ban on forced conversions, Division Bench judge of the apex court said, “The purpose of charity should not be conversion. Every charity or good work is welcome, but what is required to be considered is the intention,” The observation, loaded with significant implications, is to be considered in the light of the provisions of the Constitution relating to people’s fundamental right to freedom of religion, its legislative history and judicial interpretation.

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Fundamental right to freedom of religion

  • Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion before the constitution of India: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which was before the makers of the future Constitution for independent India had proclaimed: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” [Article 18].
  • Extensive debate on religious freedom as a people’s right in the Constituent Assembly: Keeping this in mind, religious freedom as a people’s right was repeatedly debated in the Constituent Assembly. In cognisance of Christianity’s traditions of evangelism and proselytisation, it was to include the right to propagate religion.

religion

Journey of a Right to freedom of religion before and after The Constitution

  • British rulers facilitated conversion to their religion: The British rulers of India, who were never shy of introducing measures to facilitate the conversion of others to their faith.
  • British rulers enacted Native Converts Marriage Dissolution Act in 1866: They had enacted in 1866 a Native Converts Marriage Dissolution Act to provide the facility of divorce to married Indians who converted to Christianity and were thereupon deserted by their non-converting spouses.
  • The Act recently dropped which was once thought to by the law commission of India: After Independence, the Law Commission of India recommended that this Act be revised to make it a general law on the effect of post-marriage change of religion, but the government did not take any action on it. The original Act remained in force till recently but was eventually dropped from the statute book by the Repealing and Amending Act of 2017.
  • Alerted by the missionaries’ princely states enforced anti conversion laws: Alerted by the missionaries’ evangelistic activities, several princely states of the pre-Independence era had enforced anti-conversion laws Raigarh, Udaipur and Bikaner among them.
  • Constitution Bench in case where state freedom of religion Acts was challenged: During 1967-68, state legislatures in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh enacted similar laws, both ostensibly titled as Freedom of Religion Act. Christian leaders lost no time in challenging their constitutional validity in the Supreme Court. Heading a Constitution Bench, Chief Justice of the time AN Ray, argued that converting people interfered with their religious freedom and held that Article 25 granted “not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion but (only) to transmit and spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets” .
  • The Constitution Bench decision inspired some other states to enact similar laws: Beginning with the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 1978. Today there are such laws in about half of our states. Some of these have been either newly enacted or made more stringent, since the beginning of the present political dispensation in 2014. All of them prohibit converting people from one to another religion without their free will and, to indicate this, use various expressions like force, fraud, inducement and allurement.
  • Drafts on the conversion: While the first draft of the future Constitution proposed to restrain conversion except by one’s own free will, the second was to recognise the “right to preach and convert within limits compatible with public order and morality.”
  • Constitution recognised the right to propagate: Eventually, the Constitution recognised the right to propagate, along with freedom of conscience and the right to profess and practice, one’s religion as people’s fundamental right. Prima facie, individuals’ right to forsake their religion by birth and embrace another faith was integral to freedom of conscience
  • Supreme Courts observations regarding the right to propagate: As regards the propagation of religion, in two cases decided in 1954, the apex court observed that Article 25 covered every individual’s right “to propagate his religious views for the edification of others” (RP Gandhi) and that “it is the propagation of belief that is protected, no matter whether the propagation takes place in a church or monastery, or in a temple or parlour meeting” (Shirur Math).

Do you know this interesting news?

  • The Bombay High Court has recently held that the freedom of conscience of a person “includes a right to openly say that he does not believe in any religion”

religion

Mahatma Gandhi’s view on freedom of religion

  • Mahatma Gandhi once said that “all faiths are equally true though equally imperfect”
  • He had pleaded that, instead of converting others to one’s own faith, “our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim and a Christian a better Christian” (Young India, 1924).
  • He had also once said: “If I had power and could legislate I should stop all proselytising” (Harijan, 1935).

How is religious freedom protected under the Constitution?

  • Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
  • It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty — which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.
  • However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.

Conclusion

  • An observation made by the Supreme Court on “forced conversions” is to be considered in the light of the provisions of the Constitution relating to people’s fundamental right to freedom of religion, its legislative history and judicial interpretation and set the future roadmap to make. Pluralism and inclusiveness are characterized by religious freedom. Its purpose is to promote social harmony and diversity.

Mains question

Q. What is Fundamental right to freedom of religion? What was Mahatma Gandhi’s view on religion? How it is interpreted in the constitution of India?

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Human Rights Issues

Migrant workers in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Human Migration: Reasons and Impact

Migrant

Context

  • India has used Aadhaar (digital identity) and UPI (digital payments) extensively to address the challenges of identification and financial inclusion in social protection delivery, particularly in the case of migrants.

Who is a migrant worker?

  • A “migrant worker” is a person who either migrates within their home country or outside it to pursue work.
  • Usually, migrant workers do not have the intention to stay permanently in the country or region in which they work.
  • As per the census 2011, the total number of internal migrants in India is 36 crore or 37% of the country’s population.
  • The Economic Survey pegged the size of the migrant workforce at roughly 20 percent or over 10 crores in 2016.

Migrant

What are the problems faced by migrants?

  • Issues with finding local Employment: Most migrant workers have a seasonal nature of employment. During off-seasons, they struggle to feed their families. Repeated lockdowns made situations more difficult for migrants to find jobs in their localities. They faced travel restrictions which hindered their job search as well.
  • Lack of Insurance Benefits in a Pandemic Environment: Migrant workers work in precarious conditions with little wages and no access to government schemes and services. Poor and unsafe working and living conditions make them prone to diseases. Greater threats of occupational illnesses, nutritional diseases, alcoholism, HIV, and communicable diseases are rampant in the migrant workforce.
  • Issue of timely and Fair Payment of Wages: The informal workforce in India consists of more than 150.6 million regular and daily wage earners. Most of these workers are unaware of their rights as ‘migrant workers. Many unscrupulous agents coerce them and don’t pay minimum wages as per law.
  • Lack of portability of benefits: Migrants registered to claim access to benefits at one location lose access upon migration to a different location. This is especially true of access to entitlements under the PDS.  The ration card required to access benefits under the PDS is issued by state governments and is not portable across states.  This system excludes inter-state migrants from the PDS unless they surrender their card from the home state and get a new one from the host state.
  • Lack of affordable housing: The proportion of migrants in urban population is 47%. In 2015, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs identified migrants in urban areas as the largest population needing housing in cities. There is inadequate supply of low-income ownership and rental housing options.

Migrant

Government steps for migrant workers

  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana: After the lockdown, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana with a financial package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore was launched to help poor, needy, and unorganized sector workers of the country.
  • PM SVANidhi Scheme: PM SVANidhi Scheme was launched to facilitate collateral-free working capital loans up to Rs.10,000/- of one-year tenure, to approximately, 50 lakh street vendors, to resume their businesses.
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan: In order to facilitate the employment of migrant workers who have gone back to their home state, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan was initiated in 116 districts in Mission Mode.
  • State migrant cell: Migrant workers’ Cell is being created to prepare a database of migrant workers in states with mapping.
  • eShram portal: It is a national database created to register the unorganised workers in the country, including the migrant workers.
  • National policy on migrant workers: NITI Aayog has been mandated to prepare a draft national policy on migrant workers to reimagine labour-capital relations while integrating the migrant workers within the formal workforce.

How technology could provide Solutions?

  • Providing digital public infrastructure (DPI):  Digital public infrastructure systems that enable the effective provision of essential society-wide functions and services  can enable a paradigm shift, allowing governments to co-create solutions with the private sector and civil society.
  • Adopting Public private partnership models: There are three key areas where DPI can enable public-private partnerships (PPP) in the delivery of social protection of migrants,
  1. Awareness of entitlements: One barrier faced at the initial stage is lack of awareness of entitlements or of the need to reapply, when migrants move from one state to another. Jan Saathi is an application that provides migrants withinformation on eligible social security schemes. Organisations such as Haqdarshak not only inform potential beneficiaries about their eligibility for various schemes, Central or State, but also help them avail entitlements.
  2. Information about livelihoods and housing: The informal nature of the labour market makes access to affordable and safe living conditions a challenge, especially if the family migrates as a unit. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairshas introduced the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes under PMAY-Urban but the availability of such facilities is inadequate compared to the number of migrants. Bandhu’s ecosystem of applications connect migrant workers directly with employers and housing providers, to give them more informed choices. Jobsgaar and MyRojgaar also play a similar role by connecting workers to employers.
  3. Healthy Grievance redressal Mechanism: Gram Vaani bridges the gap in grievance redressal by providing a platform where citizens can use Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to record their grievance in accessing entitlements. Aajeevika Bureau and The Working People’s Charter built the India Labourline to provide legal aid and mediation services to migrant workers.
  • Adopting a well-designed data: While a growing ecosystem of private players (NGOs, civil society organisations, not-for-profit and for-profit entities) are addressing these needs, well designed data exchanges can help unlock a strong public-private collaboration in the delivery of social protection.

Migrant

What more government can do to address the issue of migrants?

  • Creating centralized data: The state’s digital efforts are often in siloes and the need to maximize the use of data across schemes and departments is a high priority.
  • E-Shram: Initiatives such as direct benefit transfers and linking schemes for the portability of entitlements have shown promise. e-Shram, which is a national database of unorganized workers, aims to reduce access barriers to social protection for migrants.
  • Making portable entitlement: Recent announcements of API-based integration of e-Shram with the various state government labor departments and with the One Nation One Ration Card scheme are a step in that direction.
  • Working with the private sector: Enabling linkages of migrant data with the private sector can lead to benefits on the demand side, in the form of reduced transaction costs in identifying jobs, affordable housing, and redressal of grievances.
  • Engaging the private sector: Private players who have established relationships with these mobile populations can help the state in planning and forecasting the demand for benefits. An example of this is the digital payment ecosystem since the introduction of UPI.

Conclusion

  • Digital technologies have potential solutions to problems and transform the livelihood of migrants. The need for adequate data protection and safeguards is essential for the implementation of any such initiative.

Mains Question

Q.Enlist the problem faced by migrant workers? Elaborate on how use of technology can solve the many problems of migrants.

 

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Human Rights Issues

Why India Inc. needs a neurodiverse workplace ?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: human right of neuro-diverse people

neurodiverseContext

  • Discrimination in employment is a worldwide phenomenon. Gender, ethnic, racist discrimination are well known but discrimination towards neurodiverse persons are hardly debated in public forums. Despite having special abilities companies are not using their potentials.

What is neurodiversity?

  • Harvard Health Publishing defines, neurodiversity as a notion that every person interacts and experiences their surroundings differently; there is no right way of thinking, learning, or/and behaving. These differences should not be construed as defects or disorders.

What is a neuro-diverse workplace?

  • Neurodiversity in the workplace refers to including people with neuro-divergent conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and Asperger’s Syndrome.

What are those Conditions that make them different from normal humans?

  • Autism: A mental condition in which a person finds it difficult to communicate or form relationships with other people. Signs of autism include not responding to their name, avoiding eye contact, not smiling when you smile at them.
  • Dyslexia: a difficulty that some people have with reading and spelling signs include confusion over letters that look similar and putting letters the wrong way round , confusing the order of letters in words, reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud
  • Asperger’s syndrome: A developmental disorder related to autism and characterized by awkwardness in social interaction, pedantry in speech, and preoccupation with very narrow interests. Less severe symptoms than Autism syndrome.
  • Dyscalculia: A brain disorder in which a wide range of difficulties with math, including weaknesses in understanding the meaning of numbers, and difficulty applying mathematical principles to solve problems.

neurodiverseHow they can be naturally efficient and creative?

  • More efficient: Studies have shown that teams with both neurodivergent and neurotypical members are far more efficient than teams that comprise neurotypical employees alone.
  • Ability to focus: Neurodivergent individuals possess excellent attention to detail and an uncanny ability to focus on complex and repetitive tasks over a more extended period than their neurotypical peers.
  • Ability to work at faster speed: A study by the University of Montreal found that in a test involving completing a visual pattern, people on the autism spectrum could finish their task 40% faster than those who were not on the spectrum.
  • Robust spatial reasoning: People with dyslexia can think about objects in three dimensions and analyses such objects even with limited information.
  • Out of box thinking: They have problem-solving capabilities which allow them to see multiple solutions to a problem. They are often out-of-the-box thinkers with average or above-average intelligence.

Current Status of people living with neurodivergent conditions

  • People suffer with the Condition: According to a recent report, nearly 2 million people in India suffer from this neurological and developmental disorder and are therefore identified as autistic. Another study by Deloitte estimates that nearly 20% of the world is neurodiverse. In the U.S., it is estimated that 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed compared with 4.2% of the overall population
  • Discrimination at employment: Even with all the necessary skill sets and degrees, these persons are denied a job because they may react to situations differently from non-neurodiverse persons.
  • Lack of awareness: Lack of awareness about neurodivergent conditions, and how the people with condition may react and lack of and accommodating environment. Hence, there is an urgency to create a work environment that welcomes neurodiverse individuals.

neurodiverseCurrent work profile of companies and workplaces

  • A 2019 McKinsey study revealed that companies with gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability while those with ethnic diversity out-rival their competitors by 36%.
  • Another report titled ‘India’s Best Workplaces in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 2021’ states that diverse teams perform better, boost leadership integrity, heighten trust in the organization’s management and multiply revenue growth.

neurodiverseFew Examples show that things are changing

  • Competitive environment: Organisations embracing neurodiversity enjoy a competitive edge in several areas such as efficiency, creativity, and culture.
  • Various MNC’s hiring program: Companies such as Deloitte, Microsoft, SAP, JPMorgan Chase, and E&Y have introduced neurodiversity hiring programs.
  • Indian company: Indian-origin companies Hatti Kaapi and Lemon Tree Hotels have also included a neurodiverse workforce.

What can be done to create more inclusive workplaces?

  • Creating neurodivergent friendly offices: .Many employees with neurodiversity may find the hustle and bustle of a traditional office disturbing. Therefore, neurodivergent friendly offices catering to the employees’ diverse sensory responses can help ensure that these employees are comfortable in office spaces.
  • Openness: Creating the right environment is an ever-evolving exercise that requires openness and a will to change on the employer’s part. This flexibility can result in exceptional benefit with minimal or no additional costs.
  • Wider Inclusivity: To ensure higher profitability and be respected as a responsible employer globally, companies need to widen their definition of inclusivity by providing higher participation of a neurodiverse workforce.

Conclusion

  • Organizations must not only remove barriers that obstruct the progress of such individuals but also create conducive conditions for them to achieve their true potential and providing proper infrastructure so that they can perform at their optimal levels.

Mains Question

Q. People with neurodiversity are discriminated not only socially but also economically, Comment. What measures could be taken to bridge this gap within the society?

 

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Human Rights Issues

UN slams Sri Lanka’s human rights record

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNHRC

Mains level: Economic crisis in Sri Lanka

Linking Sri Lanka’s past on human rights record to its current economic crisis, the UN Human Rights Chief on said “impunity” for human rights abuses, economic crimes, and corruption was the underlying reason for the country’s collapse.

UNHRC report on Sri Lanka

  • The UNHRC report warned that Sri Lanka’s failure to address human rights violations and war crimes committed in the past had put the country on a “dangerous path”.
  • It rose that this could lead to a “recurrence” of policies and practices that gave rise to the earlier situation.
  • It flagged the accelerating militarization of civilian governmental functions, a reversal of important constitutional safeguards, political obstruction of accountability, intimidation of civil society, and the use of anti-terrorism laws.
  • The shrinking space for independent media and civil society and human rights organizations are also themes in the report.

The Resolution 30/1

  • The resolution 30/1 launched in 2015 deals with promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
  • It extended an opportunity to make good on its promises for justice and offered extensive support to accomplish that objective.

Sri Lanka’s intention

  • It is more than Sri Lanka has failed to – and doesn’t intend to — take the necessary, decisive, and sustainable steps necessary to achieve domestic justice and reconciliation.
  • Sri Lanka has officially sought India’s help to muster support against the resolution, which it has described as “unwanted interference by powerful countries”.

Where India comes in

  • The UNHRC is scheduled to hold an “interactive” session on Sri Lanka where the report was to be discussed, and member countries were to make statements.
  • Country-specific resolutions against Sri Lanka have regularly come up at the UNHRC in the last decade.
  • New Delhi voted against Sri Lanka in 2012 and abstained in 2014. It was spared the dilemma in 2015 when Sri Lanka joined resolution 30/1.
  • With elections coming up in Tamil Nadu, and PM declaring on a recent visit that he was the first Indian leader to visit Jaffna, Sri Lanka has begun reading the tea leaves.
  • Whichever way it goes, the resolution is likely to resonate in India-Sri Lanka Relations and for India internally, in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

 

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Human Rights Issues

UN accuses China of Uighur rights abuses

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Uighurs

Mains level: Blatant human rights violations worldwide and lobbying against India

The UN accused China of serious human rights violations that may amount to “crimes against humanity” in a report examining a crackdown on Uighurs and other ethnic groups.

What is the leak about?

  • After initially denying their existence, Beijing has claimed the facilities are vocational training schools, attended voluntarily and aimed at stamping out religious extremism.
  • But the leaked documents give an insight into how leaders saw the minority population as a security threat.
  • Photos appear to show officers restraining hooded and shackled inmates with batons, while other guards wearing camouflage stand by with firearms.

Who are the Uighurs?

  • There are about 12 million Uighurs, mostly Muslim, living in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
  • The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
  • They make up less than half of the Xinjiang population.
  • In recent decades, there’s been a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.
  • In the early 20th Century, the Uighurs briefly declared independence, but the region was brought under complete control of mainland China’s new Communist government in 1949.

Where is Xinjiang?

  • Xinjiang lies in the north-west of China and is the country’s biggest region.
  • Like Tibet, it is autonomous, meaning – in theory – it has some powers of self-governance. But in practice, both face major restrictions by the central government.
  • It is a mostly desert region, producing about a fifth of the world’s cotton.
  • It is also rich in oil and natural gas and because of its proximity to Central Asia and Europe is seen by Beijing as an important trade link.

Try this PYQ:

 

Q.Very recently, in which of the following countries have lakhs of people either suffered from severe famine/acute malnutrition or died due to starvation caused by war/ethnic conflicts?
(a) Angola and Zambia
(b) Morocco and Tunisia
(c) Venezuela and Colombia
(d) Yemen and South Sudan

 

Post your answers here.
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What was the build-up to the Uighur crackdown?

  • Anti-Han and separatist sentiment rose in Xinjiang from the 1990s, flaring into violence on occasion.
  • In 2009 some 200 people died in clashes in Xinjiang, which the Chinese blamed on Uighurs who want their own state.
  • Xinjiang is now covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints, and cameras that scan everything from number plates to individual faces.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, police are also using a mobile app to monitor peoples’ behaviour, such as how much electricity they are using and how often they use their front door.
  • Since 2017 when President Xi Jinping issued an order saying all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation, there have been further crackdowns.

Chinese narrative

  • China says the crackdown is necessary to prevent terrorism and root out Islamist extremism and the camps are an effective tool for re-educating inmates in its fight against terrorism.
  • It insists that Uighur militants are waging a violent campaign for an independent state by plotting bombings, sabotage and civic unrest.
  • China has dismissed claims it is trying to reduce the Uighur population through mass sterilizations as “baseless”, and says allegations of forced labor are “completely fabricated”.

 

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Human Rights Issues

Russia suspended from UN Human Rights Council membership

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UN Human Rights Council

Mains level: Russia's expulsion from UNHRC

Russia’s membership to the Human Rights Council (UNHRC), to which it was elected in 2020, was suspended after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) vote.

Why was Russia suspended from UNHRC?

  • Russia’s three-year term as member of the Council began on January 1, 2021.
  • With membership on the Council comes a responsibility to uphold high human rights standards.
  • It is this responsibility that Russia is alleged to have wilfully violated in Ukraine.

India stayed absent. Why?

  • India questioned the process by which the move to suspend Russia took place given that it happened before the international probe into the massacre.
  • New Delhi’s point is that it should have been brought before the Human Rights Council first, and not the UNGA, sources said.
  • This is a signal to the West that due process has not been followed, something that Indian interlocutors can draw Moscow’s attention to.

About UN Human Rights Council

  • The UNHRC is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, which is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.
  • It addresses and makes recommendations on situations of human rights violations, and can discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations.
  • The UNHRC replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights.
  • It was created by the UNGA on March 15, 2006, and the body met in its first session from June 19-30, 2006.

Working of the Council

In 2007, the Council adopted an “institution-building package” to set up its procedures and mechanisms. Among these were:

  1. Mechanism of Universal Periodic Review to assess the human rights situations in all UN Member States.
  2. It has Advisory Committee that serves as the Council’s think tank providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues.
  3. Its Complaint Procedure, allows individuals and organisations to bring human rights violations to the Council’s attention.
  4. The Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights, consisting of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts etc.

Membership of the Council

  • The Council, which meets at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland, is made up of 47 UN Member States who are elected by majority vote through a direct and secret ballot at the UNGA.
  • The membership of the Council is based on equitable geographical distribution.
  • African and Asia-Pacific states have 13 seats each, Latin American and Caribbean states have 8 seats, Western European and other states 7 seats, and Eastern European states 6 seats.
  • The members serve for three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

Leadership of the Council

  • The Council has a five-person Bureau, consisting of a president and four vice-presidents, each representing one of the five regional groups.
  • They serve for a year each, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.
  • The Human Rights Council President of the 16th Cycle (2022) is Federico Villegas, who is the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva.
  • He was elected president of the Human Rights Council for 2022 in December 2021.

Meetings of the Council

  • The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least 10 weeks.
  • These sessions take place in March (4 weeks), June (3 weeks) and September (3 weeks).
  • The Council met in its latest (49th) regular session from February 28 to April 1, 2022
  • If a third of the Member states requests, the Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.
  • Under the presidency of Nazhat S Khan of Fiji, the Council held a record five special sessions in 2021 — on Myanmar, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

 

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Human Rights Issues

United Nations Refugee Convention, 1951

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UN Refugee Convention, 1951

Mains level: Not Much

Model laws on asylum and refugees that were drafted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) decades ago but not implemented by the government could be revised by an expert committee.

Why in news?

  • India is not having a specific law for refugees and asylum-seekers.
  • Though India has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, 1951, the refugees and asylum seekers were entitled to the rights in Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Constitution.

UN Refugee Convention, 1951

  • The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was the first comprehensive attempt to define refugees and charted a detailed guideline for host countries to ensure the adequate protection and preservation of the rights of all refugees.
  • It puts out clearly who a refugee is and what kind of assistance, rights and legal protection a refugee is entitled to receive.
  • It also lays down the obligations of refugees towards the host countries.
  • The Convention also specifies certain categories of people, such as war criminals, who do not qualify for refugee status.

Definition of Refugee:

The 1951 convention defines a refugee as:

  1. A person who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence
  2. Has a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion
  3. Unable or unwilling to avail him— or herself of the protection of that country, or
  4. Unable to return there, for fear of persecution

Various Rights conferred to Refugees

  • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions.
  • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State.
  • The rights to work, housing, education, public relief and assistance, freedom of religion, access courts, and freedom of movement within the territory.
  • The right to be issued identity and travel documents.
  • The right to be protected from refoulement apply to all refugees.

Why hasn’t India signed this convention?

  • Dispute over definition: Another reason why India has not signed the Convention is the narrow definition of refugee under it. For instance, it does not include deprivation of economic rights as an eligibility criterion.
  • National security: It is believed that the chief reason is related to security issues.
  • Porous and open borders: South Asian borders are porous and any conflict can cause a huge displacement of people.
  • Cultural strain: Finally, sometimes refugees also pose a threat to law and order due to cultural differences. Ex. North East states.
  • Strain on economy: An influx of people during such times can put a lot of strain on the resources of the local economy and also, it can cause an imbalance in the delicate demography of the region.
  • Many inhabited refugees: India has already houses many refugees and in many cases, without the support of the UN.
  • Loss of sovereignty: Signing the convention would have meant allowing international scrutiny of ‘India’s internal security, political stability and international relations’.
  • Ad-hocism of the convention: The convention lacks a strong implementation policy which has given rise to ad-hocism and warehousing of refugees.

Way forward

  • The inability of international refugee law to reconcile itself with the practical realities that constrain states has culminated in its failure to provide asylum to persecuted persons.
  • In these circumstances, India needs a specific legislation governing refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Such a law would give legal sanctity and uniformity, ensuring the protection of human rights.
  • Along with this, each state must take responsibility for hosting refugees during their darkest hours by devising a burden-sharing system.

 

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Human Rights Issues

What is Operation AAHT?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Operation AAHT

Mains level: Human trafficking preventive measures

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has launched a nationwide ‘Operation AAHT’ to curb human trafficking.

We can site such examples in essays as well as mains as initiatives for curbing human trafficking in India

Operation AAHT

  • As part of this operation, special teams will be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.
  • The RPF will act as a bridge cutting across States to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace.
  • The infrastructure and intelligence network of the force could be utilized to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.

Why need this mission?

  • The Railways, which operate about 21,000 trains across the country daily, is the most reliable mode of transportation for the traffickers who often move their victims on long-distance trains.
  • Thousands of Indians and persons from neighboring countries are trafficked every day to some destinations where they were forced to live like slaves.
  • They are also being trafficked for illegal adoptions, organ transplants, working in circus, begging and entertainment industry.

Also read

[Burning Issue] Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2021

 

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Human Rights Issues

Why India will be scrutinised at Summit for Democracy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- India's participation in summit for democracy

Context

On December 9 and 10, US President Joe Biden will host a virtual “summit for democracy”, which will bring together leaders of 100 countries, civil society and private sector representatives.

Challenges to India’s democratic image

  • India categorised as partly free: The US-based Freedom House’s “Freedoms of the World” index categorises India as only “partly free”; the Swedish V-Dem calls India an “electoral autocracy”.
  • Others lump India with Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines, where authoritarian leaders rule the roost.
  • Factors affecting India’s image: Rights violations in Kashmir, suspension of internet services in Kashmir, the conflation of political dissent with the colonial-era crime of sedition, the use of anti-terrorism laws to silence critics, the failure of the state to ensure freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, the anti-Muslim amendments to citizenship laws have all but shredded India’s democratic image.

Agenda of the summit

  • The agenda of the summit holds contemporary resonance in India.
  • Three broad themes: According to the State Department, the summit will convene around three broad themes — defending democracy against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.
  • Leaders will be “encouraged” to announce “specific actions and commitments” to meaningful domestic reforms and international initiatives that advance the summit’s goals.

Why India’s contribution to the agenda will be scrutinized closely

  • Cultural relativisms: One theme that emerges from these observations is that of cultural relativism — the “Indianness of India’s democracy”— “as India becomes ever more democratic, democracy will become ever more Indian in its sensibilities and texture”.
  • Role of civil society: A second theme is the role of civil society.
  • It has been accused of “defaming” or bringing harm to India, as espoused most recently in statements by the National Security Adviser, who also called them “the new frontier of a fourth-generation war”.
  • Ensuring democratic rights: Another noticeable theme is around the responsibility for ensuring democratic rights.

Challenges for India

  • India has to reconcile the paradox inherent in submitting to international gaze at a global assembly where it is apparently required to make commitments adhering to “western” standards of democracy while claiming there is an Indian model.
  • In March this year, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar dismissed global standards and international metrics of democracy as rubbish.
  • For perspective, this is what China says too.
  • When President Biden brought up Beijing’s human rights record, President Xi Jinping told him there was no “uniform model” of democracy, and that dismissing other “forms of democracy different from one’s own is itself undemocratic.
  • The summit may intensify these differences, particularly because the host has no shining credentials either.
  •  If democracy-building was never the US goal in Afghanistan, as Biden declared, why make the unfreezing of Afghan assets overseas conditional to the Taliban turning democratic and inclusive overnight?

Conclusion

India’s expected participation in the summit will come against a rather bleak backdrop of relativism, misinformation, confusion, obfuscation and polarisation on issues of democracy, civil society and rights.

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Human Rights Issues

Draft Anti-trafficking Bill 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Draft Anti-trafficking Bill 2021

The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has invited suggestions and comments for its Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 which it has released.

A re-attempted legislation

  • A previous draft had been introduced in 2018 and had been passed by Lok Sabha despite stiff opposition from both parliamentarians as well as experts.
  • It was later never introduced in Rajya Sabha.
  • Experts say that nearly all the concerns raised in 2018 have been addressed in this new draft Bill.

Draft Anti-trafficking Bill 2021

The Bill has increased the scope of the nature of offences of trafficking as well as the kind of victims of these offences, with stringent penalties including life imprisonment, and even the death penalty in cases of an extreme nature.

Types of offenders

  • The scope of the Bill vis offenders will also include defence personnel and government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.

Penalty

  • In most cases of child trafficking, especially in the case of the trafficking of more than one child, the penalty is now life imprisonment.
  • While the penalty will hold a minimum of seven years which can go up to an imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh.
  • In certain cases, even the death penalty can be sought.

Definition of exploitation

  • Exploitation has been defined to include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography.
  • It also includes any act of physical exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced removal of organs, illegal clinical drug trials or illegal bio-medical research.

Victims covered

  • The Bill also extends beyond the protection of women and children as victims to now include transgenders as well as any person who may be a victim of trafficking.
  • It also does away with the provision that a victim necessarily needs to be transported from one place to another to be defined as a victim.

Investigation Agency

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for the prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.

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Human Rights Issues

[pib] Sugamya Bharat App

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan

Mains level: Disable friendly infrastructure

Union Minister for Social justice and Empowerment has launched the “Sugamya Bharat App”.

Sugamya Bharat App

  • The Sugamya Bharat App is a simple to use Mobile App with an easy registration process, requiring only 3 mandatory fields, namely, Name, Mobile number and Email-id.
  • Registered users can raise issues related to accessibility being faced.
  • The App is made accessible for ease of use for persons with disabilities also with features such as font size adjustment, color contrasting option, text to speech, and having an integrated screen reader in Hindi and English.
  • It is available in 10 regional languages, namely, Hindi, English, Marathi, Tamil, Odiya, Kannada, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi, and Malayalam.
  • The App also has the provision of easy photo uploads with a geotagging option of the premise where accessibility intervention is required.

Its features

  • The app, a Crowdsourcing Mobile Application is a means for sensitizing and enhancing accessibility in the 3 pillars of the Accessible India Campaign i.e. built environment, transportation sector and ICT ecosystem in India.
  • The app provides for five main features, 4 of which are directly related to enhancing accessibility, while the fifth is a special feature meant only for Divyangjan for COVID related issues.

The accessibility-related features are:

  • Registration of complaints of inaccessibility across the 3 broad pillars of the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan;
  • Positive feedback of examples and best practices worth emulating being shared by people as jan-bhagidhari;
  • Departmental updates and guidelines and circulars related to accessibility.

Back2Basics: Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan

  • Accessible India Campaign or Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan is a program that is set to be launched to serve the differently-able community of the country.
  • The flagship program has been launched on 3 December 2015, the International Day of People with Disabilities.
  • The program comes with an index to measure the design of disabled-friendly buildings and human resource policies.
  • The initiative also in line with Article 9 of the (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) which India is a signatory since 2007.
  • The scheme also comes under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 for equal Opportunities and protection of rights which provides non-discrimination in Transport to Persons with Disabilities.

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Human Rights Issues

China’s treatment of Uighurs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Uighurs

Mains level: Uighur's genocide

Canada’s House of Commons has voted to declare that China is committing genocide against more than 1 million Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region.

See the hypocrisy of so-called social activists who see farmers protest, anti-terror operations as a crackdown on human rights, while cases like that of Uighurs, Kurds go unnoticed in the global arena!

Who are the Uighurs?

  • There are about 12 million Uighurs, mostly Muslim, living in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
  • The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
  • They make up less than half of the Xinjiang population.
  • In recent decades, there’s been a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.
  • In the early 20th Century, the Uighurs briefly declared independence, but the region was brought under complete control of mainland China’s new Communist government in 1949.

Where is Xinjiang?

  • Xinjiang lies in the north-west of China and is the country’s biggest region.
  • Like Tibet, it is autonomous, meaning – in theory – it has some powers of self-governance. But in practice, both face major restrictions by the central government.
  • It is a mostly desert region, producing about a fifth of the world’s cotton.
  • It is also rich in oil and natural gas and because of its proximity to Central Asia and Europe is seen by Beijing as an important trade link.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Very recently, in which of the following countries have lakhs of people either suffered from severe famine/acute malnutrition or died due to starvation caused by war/ethnic conflicts?
(a) Angola and Zambia
(b) Morocco and Tunisia
(c) Venezuela and Colombia
(d) Yemen and South Sudan

What was the build-up to the crackdown?

  • Anti-Han and separatist sentiment rose in Xinjiang from the 1990s, flaring into violence on occasion.
  • In 2009 some 200 people died in clashes in Xinjiang, which the Chinese blamed on Uighurs who want their own state.
  • Xinjiang is now covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints, and cameras that scan everything from number plates to individual faces.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, police are also using a mobile app to monitor peoples’ behaviour, such as how much electricity they are using and how often they use their front door.
  • Since 2017 when President Xi Jinping issued an order saying all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation, there have been further crackdowns.

What does China say?

  • China says the crackdown is necessary to prevent terrorism and root out Islamist extremism and the camps are an effective tool for re-educating inmates in its fight against terrorism.
  • It insists that Uighur militants are waging a violent campaign for an independent state by plotting bombings, sabotage and civic unrest.
  • China has dismissed claims it is trying to reduce the Uighur population through mass sterilizations as “baseless”, and says allegations of forced labour are “completely fabricated”.

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Human Rights Issues

US moves to rejoin UN Human Rights Council

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UN HRC

Mains level: US policies revision after regime change

The Biden administration is set to reengage with the much-maligned UN Human Rights Council that former Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following:

  1. Right to education.
  2. Right to equal access to public service.
  3. Right to food.

Which of the above is/are Human Right/Human Rights under “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) Only 1

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) Only 3

Why did the US pulled-out earlier?

  • Trump pulled out of the world body’s main human rights agency in 2018 due to its disproportionate focus on Israel.
  • Israel had received by far the largest number of critical council resolutions against any country.
  • The Trump administration took issue with the body’s membership, which currently includes China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of human rights abuses.

About UN Human Rights Council

  • The UNHRC describes itself as “an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.
  • It addresses situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
  • The first session took place from June 19-30, 2006, three months after the Council was created by UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 on March 15 that year.
  • The UNHRC has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year.
  • The HRC replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR).

HRC Meetings

  • The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least 10 weeks.
  • The meetings take place for four weeks in March, for three weeks in June, and for another three weeks in September.
  • The sessions are held at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • If one-third of the Member States so request, the HRC can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

Membership

  • The Council is made up of 47 UN Member States, which are elected by the UNGA through a direct and secret ballot.
  • The General Assembly takes into account the contribution of the candidate states to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
  • As of January 1, 2019, 114 UN Member States have served on the HRC. Both India and Pakistan are on this list.
  • The HRC has a Bureau of one President and four Vice-Presidents, representing the five regional groups. They serve for a year, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.

Seat distribution

  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats

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Human Rights Issues

Custodial torture in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Custodial torture and challenges in dealing with it

Installation of cameras would help in curbing the custodial torture to some extent but ending the menace requires comprehensive reforms.

Installation of CCTV cameras to curb custodial torture

  • The Supreme Court recently mandated that CCTV cameras be installed in police stations and offices of other investigative agencies.
  • However, previous decisions with similar recommendations have been poorly implemented.
  • The present decision shows a marked difference from the earlier ones in its approach.
  • It shows more care by listing out areas of police stations where cameras must be installed to ensure that there are no blind spots.
  • It asks for oversight committees to be set up to monitor the functioning of the cameras.
  • It also specifies that the cameras must be equipped with night vision and be able to record audio and visual footage.
  • The recordings will have to be preserved for at least 12 months.

Issues with installing CCTV cameras

  • Alteration of a video to conceal an object, an event, or change the meaning conveyed by the video is a well-documented reality in the United States.
  • Indian courts have also expressed their apprehension of police tampering with CCTV footage.
  • The judgment does not assuage these concerns.
  •  Cameras in police stations will not foreclose the possibility of torture in other locations.
  • Multiple works on torture in India suggest that torture is often not inflicted in police stations, but in isolated areas or police vehicles.
  • Victims are illegally detained and tortured in undisclosed locations before officially arrested and brought to the police station.

Challenges in fixing criminal responsibility

  • Since torture is not recognized as an offense per se under Indian law, the judgment refers to the use of force resulting in “serious injuries and/or custodial deaths” unwittingly creates a high threshold for what amounts to torture.
  • It fails to acknowledge the existence of forms of physical and psychological torture that leave behind no marks on the body.
  • Requiring prior sanction from the government operates as the foremost hurdle in initiating criminal complaints.
  • The absence of statutory guidelines mandating independent investigation results in police officers from the same police station investigating the crime and suppressing evidence.
  • Between 2005-2018, with respect to 1,200 deaths in police custody, 593 cases were registered, 186 police personnel were charge-sheeted, and only seven were convicted (National Crime Records Bureau).
  •  Evidentiary concerns frequently arise since often the only witnesses are the victims themselves.
  • The Supreme Court (1995) has noted that police officials remain silent to protect their colleagues as they are “bound by brotherhood” and held that courts should not insist on direct or ocular evidence in these cases.
  • This position is rarely applied and many cases result in acquittal for want of evidence.

Conclusion

Monitoring the police through CCTVs is an important step towards combating torture but its effectiveness is contingent on broader reforms. The Supreme Court needs to ensure a robust implementation of its order and simultaneously plug the gaps so that incidents of torture are curtailed.

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Human Rights Issues

India’s Population with Disabilities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Disability in India

December 3 is marked by the UN as International Day of Persons with Disabilities in a bid to promote a more inclusive and accessible world for the differently-abled and to raise awareness for their rights.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

What are the legal provisions and policy initiatives in India for the welfare of persons with disabilities? What are the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in India? 10 marks

Disability in India

  • About 2.2% of India’s population lives with some kind of physical or mental disability, as per the National Statistics Office report on disability released last year.

How are the disabled identified?

  • Until the 2011 census, there were questions on seven kinds of disabilities in the questionnaire.
  • This list of disabilities was expanded to 21 when the Rights of People with Disabilities was introduced in 2016.
  • Accordingly, the 2019 report included questions to identify people with temporary loss of ability as well as neurological and blood disorders in addition.
  • The earlier definition included mental retardation and permanent inability to move, speak, hear and see.
  • Significantly, the revised definition recognizes deformities and injuries of acid attack victims as disabilities, entitling them to various relief measures.

Who are disabled and in what way?

  • Rural men had the highest prevalence of disability in India, according to the NSO report.
  • A higher proportion of men were disabled in India compared with women, and disability was more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • Inability to move without assistance was the most common disability. More men experienced locomotor disability than women.
  • These numbers were self-reported. In other words, the respondents were asked if they experienced any difficulty in performing tasks like moving, talking, etc.

Are these measures in line with those from other surveys?

  • The 2011 census estimated that the number of people with disabilities in India is close to 2.68 crore (or 2.2% of the population) — that is more than the entire population of Australia.
  • This number was based on the older definition of disability, yet the proportion of disabled people in the population is not different from the 2019 NSO report, which used the expanded definition of disability.
  • Other metrics for evaluating disability have provided different estimates.
  • A group of doctors from AIIMS found that alternate questionnaires like the Rapid Assessment of Disability have resulted in a prevalence ranging from 1.6%-43.3%.

How can the range be so wide?

  • The proportion of population facing disability becomes bigger as one move from a narrow definition to a broader one.
  • For instance, if one defines disability as the difficulty in accessing public services for all kinds of reasons, even social or economic, then the proportion goes up.

Why is it important to map disabled people?

  • Like other disadvantaged groups, the disabled in India are entitled to some benefits, ranging from reservation in educational institutes to concessions on railway tickets.
  • To claim these benefits, they have to furnish certificates as proof of disability.
  • At the macro level, data on the prevalence and type of disability is useful while making allocations for welfare schemes.

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Human Rights Issues

NHRC advisory on Sex Work

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NHRC

Mains level: Sex workers

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recognised sex workers as informal workers in their advisory on “Human Rights of Women in the context of COVID 19”.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Recognizing sex workers as informal workers is a myopic and moralistic objection of human rights activism. Discuss.

What is the NHRC advisory?

  • The NHRC in an effort to secure the rights of all excluded and marginalised women included sex workers as informal workers in their advisory on ‘Women at Work’.
  • The advisory asked officials to recognise sex workers as informal workers and register them so they are able to avail the benefits of a worker.
  • The Ministries have been asked to issue temporary documents so that the sex workers like all other informal workers, can access all welfare measures and health services.

Why is the advisory important?

  • The advisory included sex workers among groups that they were considered as part of vulnerable and marginal sections of society thereby consider them as citizens who are deserving of the protection of human rights.
  • To do this, NHRC had sought expert advice, and both the government and constitutional bodies had stood by the protection of the human rights and dignity of sex workers.
  • For many, it is a welcome move and an important milestone in achieving constitutional rights for sex workers.

Legality check of such work

  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act — lays down that the institution of prostitution is illegal.
  • Sex is either a consensual engagement between two adults or it is rape.
  • Commercial sex, if engaged through any institutional process is illegal and liable for prosecution. Hence the Government of India never recognised sex work.

Criticisms of this advisory

  • The feminists who wish to end sex slavery are critical of this NHRC’s move.
  • There has not been a single instance where a woman has voluntarily gone into prostitution.
  • Therefore they have regarded this as an absolute failure to not provide viable options to women to engage in productive work.

Back2Basics: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The NHRC is a statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA).
  • This act defines Human Rights as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.

Functions

  • Proactively or reactively inquire into violations of human rights by the government of India or negligence of such violation by a public servant
  • Protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation

Composition

The NHRC consists of The Chairman and Four members (excluding the ex-officio members)

  • A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, or, One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions serve as ex officio members.

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Human Rights Issues

UN’s guidelines on Access to Social Justice for People with Disabilities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rights of PWDs

The United Nations has released it’s first-ever guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities to make it easier for them to access justice systems around the world.

Note: These guidelines can be used in mains answer while substantiating their rights.

Defining a person with a disability

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2007 as the first major instrument of human rights in the 21st century.
  • It defines persons with disabilities as those “who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

Highlights of the Guidelines

The guidelines outline a set of 10 principles and detail the steps for implementation. The 10 principles are:

  • Principle 1: All persons with disabilities have the legal capacity and, therefore, no one shall be denied access to justice on the basis of disability.
  • Principle 2: Facilities and services must be universally accessible to ensure equal access to justice without discrimination of persons with disabilities.
  • Principle 3: PWDS including children with disabilities, have the right to appropriate procedural accommodations.
  • Principle 4: PWDS have the right to access legal notices and information in a timely and accessible manner on an equal basis with others.
  • Principle 5: PWDS are entitled to all substantive and procedural safeguards recognized in international law on an equal basis with others, and States must provide the necessary accommodations to guarantee due process.
  • Principle 6: PWDS have the right to free or affordable legal assistance.
  • Principle 7: PWDS have the right to participate in the administration of justice on an equal basis with others.
  • Principle 8: PWDS have the rights to report complaints and initiate legal proceedings concerning human rights violations and crimes, have their complaints investigated and be afforded effective remedies.
  • Principle 9: Effective and robust monitoring mechanisms play a critical role in supporting access to justice for persons with disabilities.
  • Principle 10: All those working in the justice system must be provided with awareness-raising and training programmes addressing the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular in the context of access to justice.

Significance for India

  • As per statistics maintained by the UN, in India 2.4 per cent of males are disabled and two per cent of females from all age groups are disabled.
  • Disabilities include psychological impairment, intellectual impairment, speaking, multiple impairments, hearing, seeing among others.
  • In comparison, the disability prevalence in the US is 12.9 per cent among females and 12.7 per cent among males.
  • Disability prevalence in the UK is at 22.7 per cent among females and 18.7 per cent among males.

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Human Rights Issues

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Commonwealth of Nations

Mains level: Abolition of modern slavery

The CHRI has released a report on “Eradicating Modern Slavery: An assessment of Commonwealth government progress”.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2012:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Commonwealth has no charter, treaty or constitution
  2. All the territories/countries once under the British Empire (jurisdiction/rule/mandate) automatically joined the Commonwealth as its members

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

About the report

The report was released on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and an international anti-slavery organisation Walk Free.

Highlights of the report

  • The report assessed the progress made by Commonwealth countries on the promises made in 2018 to end modern slavery by 2030 and achieve the SDGs of ending forced labour, human trafficking and child labour.
  • The report found that one-third of the Commonwealth countries had criminalised forced marriage, while 23 had not criminalised commercial sexual exploitation of children.
  • Commonwealth countries have made little progress towards their commitment to eradicate modern slavery by 2030.
  • One in every 150 people in the Commonwealth is living in conditions of modern slavery.
  • Out of 54 countries, only four engage with business to investigate supply chains, and all countries report gaps in victim assistance programs
  • None of the Asian countries in the group had implemented laws against forced labour in supply chains.

India is the worst performer

  • India had fared the worst in terms of coordination with no national coordinating body or National Action Plan in place.
  • India, like all other Commonwealth countries in Asia, had not ratified the International Labour Organization’s 2011 Domestic Workers Convention or the 2014 Forced Labour Protocol.
  • The report said India accounted for one-third of all child brides in the world.
  • Despite being the largest country in the region, India has the weakest response on national coordination, with no national coordinating body or National Action Plan in place.

Back2Basics: Commonwealth of Nations

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
  • It dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonization of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories.
  • It was originally created as the British Commonwealth of Nation through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalized by the UK through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
  • The current body was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernized the community, and established the member states as “free and equal”.
  • The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of the Commonwealth.
  • The Queen is head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.
  • Member has no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

  • It is an independent, non-partisan & nonprofit international NGO which works towards the practical realization of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.
  • It was founded in 1987 and is headquartered at New Delhi.
  • CHRI’s objectives are to promote awareness and adherence to the Commonwealth’s Harare Declaration, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to other internationally recognised human rights instruments.
  • The organisation specializes in transparency and accountability issues, with a focus on access to justice and access to information.
  • The organisation mainly works in South Asia, East Africa, and Ghana region.

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Human Rights Issues

Protesting is a fundamental right: UN

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNCAT, ICCPR, Art. 21

Mains level: Right to peaceful assembly

As authorities worldwide grapple with demonstrations over issues like political rights and racial justice, a UN committee has reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right.

Practice question for mains:

Q.There is an urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system in India in light of rising cases of custodial torture and killings. Comment.

What is the news?

  • The independent experts on the Human Rights Committee published a fresh interpretation of the right of peaceful assembly.
  • It offered comprehensive legal guidance about where and how it applies and also outlining governments’ obligations.
  • The committee is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under Article 21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.

About ICCPR

  • The ICCPR is a multilateral treaty adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976.
  • The covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.
  • As of September 2019, the Covenant has 173 parties and six more signatories without ratification.
  • It is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
  • It is monitored by the UN Human Rights Committee (a separate body to the UN Human Rights Council).

Back2Basics: Article 21

  • Article 21 is the protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
  • The Article prohibits the deprivation of the above rights except according to a procedure established by law.
  • Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right.
  • It, however, does not entitle a foreigner the right to reside and settle in India, as mentioned in Article 19 (1) (e).

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Human Rights Issues

OPCW blames Syria for chemical attacks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: OPCW

Mains level: Usual turmoil in Syria

The global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has for the first time explicitly blamed Syria for chemical attacks.

What did the report say?

  • President Bashar al-Assad’s air force used the nerve gas sarin and chlorine three times in 2017.
  • The findings came in the first report from a new investigative team set up by the OPCW to identify the perpetrators of attacks in Syria’s ongoing nine-year-long civil war.

About OPCW

  • The OPCW is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997.
  • The organisation is not an agency of the United Nations but cooperates both on policy and practical issues.
  • The OPCW, with its 193 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavour for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.
  • It promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction.
  • It won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its work in Syria and says it has eliminated 97 per cent of the world’s chemical weapons.
  • The OPCW has the power to say whether chemical weapons were used in an attack it has investigated. In June 2018, it granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks.

Back2Basics: Syrian Crisis

  • The Syrian civil war is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic led by Bashar al-Assad and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government.
  • Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under Assad.
  • In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighbouring countries.
  • When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide. The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified.
  • Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Assad vowed to crush what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”.
  • The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.

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Human Rights Issues

Not an unfettered right

Context

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights filed an application seeking to intervene as amicus curiae in the pending litigation in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

What are the implications of intervention?

  • Concern over international attention: That the case has attracted the attention of the international human rights agency is a matter of concern for the Indian government.
  • International law principles: The intervention may enable the Supreme Court to read in public international law principles in determining the constitutionality of CAA.
  • Law on concepts of sovereignty: Ultimately, this would assist in laying down the law on concepts of sovereignty in addition to determining the obligations of a nation-state to the international community at large.

Why the intervention matters?

  • Basis of the application: The application is based on the belief that the High Commissioner’s intervention will provide the Court “with an overview of the international human rights norms and standards with respect to the state’s obligations to provide international protection to persons at risk of persecution in their countries of origin”.
  • This application stands out for a number of reasons.
  • First, this is a voluntary application rather than at the invitation of the Supreme Court.
  • Second, she accepts that India is a state party and signatory to various international conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights which contain important non-discrimination clauses, including on the ground of religion.
  • India’s obligations towards migrants: India is obliged, under international law, to ensure that migrants in its territory or under its jurisdiction receive equal and non-discriminatory treatment regardless of their legal status or the documentations they possess.
  • Locus standi issue raised by India: In response, the External Affairs Ministry argued that “no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty”.
  • The High Commissioner has filed similar amicus curiae briefs on issues of pubic importance before a range of international and national judicial fora.
  • A precedent for future: This intervention, if permitted, would serve as a precedent for a number of future applications. It would also provide an opportunity for the Supreme Court to lay down the law on whether such applications interfere with national sovereignty.

Sovereignty as responsibility

  • Defining sovereignty: International Court of Justice judge James Crawford defines sovereignty as, among other things, the “capacity to exercise, to the exclusion of other states, state functions on or related to that territory, and includes the capacity to make binding commitments under international law” and states that “such sovereignty is exercisable by the governmental institutions established within the state”.
  • Sovereignty in Indian Constitution: The Preamble to the Constitution lays out the position, wherein the people of India have resolved to constitute the Indian Republic into a sovereign and not just any one authority.
  • As such, the courts (judiciary), the government (executive) and elected legislatures (legislature) are equally sovereign authorities.
  • No one can claim exclusivity over sovereignty. Furthermore, Article 51 (c) of the Constitution directs the state to “foster respect for international law”.

Responsibility to citizens and the international community

  • Responsibility of political authority: According to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, “national political authorities are responsible to the citizens internally and to the international community through the UN”.
  • Constraints on sovereignty: Therefore, it is trite to say that an authority’s right to sovereignty is not unfettered. It is subject to constraints including the responsibility to protect its citizenry and the larger international community.
  • Extending Article 14: Furthermore, Article 14 extends the right to equality to all persons, which is wider than the definition of citizens. Even illegal immigrants shall, consequently, be treated by the government in a manner that ensures equal protection of Indian laws.

Conclusion

It is hoped that the Supreme Court will conclude that the intervention is necessary as the Court would benefit from the High Commissioner’s expertise in public international law principles.

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Human Rights Issues

Giving Human Rights Commissions more teeth

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

Mains level: Paper 2- Need to entrust the Human Right Commissions with more powers.

Context

The Madras High Court is to decide on whether the recommendations made by such panels are binding upon the state.

A fourth branch institution

  • Enactment of the Act and its purpose: In 1993, the Indian Parliament enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act.
    • Purpose: The purpose of the Act was to establish an institutional framework that could effectively protect, promote and fulfil the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
    • To this end, the Act created a National Human Rights Commission, and also, Human Rights Commissions at the levels of the various States.
  • What is fourth branch institution: The National and State Human Rights Commissions are examples of what we now call “fourth branch institutions.”
    • According to the classical account, democracy is sustained through a distribution of power between three “branches” — the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, with each branch acting as a check and a balance upon the others.
    • The necessity of independent bodies: The complexity of governance and administration in the modern world has necessitated the existence of a set of independent bodies, which are charged with performing vital functions of oversight.
    • Some of these bodies are constitutional bodies — established by the Constitution itself. These include, for instance, the Election Commission and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
    • Others have been established under law: for example, the Information Commission under the Right to Information Act, and Human Rights Commissions under the Protection of Human Rights Act.
  • HRC under scrutiny and criticism: In the two-and-a-half decades of their existence, however, the functioning of the Human Rights Commissions have come under scrutiny and criticism.
    • There have been the usual critiques of the politicization of autonomous bodies, and selectiveness.
    • Toothless: Even more than that, however, it has been alleged that for all intents and purposes, the Human Rights Commissions are toothless: at the highest, they play an advisory role, with the government left free to disobey or even disregard their findings.

Limitations of NHRC

  • NHRC’s recommendations are not binding
  • NHRC cannot penalize authorities who do not implement its orders
  • JK is out of its jurisdiction
  • NHRC jurisdiction does not cover human right violations by private parties
  • 3/5 are judges, leading to more judicial touch to its functioning
  • 2/5 are also not Human rights experts. Political appointments.
  • Time limit is set to 1 year i.e. NHRC cannot entertain ca case older than 1 year
  • Limited jurisdiction over violation by armed forces
  • The act does not extend to J&K
  • Vacancies are not filled on time. Most human rights commissions are functioning with less than the prescribed Members
  • Fund crunch
  • Overload and backlog. Too many complaints. Hence, in recent days, NHRC is finding it difficult to address the increasing number of complaints
  • Bureaucratic style of functioning
 

What the case before Madras High Court will decide?

  • Whether recommendations are mandatory or not: A Full Bench of the High Court will be deciding upon whether “recommendations” made by the Human Rights Commissions are binding upon their respective State (or Central) governments, or whether the government is entitled to reject or take no action upon them.
  • What are the power of HRC under the act? Under the Protection of Human Rights Act, the Human Rights Commissions are empowered to inquire into the violations of human rights committed by state authorities, either upon petitions presented to them, or upon their own initiative.
    • Powers of civil courts: While conducting these inquiries, the Commissions are granted identical powers to that of civil courts, such as the examining witnesses, ordering for documents, receiving evidence, and so on.
    • These proceedings are deemed to be judicial proceedings, and they require that any person, who may be prejudicially affected by their outcome, has a right to be heard.
  • Issue over the meaning of recommend: The controversy before the Madras High Court stems from the issue of what is to be done after the Human Rights Commission completes its enquiry, and reaches a conclusion that human rights have been violated.
    • Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act empowers the Human Rights Commission to “recommend” to the concerned government to grant compensation to the victim, to initiate prosecution against the erring state authorities, to grant interim relief, and to take various other steps.
    • The key question revolves around the meaning of the word “recommend.”
  • Opposite conclusion by different benches: The Full Bench of the Madras High Court is hearing the case because different, smaller benches, have come to opposite conclusions about how to understand the word “recommend” in the context of the Protection of Human Rights Act.
    • According to one set of judgments, this word needs to be taken in its ordinary sense. To “recommend” means to “put forward” or to “suggest” something or someone as being suitable for some purpose.
    • Ordinarily, a mere “suggestion” is not binding. Furthermore, Section 18 of the Human Rights Act also obligates the concerned government to “forward its comments on the report, including the action taken or proposed to be taken thereon, to the Commission”, within a period of one month.
    • The argument, therefore, is that this is the only obligation upon the government.
    • If indeed the Act intended to make the recommendations of the Commission binding upon the government, it would have said so: it would not simply have required the government to communicate what action it intended to take to the Commission (presumably, a category that includes “no action” as well).

Why ordinary meaning of recommend needs to be rejected?

  • Argument against the ordinary meaning of “recommend”
    • Ordinary meaning and meaning within the legal framework: The first is that there is often a gap between the ordinary meanings of words and the meanings that they have within legal frameworks.
    • Legal meaning: Legal meaning is a function of context, and often, the purpose of the statute within which a word occurs has a strong influence on how it is to be understood.
    • For example, the Supreme Court has held, in the past, that the overriding imperative of maintaining judicial independence mandates that “consultation” with the Chief Justice for judicial appointments (as set out under the Constitution) be read as “concurrence” of the Chief Justice (this is the basis for the collegium system).
    • Recently, while interpreting the Land Acquisition Act, the apex court held that the word “and” in a provision had to be construed as “or”.
    • Of course, there needs to be a good reason for interpretations of this kind.
  • Constitutional commitment: This brings us to the purpose of the Human Rights Act, and the importance of fourth branch institutions.
  • Ensure adequate realisation of constitutional commitment: As indicated above, the Human Rights Act exists to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.
    • To fulfil this purpose, the Act creates an institutional infrastructure, via the Human Rights Commissions.
    • The Human Rights Commissions, thus, are bodies that stand between the individual and the state, and whose task is to ensure the adequate realisation of constitutional commitment to protecting human rights.
  • Leaving decision with the state would defeat the purpose of the act: It stands to reason that if the state was left free to obey or disobey the findings of the Commission, this constitutional role would be effectively pointless, as whatever the Human Rights Commission did, the final judgment call on whether or not to comply with its commitments under the Constitution would be left to the state authorities.
    • This, it is clear, would defeat the entire purpose of the Act.
  • Past precedents: Indeed, in the past, courts have invoked constitutional purpose to determine the powers of various fourth branch institutions in cases of ambiguity.
    • For example, the Supreme Court laid down detailed guidelines to ensure the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation; various judgments have endorsed and strengthened the powers of the Election Commission to compulsorily obtain relevant details of candidates, despite having no express power to do so.
    • It is therefore clear that in determining the powers of autonomous bodies such as the Human Rights Commission, the role those fourth branch institutions are expected to play in the constitutional scheme is significant.
  • Powers of civil courts: And lastly, as pointed out above, the Human Rights Commission has the powers of a civil court, and proceedings before it are deemed to be judicial proceedings. This provides strong reasons for its findings to be treated — at the very least — as quasi-judicial, and binding upon the state (unless challenged).
    • Indeed, very recently, the Supreme Court held as much in the context of “opinions” rendered by the Foreigners Tribunals, using very similar logic to say that these “opinions” were binding.

Conclusion

The crucial role played by a Human Rights Commission — and the requirement of state accountability in a democracy committed to a ‘culture of justification’ — strongly indicates that the Commission’s recommendations should be binding upon the state. Which way the Madras High Court holds will have a crucial impact upon the future of human rights protection in India.

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Human Rights Issues

Explained: Why UN Human Rights Commission intends to intervene in a SC case against CAA?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNHRC

Mains level: Global intervention over CAA

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “intends to file” an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India seeking to intervene in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1474 of 2019 and praying that it be allowed to make submissions.

On what grounds is a UN body seeking to intervene in a case regarding a domestic Indian law?

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the leading UN entity on human rights.
  • The UN General Assembly entrusted both the High Commissioner and her Office with a unique mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all people.
  • As the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights for all, OHCHR leads global human rights efforts speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide.
  • This resolution, adopted by the UNGA in 1994, created the post of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Its jurisdiction

  • The application says that successive High Commissioners have filed amicus curiae briefs on issues of particular public importance within proceedings before a diverse range of international and national jurisdictions.
  • It includes the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and at the national level, the United States Supreme Court and final appeal courts of States in Asia and Latin America.

What exactly does the intervention application say?

  • The OHCHR has welcomed as “commendable” the CAA’s stated purpose, “namely the protection of some persons from persecution on religious grounds.
  • It also “acknowledges the history of openness and welcome that India has exhibited to persons seeking to find a safer, more dignified life within its borders”.
  • However the examination of the CAA raises important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees, says the OHCHR.
  • The CAA, it says, raises “important human rights issues, including its compatibility in relation to the right to equality before the law and nondiscrimination on nationality grounds under India’s human rights obligations”.
  • The application acknowledges that “the issue of nondiscrimination on nationality grounds falls outside the scope of this intervention”, but insists that “this in no way implies that there are not human rights concerns in this respect”.

Why intervene?

  • The application questions the reasonableness and objectivity of the criterion of extending the benefits of the CAA to Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan alone.
  • It points out that while the Indian government has suggested that persons of Muslim faith, regardless of denomination or ethnicity, are protected there.
  • However recent reports by UN human rights show that Ahmadi, Hazara and Shia Muslims in these countries warrant protection on the same basis as that provided in the preferential treatment proposed by the CAA.

Is there a specific basis on which the OHCHR has faulted the CAA?

The application flags some central principles of international human rights law:

  1. the impact of the CAA on some migrants
  2. the enjoyment of human rights by all migrants and the rights of all migrants (non-citizens) to equality before the law and
  3. the principle of non-refoulment, which prohibits the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to be persecuted
  • The application mentions that all migrants “regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and/or immigration status enjoy human rights and are entitled to protection”.
  • It cites international human rights instruments to urge the inclusion of non-discrimination, equality before the law, and equal protection before the law into the foundation of a rule of law.
  • International human rights law, the application says, does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens or different groups of non-citizens for the purposes of providing them protection from discrimination, “including in respect of their migration status”.

India’s stance

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
  • MEA spokesperson insisted that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.
  • The CAA was “constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of (India’s) constitutional values”, and “is reflective of our long-standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India”.

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Human Rights Issues

Private: Preventive Detention

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

Mains level: Paper 2- Misuse and excessive use of preventive detention in India, issues arising out of it.

Context

The frequent use of preventive detention laws brings into focus excessive and disproportionate use of it to prevent the crime in India.

Preventive detention in India

  • What is preventive detention in Indian law? The arrest and detention of persons without requiring them to face a public trial, which is driven towards proving innocence or guilt of an accused person alleged to have committed an offence, is referred to as ‘preventive detention’ in Indian law.
    • Laws at the national level and state level: Preventive detention statutes exist at both the national and state levels and are intended to serve as effective measures to prevent the occurrence of crime.
  • Who is empowered to pass order? Under these laws, executive officers such as District Magistrates and Commissioners of Police are empowered to pass orders for arrest and to take persons into custody.
  • What are the conditions to exercise power? These powers can be exercised if the officers are “satisfied” that the person’s conduct is posing a risk to certain kinds of interests that the law deems important.
    • For instance, the National Security Act of 1980 permits arrest and detention of persons when it is in the interest of maintaining “public order”, which can occur even without any allegations of the person breaking any existing laws.

Why procedural fairness is absent?

  • Strict compliance could defeat the purpose of the law: Since the purpose of preventive detention is to prevent crime, it is argued that compliance with painstaking procedures such as those of a criminal trial would defeat the law’s purpose.
    • Therefore, we find that preventive detention processes come without many of the hallmarks of procedural fairness that we take for granted in regular criminal law.
  • How preventive detention differs from regular criminal laws
    • No need to disclose the grounds for arrest: Unlike regular law, there is no need for a person arrested under the exceptional preventive detention process to be informed of the grounds immediately.
    • No need to produce the person in court: There a no requirement to produce the arrested person before a court.
    • Scrutiny is done by the executive only: While all arrests and detentions under preventive detention laws do undergo some subsequent checks, this scrutiny remains almost exclusively executive-based.
    • No judicial oversight for the detention of fewer than three months: There is no judicial oversight where detention beyond three months is not sought.
    • No public hearing even after 3 months: And even in those cases which go to a Tribunal comprising judges, there is no public hearing involved and no guaranteed oral hearing for the detenu.
    • No publicly available orders or judgments are published about the ultimate decision.
    • Finally, throughout this process, there is no right to legal assistance for detenues.
    • Resorting to Habeas corpus: The only opportunity for many lies in pursuing a writ of habeas corpus before the High Court.
    • High Courts can only test preventive detention orders on limited grounds. It is barred from undertaking a full-scale review of this executive process.

Excessive use of the exceptional statute

  • The appealing idea of preventive detention: The idea that laws should permit pre-emptive intervention to prevent the commission of crimes is an appealing one.
  • Unnecessary use in normal law and order situation: That the legal framework governing this preventive project comes along with reduced procedural compliances and quick outcomes only makes preventive detention laws more tantalising for security-minded officers.
    • Normalising the preventive detention: Those security-minded officers are thus incentivised to use these exceptional statutes to deal with even ordinary law and order situations, ultimately normalising preventive detention and bringing them down from their exceptional status.
  • NCRB data on preventive detention: The above claim is supported by the Crime in India Report for 2018 released by the NCRB which disclosed that close to one lakh people were arrested and detained in custody under preventive detention laws, as per government estimates.

Conclusion

Exceptional situations certainly justify exceptional measures. But there is a fair case to argue that even under this logic, the procedures of preventive detention laws in India practically sacrifice due process interests at the altar of crime control, and this bargain is ill-suited to justice, no matter how grave the risks.

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Human Rights Issues

‘2 Billion Kilometers to Safety’ campaign

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: '2 Billion Kilometers to Safety' campaign

Mains level: Refugees issue across the world

 

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has announced a new global campaign urging people worldwide to cover the total distance travelled by refugees each year – 2 billion kilometers – by running, jogging or walking.

About the campaign

  • The “2 Billion Kilometers to Safety” campaign vies to encourage people to support refugees by championing individual acts of solidarity.
  • The goal is to acknowledge the resilience and strength of refugees.
  • It calls on the public to show their solidarity with refugees by running, walking or cycling to collectively cover two billion kilometers.
  • Participants can use their fitness apps or the campaign website to log the kilometers and contribute to the global total.

Distance covered by refugees 

  • UNHCR traced the journeys of refugees around the world and calculated that, collectively, people forced to flee travel approximately two billion kilometers every year to reach the first point of safety.
  • This is roughly the distance that separates Earth from somewhere between the planets Saturn and Uranus.
  • According to UNHCR estimates, Syrian refugees travelled over 240 kilometers each to reach Turkey.
  • South Sudanese refugees travelled more than 640 kilometers to reach Kenya. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar travelled approximately 80 kilometers to reach Bangladesh.

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Human Rights Issues

Explained: Practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: FGM

 

Every year, February 6 is observed as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  As per the WHO, globally, over 200 million girls alive today have suffered FGM in over 30 countries.

Female Genital Mutilation

  • FGM is the name given to procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons.
  • It is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights and the health and integrity of girls and women.
  • Most girls and women who have undergone FGM live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but it is also practiced in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
  • According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while the exact origins of the practice remain unclear, it seems to have predated Christianity and Islam.
  • It says that some Egyptian mummies display characteristics of FGM.
  • Significantly, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus has claimed that in the fifth century BC, the Phoenicians, the Hittites and the Ethiopians practised circumcision.

Why is Female Genital Mutilation practiced?

  • Depending on the region, there can be various reasons why FGM is performed. The UNFPA has categorised the reasons into five categories —
  1. psycho-sexual reasons (when FGM is carried out as a way to control women’s sexuality, “which is sometimes said to be insatiable if parts of the genitalia, especially the clitoris, are not removed);
  2. sociological or cultural reasons (when FGM is seen as part of a girl’s initiation into womanhood and an intrinsic part of a community’s cultural heritage);
  3. hygiene and aesthetic reasons (this may be the reason for those communities that consider the external female genitalia as ugly and dirty);
  4. religious reasons (the UNFPA maintains that while FGM is not endorsed by Christianity or Islam, “supposed” religious doctrines may be used to justify the practice);
  5. socio-economic factors (in some communities FGM is a pre-requisite for marriage, especially in those communities where women are dependent on men economically).
  • Other reasons cited by the WHO include- an attempt to ensure women’s premarital virginity since FGM is believed to reduce libido,  and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts.
  • FGM may also be associated with cultural ideals of feminity and modesty.

Economic cost of FGM

  • Beyond the immense psychological trauma it entails, FGM imposes large financial costs and loss of life.
  • In 2018, a study on FGM in India said that the practice was up to 75 per cent across the Bohra Muslim community.
  • The economic costs of treating health complications arising out of FGM amount to roughly $1.4 billion for 2018 for 27 countries where FGM is performed.
  • If the prevalence remains the same, the amount is expected to rise up to $2.3 billion by 2047.

FGM in India

  • According to the aforementioned study, the reasons for FGM referred to as “Khafd” in India include continuing an old traditional practice, adhering to religious edicts, controlling women’s sexuality and abiding by the rules stated by the religious clergy.
  • It also states that the issue first rose to prominence in India because of two international legal cases on FGM against practising Bohras in Australia and the US.
  • In 2018, a bench of then CJI Dipak Misra referred a petition seeking a ban on FGM among Dawoodi Bohra girls to a five-judge Constitution Bench.
  • The Dawoodi Bohra community, on the other hand, maintained that the practice should be allowed since the Constitution grants religious freedom under Article 25.

For detailed health risks associated with FGM, navigate to the page:

Health hazards of FGM

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Human Rights Issues

Karnataka Anti-superstition Law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Superstitions and associated socail injustice

A controversial anti-superstition law in Karnataka was formally notified by the current government.

Provisions of the earlier drafts

  • The law, which was initially drafted as the Karnataka Anti Superstition Bill, 2013, was a pet project of former CM Siddaramaiah.
  • The model Bill held human dignity as its central tenet and sought eradication of irrational practices found in different communities.
  • The first draft made practices like inflicting self-wounds and conversion through bribery illegal.
  • Some of the proposals opposed by religious leaders and political parties in the early draft were the ban on practices such as the carrying of priests in palanquins, worshipping the feet of religious leaders.
  • It sought to ban Made Snana practised in the Dakshina Kannada region where Dalits roll over the remains of food consumed by upper castes.

The current version

  • A Bill with sizable consensus across the political spectrum finally evolved in 2017. A total of 16 practices have been banned under the law.
  • The practice of Vaastu, astrology, pradakshina or circumabulation of holy places, yatras, parikramas performed at religious places were kept out of the purview of the law.
  • Made Snana was banned under the law with respect to having Dalits roll over leftover food.
  • The practice has now been modified to be voluntary and not involving leftover food.
  • Practices such as barring menstruating women from entering houses of worship and their homes, coercing people to take part in fire-walks, and beating up people by declaring them evil, are among the irrational practices that have been banned under the 2017 law.

Penalties

  • The law stipulates “imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to seven years and with fine which shall not be less than five thousand rupees but which may extend to fifty thousand rupees”, as punishment for violations.
  • The law is to implemented by the state police with the appointment of vigilance officers under the law at police stations.

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Human Rights Issues

[op-ed of the day] Preventing mob lynching

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

Mains level: Paper 2-Protection of vulnerable section and mob lynching.

Context

The spate of incidents of lynching over the past few years has led to a heightened sense of insecurity among the marginalised communities. The Centre should specify penal action against officials and doctors accused of dereliction of duty.

2018 Supreme Court Judgement

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court described lynching as a “horrendous act of mobocracy”.
  • The Court exhorted the Centre and State governments to frame laws specifically to deal with the crime of lynching.
  • The SC laid down certain guidelines to be incorporated in these laws including
    • Fast-track trials.
    • Compensation to victims, and
    • Disciplinary action against lax law-enforcers.

The State laws

  • Manipur bill for the law against lynching:  The Manipur government came up first with its Bill against lynching in 2018, incorporating some logical and relevant clauses.
    • Provision of nodal officer: The Bill specified that there would be nodal officers in each district to control such crimes.
    • Compensation to the victim: The law provides for adequate monetary compensation to the victims or their immediate kin.
    • Punishment for failure to enforce the law: Police officers who fail to prevent the crime of lynching in their jurisdiction are liable to be imprisoned for a term that may extend from one to three years with a fine limit of ₹50,000.
    • No concurrence of state for the prosecution of the police: No concurrence of the State government is required to prosecute them for dereliction of duty.
  • Rajasthan bill: The government has accepted only a few guidelines issued by the apex court.
    • No action against police officers: The bill is also silent on any action to be initiated against police officers who may be accused of dereliction of duty.
  • West Bengal bill: Most other guidelines of the Supreme Court have been adopted by the State.
    • Stringent punishment: Punishment for lynching to death is punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh.

What the Centre can do

  • Adoption of the SC guidelines: The Centre should adopt the guidelines provided by the SC to deal with the crime.
  • Action against doctors: Centre would do well to incorporate sections in the law for penal action against doctors who stand accused of-
    • Dereliction of duty.
    • For delay in attending to victims of lynching.
    • For submitting false reports without carrying out a proper and thorough medical examination of the victims.
  • The compensation scheme for victims: Under the compensation scheme for the victims, the amount to be paid to the victims should be recovered from the perpetrators of the crime.
    • Collective fines: Collective fines should be imposed on the villagers where the lynching takes place.
  • Punishment for a political leader for inciting the mob: Centre could even provide for punitive action against political leaders found guilty of inciting mobs.
  • Punitive action against police: Punitive action to be taken against police officers accused of dereliction of duty, as incorporated in the law enacted by Manipur government, could be replicated in the Central law too.
    • Punitive action as a deterrent: It would deter police officials acting in a partisan manner in favour of the lynch mob.

Conclusion

Until a zero-tolerance attitude is adopted in dealing with mob lynching, this crime will continue to show a rising trend.

 

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Human Rights Issues

[op-ed of the day] Human rights are not solely an ‘internal matter’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Violations of human rights.

Context

The human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the dilution of Article 370 and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) have brought renewed international focus on India’s human rights practice.

Evolution of the modern Human Rights

  • Classical approach: Countries made agreements on the premise that a sovereign state had the exclusive right to take any action it thought fit to deal with its nationals.
    • No recognition of individuals’ rights:  Classic international law governed the conduct between states and did not recognise the rights of individuals.
  • The classical notion was challenged in the 19th century.
  • Modern Human Rights:  Slavery Convention adopted by the League of Nations prohibiting the slave trade heralded the first human rights treaty.
    • It was based on the principle of dignity of a human being.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, was the first comprehensive international human rights document.
  • The weakening of Unrestricted sovereignty: The evolution of international human rights law is also about the gradual weakening of the concept of unrestricted sovereignty.

India and Human Rights

  • Unwarranted international scrutiny: The Indian government’s response to its human rights practice has always been that international scrutiny is unwarranted.
    • Why India claims so?: Since the country is the largest democracy in the world with an independent judiciary, free media, and an active civil society no international scrutiny is required.
    • Indian has always assured the international community that the judiciary (the SC) would provide adequate remedies to victims of human rights violations.
    • These claims sound less credible after the recent developments in J&K and the passage of the CAA.
  • Human rights and Discriminatory nature of CAA: Non–discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights.
    • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that CAA is fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.

Role of Civil Society and Media

  • Media’s questionable role: Responding to international concerns the Indian government also refers to the role of free media and civil society in protecting human rights.
    • However, the media’s role in J and K and after CAA is questionable.
  • Weakened Civil Society: The government has imposed various curbs on it since 2014.
    • It has become difficult for it to receive foreign contribution.
    • Use of FRCA: Since 2014, the government has canceled the registration of about 14,000 NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Conclusion

  • It is possible for the Indian government, due to its diplomatic clout, to avoid robust intervention by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN human rights mechanisms.
  • But it would be difficult to avoid scrutiny by the international community. So, the government must take steps to allay international concerns and avoid situations where it is seen as a violator of human rights.

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