Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

How the Sikh migration to Canada began?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Sikh Diaspora

canada sikh

Central Idea

  • Canadian PM recently shared evidence with India, alleging the involvement of Indian agents in the killing of pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
  • This claim triggered a diplomatic stand-off between Canada and India, with India accusing Canada of sheltering Khalistani terrorists and extremists.

Sikh Diaspora in Canada

  • Significant Population: According to the 2021 Canadian census, Sikhs account for 2.1% of Canada’s population, making Canada home to the largest Sikh population outside India.
  • Historical Migration: Sikhs have been migrating to Canada for over a century, primarily driven by their involvement in the British Empire’s armed services.
  • Expansion of the Empire: Wherever the British Empire expanded, Sikhs migrated, including countries in the Far East and East Africa.

Early Years of Sikh Migration

  • Queen Victoria’s Jubilee: Sikh migration to Canada began in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major in the British India Army, is considered one of the first Sikh settlers to arrive in Canada that year.
  • Laborers and Sojourners: The first significant wave of Sikh migration to Canada occurred in the early 1900s, with most migrants working as laborers in British Columbia’s logging industry and Ontario’s manufacturing sector.
  • Intent to Remit: Many of the early Sikh immigrants were sojourners, intending to stay for only a few years and remit their savings back to India.

Challenges and Pushback

  • Hostility and Prejudice: Sikh migrants faced hostility from locals who perceived them as job competitors. They also encountered racial and cultural prejudices.
  • Tightened Regulations: Due to mounting public pressure, the Canadian government imposed stringent regulations, such as requiring Asian immigrants to possess a specified sum of money and arrive only via a continuous journey from their country of origin.
  • Komagata Maru Incident: In 1914, the Komagata Maru incident occurred, where a ship carrying 376 South Asian passengers, mostly Sikhs, was detained in Vancouver for two months and then forced to return to Asia. This incident resulted in fatalities.

Turning Point after World War II

  • Relaxing Immigration Policy: After World War II, Canada’s immigration policy shifted for several reasons, including a commitment to the United Nations’ stance against racial discrimination, economic expansion, and a need for laborers.
  • Importance of Human Capital: Canada turned to third-world countries for the import of human capital, leading to a decline in European immigration.
  • Points System: In 1967, Canada introduced the ‘points system,’ focusing on skills as the main criterion for non-dependent relatives’ admission, eliminating racial preferences.

Conclusion

  • The history of Sikh migration to Canada spans over a century, marked by challenges, prejudice, and policy changes.
  • Today, Canada is home to a thriving Sikh community, showcasing the transformative journey from early struggles to a more inclusive and skill-based immigration system.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

Trade relations, and India’s agri imports from Canada

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India-Canada Trade

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • India and Canada are currently facing escalating diplomatic tensions, with India suspending visa services in Canada and Canada making adjustments to its staff presence in India.
  • Amidst this backdrop, let’s take a closer look at the trade ties between these two nations.

Understanding India-Canada Trade

  • Trade Volume: In the last fiscal year (2022-23), India’s total trade with Canada amounted to $8 billion, which represents approximately 0.7% of India’s total global trade valued at $1.1 trillion.
  • Balance in Bilateral Trade: Bilateral trade between the two countries has been relatively balanced. For instance, in 2022-23, both imports and exports were approximately $4 billion each, resulting in a modest trade surplus of $58 million for India.

canada

Key Imports from Canada

  • Mineral Fuels and Oils: India’s primary imports from Canada include mineral fuels, mineral oils, and related products, which account for nearly half (46%) of the total import value.
  • Wood Pulp and Paper Waste: Wood pulp and paper waste are another significant category of imports from Canada.
  • Edible Vegetables: Edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers also make up a substantial portion of India’s imports from Canada.

Key Exports to Canada

  • Pharmaceutical Products: India primarily exports pharmaceutical products to Canada.
  • Articles of Iron and Steel: Articles made of iron or steel constitute another major category of exports.
  • Machinery and Mechanical Appliances: Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, and mechanical appliances are among India’s top exports to Canada.

Critical Agricultural Imports from Canada

  • Muriate of Potash (MOP): Canada is a crucial supplier of muriate of potash (MOP) to India, a widely used fertilizer. Canada’s share in India’s MOP imports has been substantial.
  • Masur (Red Lentil): Canada is also India’s largest supplier of masur or red lentil, a significant pulse crop.
  • Impact on Masur Imports: The ongoing India-Canada standoff has raised concerns, especially regarding masur imports. Masur has become a substitute for arhar/tur (pigeon-pea), with implications for prices and trade dynamics.
  • Yellow/White Peas: India used to import yellow/white peas as a substitute for chana (chickpea), primarily from Canada, until 2017-18.

Current Challenges and Crop Size Concerns

  • Geopolitical Worries: The diplomatic tensions have led to concerns about the availability and size of Canada’s masur crop. The 2023 crop is smaller than the previous year’s, impacting landed masur prices.
  • Yellow/White Peas: Yellow/white peas, once a significant import, have faced fluctuations in trade volumes with Canada.

canada

Others: Indian Students in Canada

  • Since 2018, India has been the largest source country for international students in Canada.
  • In 2022, their number rose 47 percent to nearly 320000, accounting for about 40 % of overseas students, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
  • It also helps universities and colleges provide subsidised education to domestic students.

Conclusion

  • Trade Dynamics: India and Canada maintain a balanced trade relationship, with certain critical imports like MOP and masur playing pivotal roles in India’s agricultural sector.
  • Impact of Diplomatic Tensions: The ongoing diplomatic tensions could potentially affect trade dynamics, especially in the case of masur imports, raising concerns about supply and prices.
  • Trade Relationships Evolving: India-Canada trade relations continue to evolve, and the resolution of diplomatic tensions will influence the future direction of this trade partnership.

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Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Explained: Immunity of Legislators from Bribery Charges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Parliamentary Immunities

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • Important Question: The Supreme Court of India is trying to answer a significant question: Can lawmakers be prosecuted in criminal courts for taking or offering bribes despite the legal protection they enjoy under Articles 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution?
  • Background: This question arises from a need to re-evaluate a past Supreme Court ruling in the 1998 PV Narasimha Rao vs. State case, which said that lawmakers can’t be prosecuted for bribery related to their speeches or votes in Parliament.

Understanding Lawmaker Immunity

  • Constitutional Safeguard: Constitution provides special protection for lawmakers through Articles 105(2) and 194(2). These articles deal with the powers and privileges of Parliament and state legislatures, and they say that lawmakers can’t be taken to court for anything they say or vote on in these bodies.
  • What It Means: This means lawmakers are safe from legal action for their words and actions inside the Parliament or state legislatures. For example, they can’t be sued for defamation for something they say during a debate.

Current Case in the Supreme Court

  • How It Started: This matter began when, a member of Jharkhand politician, was accused of taking a bribe in exchange for her vote in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections.
  • Legal Journey: Soren asked for her case to be dropped, saying she was protected by Article 194(2). But the Jharkhand High Court disagreed in 2014. So, she approached the Supreme Court.
  • Referral to a Bigger Panel: During the case, it was clear that the issue was very important. In 2019, a Supreme Court Bench suggested that it should be heard by more judges (a larger Bench) because it relates to the 1998 Narasimha Rao decision.
  • What the Supreme Court Just Did: On September 20, 2023, a five-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, decided to send this issue to a seven-judge Bench for a fresh look. They said it’s vital to reconsider the PV Narasimha Rao ruling because it impacts our country’s politics.

Why Lawmaker Immunity Matters

  • Protecting Lawmakers: Articles 105(2) and 194(2) aim to make sure lawmakers can speak and vote freely in Parliament and state legislatures without worrying about legal trouble.
  • Not a Get-Out-Of-Jail Card: But remember, these rules don’t mean lawmakers are above the regular laws of our country. They just make sure lawmakers can do their job without fear.

Reviewing the 1998 PV Narasimha Rao Decision

  • The Big Case: The PV Narasimha Rao case is all about the 1993 JMM bribery scandal. The politician, who is related to the petitioner in this case, and some MPs were accused of taking money to vote against a no-confidence motion.
  • Different Opinions: Some judges thought immunity shouldn’t cover bribery cases. But most judges thought lawmakers should be protected to make sure they can talk and vote freely.
  • What Happened: The 1998 ruling in the Narasimha Rao case made it hard to prosecute lawmakers for bribery linked to their work in Parliament.

Conclusion

  • Big Legal Question: The Supreme Court’s decision to send this issue to a seven-judge Bench shows how important it is. They want to decide if lawmakers can be prosecuted for bribery without affecting their ability to do their job.
  • Keeping Democracy Running: Articles 105(2) and 194(2) are here to make sure our Parliament and state legislatures work smoothly. They let lawmakers speak without fear, but they don’t mean lawmakers can break the law.
  • Balancing Act: What the bigger Bench decides will shape how lawmakers can be prosecuted for bribery, a matter that’s incredibly important for India’s democracy.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

India- Canada Diplomatic Face-Offs over Khalistan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Canadian support for Separatism in India under Free Speech

Khalistan

Central Idea

Background of Diplomatic Face-Offs

  • India has accused the Canadian government of inadequate action against pro-Khalistan supporters, perceiving it as an attempt to court the Canadian-Sikh community.
  • Canada has denied these allegations and called it instead an exercise of Freedom of Speech and Individual Liberty.

Pro-Khalistan stance of Trudeau Govt

  • These recent tensions echo a long history of strained relations.
  • In 1998, Canada recalled its high commissioner to India following India’s nuclear tests.
  • Disagreements began as early as 1948 when Canada supported a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Recent Discord

  • Leadership Clashes: Trudeau’s appointment of four Sikhs to his 30-member Cabinet in 2015, boasting more Sikhs than Modi’s ministry, stirred controversy over his proximity to Khalistan sympathizers.
  • Diplomatic Incidents: Tensions escalated when then Punjab CM refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan in 2017, accusing him of associating with separatists. Trudeau’s 2018 visit to India received a cool reception, further souring relations.
  • Atwal Controversy: India expressed dismay when Jaspal Atwal, convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian Cabinet minister in 1986, was initially invited to dine with Trudeau during the same visit. The invitation was later rescinded.
  • Brief Respite: Relations appeared to improve when Canada mentioned ‘extremism’ and Khalistan in its 2018 ‘Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada.’ Both countries established an anti-terrorism cooperation framework in 2018.
  • Reversal: In 2019, Canada removed all mentions of Khalistan and Sikh extremism from the report, drawing criticism from Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, who had provided Trudeau with a list of extremists, including Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Current Perspective: G20 Humiliation 

  • Canada’s Viewpoint: Canadian officials assert that their efforts to improve relations with India through trade and commerce are hindered by India’s focus on Khalistan. They argue that the separatist movement is relatively insignificant and that the Khalistan referendums organized by Sikhs for Justice are legal.
  • India’s Concerns: During the recent G20 summit, PM Modi conveyed “strong concerns” about “continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements” in Canada.

Historical Roots of Canadian Interference

  • Long-standing Connection: Canada’s association with the Khalistan cause dates back. Surjan Singh Gill established the ‘Khalistan government in exile’ office in Vancouver in 1982, even issuing Khalistani passports and currency. However, he garnered limited local Sikh support.
  • Militancy’s Impact: Militancy in Punjab during the early 1980s had repercussions in Canada. In 1982, then PM Pierre Trudeau declined to extradite Talwinder Singh Parmar, accused of killing two police officers in Punjab. The Air India Kanishka bombing in 1985, orchestrated by the Babbar Khalsa, led to 331 civilian deaths in Canada’s worst act of terrorism.

Changing Governments and Influences

  • Political Fluctuations: The Khalistan movement’s trajectory often mirrors India and the subcontinent’s changing politics. Relations improved during the Vajpayee government, with hints of reconciliation.
  • Strong Relations: During Stephen Harper’s tenure as Canadian PM (2006-2015), Canada and India enjoyed strong relations, marked by numerous high-level visits and cooperation.
  • Community Influence: With over 7.7 lakh Sikhs in Canada, the Sikh community wields substantial political influence, with 18 Sikh MPs in the Canadian parliament in 2019, surpassing those in India.

Repercussions of the spat

(1) Migration Trends:

  • The ongoing tensions and the Khalistan movement have led to a 246% increase in asylum claims by Indian nationals in Canada.
  • Experts suggest this may be a tactic employed by immigration agents.

(2) Shift in Interest:

  • Interest in the Khalistan movement in Canada has waned, with the issue being less prominent.
  • Supporters are often second-generation Canadians influenced by pro-Khalistani social media and music/ rap-culture, rather than direct experiences in Punjab.

(3) Trade and Economy:

  • In 2022, the trade between India and Canada exceeded $13.7 billion, making India Canada’s 10th largest two-way merchandise trade partner.
  • However, recent developments have led to the pause of trade talks and the cancellation of a planned trade mission to India.

Conclusion

  • The complexities surrounding India-Canada relations, exacerbated by the lingering specter of Khalistan, continue to evolve.
  • Historical antecedents, political transitions, and diaspora dynamics all contribute to the intricate dance between the two nations.
  • While challenges persist, the potential for cooperation remains, provided both countries navigate the path toward common ground with sensitivity and diplomacy.

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Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Transformations and Trends in the Indian Parliament over 75 Years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Trends in Indian Parliament

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • India’s parliamentary journey spanning 75 years reflects a dynamic and evolving landscape of political representation, legislative processes, and societal changes.
  • From shifting demographics to parliamentary practices and electoral dynamics, this retrospective analysis sheds light on the fascinating facets of India’s parliamentary evolution.

Key Trends in Indian Parliament

Youth Representation
  • Despite a growing youth population, the number of MPs aged 35 and below in the Lok Sabha is at a record low.
  • In the First Lok Sabha, there were 82 such MPs, but in the 17th Lok Sabha, there are only 21.
  • This decline contrasts with India’s youthful demographic, where around 66% of the population is under 35.
Women’s Turnout and Representation
  • Women’s voter turnout has consistently risen since 1962, even surpassing male turnout in 2019.
  • Number of women candidates has increased, from 45 in 1957 to 726 in 2019.
  • However, women’s representation in the Lok Sabha remains low, with just 14.36% of the total seats occupied by women in 2019.
  • Women’s reservation Bill, aimed at increasing women’s representation to 33%, has faced hurdles in passing.
Missing Deputy Speaker
  • 17th Lok Sabha is set to become the first in independent India without a Deputy Speaker, breaking from tradition.
Declining Parliamentary Sittings
  • Between 1952 and 1974, the Lok Sabha consistently held over 100 sittings annually, but this trend has declined.
  • Pandemic in 2020 led to a significant decrease in sittings.
  • Average sitting time per day has also decreased over the years.
Bills Passed and Ordinances Issued
  • Both Houses of Parliament are passing fewer bills compared to earlier decades.
  • Highest number of bills passed occurred during the Emergency in 1976, while the lowest was in 2004.
  • An increase in ordinances issued by the Union government has coincided with fewer parliamentary sittings.
Voter Enrollment and Parties in the Fray
  • Number of voters has increased six-fold from 1951 to 2019, resulting in a higher number of polling stations.
  • Nos. of parties participating in Lok Sabha polls has multiplied over the years, with 673 parties in 2019 compared to 53 in 1951.
  • Number of contestants has also grown significantly.
Vote Share and Majority Trends
  • Out of 17 Lok Sabha elections held so far, 10 have resulted in clear majorities, while 7 have been fractured mandates.
  • Recent trends show that the winning party typically receives a higher vote share than the runner-up since 2004.
Changing Focus on Questions
  • Time allocated for questions in the Lok Sabha has decreased over the years.
  • First Lok Sabha dedicated 15% of its time to questions, whereas the 14th Lok Sabha allocated only 11.42%.
  • Data for the 15th, 16th, and 17th Lok Sabhas is not available for comparison.

Conclusion

  • As India’s Parliament embarks on its journey of 75 years, these trends provide a fascinating glimpse into the evolving dynamics of the nation’s highest legislative body.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Why Dominant Caste are Demanding Reservation in India?

maratha quota

Central Idea

  • A Maratha activist has been on a 17-day hunger strike demanding reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and education.
  • The demand for a Maratha quota is expected to gain momentum as Lok Sabha and Assembly elections approach.

Historical Context of Maratha Reservation Demand

  • Maratha Background: The Marathas, historically identified as a “warrior” caste, comprise mainly peasant and landowning groups, constituting nearly one-third of Maharashtra’s population. They have been a politically dominant community in the state.
  • Demand for Reservation: The demand for Maratha reservation dates back to the early 1980s when Mathadi Labour Union leader Annasaheb Patil led the first protest rally in Mumbai.

Recent Developments

  • OBC Status: The Marathas seek to be identified as Kunbis (Farmers), which would entitle them to benefits under the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This demand arose after the Supreme Court, in May 2021, struck down the quota for Marathas under the state’s Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) Act, 2018.
  • Bombay High Court Decision: In June 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the Maratha quota under the SEBC Act but reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, in compliance with the 50% reservation limit set by the court.
  • Supreme Court Ruling: In May 2021, the Supreme Court declared the Maharashtra law providing reservation to Marathas unconstitutional, citing it breached the 50% reservation cap set in the Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment of 1992.
  • Impact on EWS Quota: Following the SC’s decision on the 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), the Maharashtra government stated that poor Marathas could not benefit from the EWS quota until the Maratha reservation issue was resolved.
  • Government Response: In response to protests and clashes, the government issued a Government Resolution (GR) promising Kunbi caste certificates to certain Maratha community members and referred to an older GR from 2004 pledging reservation for eligible Maratha-Kunbis and Kunbi-Marathas.

OBC Opposition to Maratha Demand

  • OBC Organizations: OBC organizations have opposed the Maratha demand for OBC reservations due to quota shrink. They argue that Marathas, as a dominant community, should not share the OBC quota, which is already limited in Maharashtra compared to the national quota.
  • Reservation Distribution: Currently, reservations in the state are divided among various categories, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, Special Backward Classes, and others.

Political Impact

  • Polarization: The Maratha reservation issue has led to a sharp Maratha-OBC polarization in politics. Traditionally, Marathas leaned towards the Congress and NCP, while the BJP and Shiv Sena garnered OBC support.
  • Changing Dynamics: Recent political developments, including splits within parties and alliances, have complicated the political landscape, making the issue even more complex.

Conclusion

  • The Maratha reservation issue remains a highly contentious and politically charged topic in Maharashtra, with implications for both social and political dynamics in the state.

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Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

India and Saudi’s Push for the West Coast Mega Refinery Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: West Coast Mega Refinery Project

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • India and Saudi Arabia have renewed efforts to accelerate the long-pending 60-million-tonnes-per-annum (60 mtpa) west coast mega refinery project, which had faced multiple hurdles.

West Coast Mega Refinery Project

  • The ambitious project to build a mega oil refinery and petrochemicals facility in Maharashtra’s Konkan belt, with participation from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was first proposed in 2015.
  • The project is stipulated to be established at Barsu village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.
  • IOC, BPCL, and HPCL, had already incorporated a joint venture (JV) — Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals (RRPCL) — to implement the project.
  • It faced resistance from locals due to environmental concerns and shifting political equations in the state.
  • Despite initial agreements and cost estimates of Rs 3 lakh crore, the project failed to take off as foreign partners hadn’t acquired stakes in the joint venture.

Recent Developments

  • Around 15,000 acres of land had to be acquired for the project across 17 villages in the area.
  • A joint monitoring committee will track the project’s progress, signaling renewed commitment.
  • India and Saudi Arabia are keen to implement the project, which has earmarked funds of $50 billion.

Significance of the Project

  • India is a significant consumer of crude oil, and its demand for petroleum products and petrochemicals is expected to grow substantially.
  • India aims to increase its refining capacity from 250 mtpa to 450 mtpa, making it a key player in the global oil demand landscape.
  • For Aramco and ADNOC, the project offers diversification, global expansion, risk mitigation, and access to a major oil market.

Future Options

  • Realistic alternatives include scouting for alternative coastal sites in Maharashtra or considering another coastal state.
  • A more drastic alternative is to split the proposed mega refinery into smaller units.

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Languages and Eighth Schedule

Hindi Diwas and the Making of India’s Official Language

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hindi Diwas

Mains level: National Language Debate

hindi diwas

Central Idea

  • Hindi Diwas, celebrated on September 14th each year, holds a special place in India’s cultural and linguistic tapestry.

Hindi Diwas

  • Official Language Selection: After gaining independence, India recognized the need for a unifying official language to facilitate communication between government departments and the public. On September 14, 1949, Hindi was chosen as the official language, as stipulated in Article 343 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Pioneering Advocates: Leaders such as Seth Govind Das, Maithili Sharan Gupt, Kaka Kalelkar, and Beohar Rajendra Simha were instrumental in championing Hindi as the nation’s official language. Beohar Rajendra Simha’s birthday on September 14 became synonymous with Hindi Diwas.

Language Debate in the Constituent Assembly

  • RV Dhulekar Advocates for Hindi: RV Dhulekar, a representative from Uttar Pradesh, passionately argued that Hindi should not only be the official language but also the national language. He asserted that Hindi had triumphed in a race among languages and deserved recognition.
  • Frank Anthony’s Case for English: Frank Anthony, representing Central Provinces and Berar, made a compelling case for English. He emphasized that the knowledge of English, acquired over two centuries, was a valuable asset for India on the international stage.
  • Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra’s Push for Sanskrit: Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra, who represented Bengal, advocated for Sanskrit as the national and official language. He argued that it was a revered language with rich heritage.
  • Qazi Syed Karimuddin’s Support for Hindustani: Qazi Syed Karimuddin, also from Central Provinces and Berar, highlighted Mahatma Gandhi’s endorsement of Hindustani. He proposed that Hindustani, written in both Devanagari and Urdu scripts, should be the national language.
  • T A Ramalingam Chettiar’s Perspective on Hindi: T A Ramalingam Chettiar, representing Madras, accepted Hindi as an official language due to its widespread use but questioned its claim as the national language. He argued that India had several national languages, each deserving equal recognition.

The Munshi-Ayyangar Formula

  • The Constituent Assembly engaged in extensive deliberations over three days, resulting in the Munshi-Ayyangar formula.
  • It was a compromise named after the drafting committee members K M Munshi and N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar.
  • According to this formula, Article 343 of the Constitution adopted in 1950 stated that the official language of the Union would be Hindi in the Devanagari script.
  • However, English would continue to be used for official purposes for fifteen years from the Constitution’s commencement.

Back2Basics: Article 343

  • Article 343 (1) of the Constitution provides that Hindi in Devanagari script shall be the official language of the Union.
  • Article 343 (3) empowered the Parliament to provide by law for continued use of English for official purposes even after January 25, 1965.
  • This provision was included to ensure a smooth transition, as English was widely used in India at the time of independence.

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Electronic System Design and Manufacturing Sector – M-SIPS, National Policy on Electronics, etc.

India vs. China in Smartphone Manufacturing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India vs. China in smartphone manufacturing

china mobile

Central Idea

  • India’s smartphone manufacturing industry has reached a noteworthy milestone with the production and launch of the iPhone 15.
  • This development raises the question of whether India is on the path to becoming a rival to China in smartphone manufacturing.
  • While India has made substantial progress, certain factors still set it apart from China.

Why discuss this?

  • India has become the second largest mobile-producing nation as locally made mobile phone shipments crossed the 2 billion cumulative mark in the 2014-2022 period, registering a 23% growth compounded annually, according to a new report.
  • The ramp up in local manufacturing came on the back of huge internal demand, increasing digital literacy, and government push.

A Shift in iPhone Manufacturing

(1) Historical Context:

  • iPhones have been assembled in India since 2017.
  • Previously, India’s assembly lines lagged behind global launches.

(2) The iPhone Breakthrough:

  • India’s Foxconn plant in Chennai produced the iPhone 15 a month before its global launch.
  • This signifies India’s transition into a parallel manufacturing market alongside China.

Comparing India and China

(1) Not Yet Equals:

  • India’s achievement is commendable, but it hasn’t completely caught up with China.
  • Base iPhone 15 assembly takes place in India, while Pro iPhones are still produced elsewhere.
  • Established supply chains in China pose a challenge for India.

(2) The Challenge of Supply Chains:

  • Supply chain operations in India aren’t as seamless as in China.
  • Bridging this gap is expected to take at least two more years.

Understanding Smartphone Manufacturing in India

(1) High-Level Assembly:

  • Key components like cameras, displays, and chips are imported.
  • India primarily serves as a high-level assembly destination.
  • In contrast, China’s fabs (chip and display plants) provide a manufacturing advantage.

(2) Skill Development:

  • Smartphone manufacturing has become highly automated.
  • India’s workforce is being upskilled to operate sophisticated assembly lines.
  • Supply chain considerations impact Apple’s decision to not assemble Pro iPhones in India.

Pricing Dynamics and Future Prospects

(1) Pricing Paradox:

  • India isn’t inherently a cheaper manufacturing destination compared to China.
  • Apple’s iPhone sales in India are growing, potentially by nearly 40%.
  • Apple doesn’t need to lower prices due to continued growth.

(2) Potential Price Revisions:

  • India experiences a pricing disparity compared to the US and UAE.
  • Price revisions may become necessary once iPhone shipments exceed 10 million units annually.

India’s lacunae

(1) High-End Manufacturing:

  • India aspires to host high-end smartphone and electronics manufacturing.
  • However, this goal is distant due to the country’s limited volume in this segment.
  • To make this transition viable, firms would need to export around 500 million units annually, a target that seems distant.

(2) Semiconductor Fabrication:

  • Semiconductor fabrication, a critical aspect of electronics manufacturing, remains outside India’s grasp.
  • Moving semiconductor fabrication to India isn’t currently feasible for companies due to the lack of scale and infrastructure.

Conclusion

  • India’s ascent in smartphone manufacturing, exemplified by the production of the iPhone 15, is a significant achievement.
  • While challenges remain, such as supply chain scale and workforce upskilling, India’s progress underscores its potential to compete with China in the future.
  • As smartphone sales continue to surge, pricing dynamics and local manufacturing may undergo further transformations, benefiting both the industry and consumers.

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How fraternity in India is different from the idea enshrined in the Constitution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Values enshrined in Constitution

Mains level: Read the attached story

fraternity

Central Idea

  • In the context of India’s independence struggle and the subsequent establishment of a constitutional democracy, the interplay of liberty, equality, and fraternity was deemed crucial for a diverse society on the brink of independence.
  • This essay delves into the historical origins of fraternity, its journey through different civilizations, and its significance in India’s socio-political landscape.

Understanding Fraternity

  • The concept of fraternity, often overshadowed by liberty and equality, plays a pivotal role in the realm of politics.
  • Philosopher Angel Puyol, in his book “Political Fraternity: Democracy beyond Freedom & Democracy,” argues that fraternity is central to the emancipation and empowerment of people.

Origins of the Concept

  • Ancient Greece: The roots of fraternity can be traced back to ancient Greece, where philosophers like Plato emphasized the importance of sharing knowledge and wisdom among individuals. This early discourse hinted at the notion of political fraternity.
  • Medieval Europe: In the Middle Ages, fraternity found expression primarily through religion, especially within the context of Christian society in Europe. It began to evolve from a religious concept to a political one.
  • French Revolution: The concept of fraternity gained prominence during the French Revolution of 1789, symbolized by the revolutionary triptych of ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite.’ Fraternity, in this context, became a fundamental principle of civic-political friendship.

Friendship among Equals

  • Integral Value System: Fraternity thrived within community ties, with a foundation built on integral values. It prioritized the collective over the individual, gradually giving way to religious morality and a ‘way of life.’
  • Shared History: For fraternity to flourish, individuals must share a harmonious past. This shared history should be amicable, free from ideological divisions rooted in social inequalities among different communities.

Fraternity in India’s Context

  • Unique Societal Landscape: India’s fraternal bonds face unique challenges due to its history of social hierarchies and caste divisions. The shared history is marred by the caste system, hindering the principles of equality and liberty.
  • Secular Conception: To foster fraternity in India, it must be rooted in politics, where caste privileges can be challenged. Fraternity should be cultivated through political conditioning, separate from moral considerations.

Role in Indian Constitution

  • Constitutional Objective: The Indian Constitution recognizes the significance of fraternity in a society marked by various hierarchical social inequalities. It considers fraternity, along with liberty and equality, as a foundational political objective.
  • Affirmative Actions: Measures like affirmative actions, including the reservation system, aim to establish equality among diverse social groups in terms of access to social and economic resources.

Limits to Fraternity

  • Ignoring Inequalities: Fraternity loses its meaning if it overlooks social inequalities and promotes social solidarity built on animosity towards others. Such solidarity often perpetuates the status quo and reinforces privilege at the expense of the marginalized.
  • Nationalism vs. Fraternity: Belligerent nationalism can replace the call for fraternity, casting religious minorities as enemies. This has historically led to social and political discrimination against religious minorities in India.
  • Fundamentalism’s Impact: Fundamentalism, in any form, contradicts the essence of fraternity, as fanaticism is incompatible with true fraternity.

Conclusion

  • In India, the coexistence of caste and political fraternity, given the prevailing social milieu, presents challenges. To foster political fraternity, it is imperative to address social inequalities and caste divisions.
  • The future of Indian politics will determine whether fraternity or caste consciousness prevails, as the two are often incompatible.
  • Achieving true political fraternity requires navigating these complexities while prioritizing the principles of equality, liberty, and solidarity across diverse social groups.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

India urges Sri Lanka to fulfill commitments for Tamil aspirations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 13th Amendment Provisions

Mains level: Tamil Minority issue in Sri Lanka

tamil

Central Idea

  • India has expressed its concerns about the slow progress made by Sri Lanka in fulfilling its commitments to address the aspirations of the Tamil community.
  • India’s representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva emphasized the inadequacy of progress.

Tamil issue in Sri Lanka

  • Violent persecution against the Tamil population erupted in the form of the 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, and 1983 anti-Tamil pogroms in Sri Lanka.
  • Over 13 years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed and disappeared, survivors continue demanding justice and accountability for war-time crimes.
  • In the post-war years, Sri Lanka’s human rights defenders have frequently flagged concerns over persisting militarisation, especially in the Tamil-majority north and east; repression, and the shrinking space for dissent.

Why discuss this?

  • Reconciliation and Human Rights: Despite the war’s conclusion, the country still faces challenges in reconciling its ethnic divisions and ensuring the protection of human rights.
  • Economic Crisis: In addition to its unresolved conflict, Sri Lanka has experienced a severe economic crisis that began in the previous year, leaving a significant portion of its population vulnerable. The crisis has led to increased poverty levels and food insecurity for many households.

UN Human Rights Council’s Concerns

  • Political and Democratic Reforms: The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted the delay in implementing political and democratic reforms, even a year after a significant protest movement.
  • Food Insecurity: UNHRC pointed out that approximately 37% of households in Sri Lanka face acute food insecurity, indicating the extent of the economic challenges.
  • Political Participation: Delays in holding local government elections and reconstituting Provincial Councils have limited citizens’ political participation and free expression.
  • Land Acquisition: The UN official raised concerns about escalating tensions in Sri Lanka’s north and east due to land acquisition for military installations, conservation efforts at Hindu or Muslim sites, and forestry protection.

India’s Position

  • Power Devolution: India reiterated its support for the aspirations of the Tamil community for equality, justice, dignity, and peace.
  • Limited sovereignty: It also emphasized its commitment to the unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Sri Lanka by implementing the 13th Amendment.

UN Review and Sri Lanka’s Response

  • The UN Human Rights Council is currently reviewing Sri Lanka’s commitments, and there will be no vote on a resolution at this session.
  • While acknowledging Sri Lanka’s initiatives in truth-seeking and reconciliation, the High Commissioner’s report emphasized the need for urgent confidence-building measures for genuine reconciliation and transitional justice.
  • The Sri Lankan government rejected the report and labelled previous Council resolutions as intrusive and polarizing.

Conclusion

  • India’s call for Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments to address Tamil aspirations reflects ongoing concerns about the progress of reconciliation and human rights in the country.
  • The economic crisis and delays in political reforms have further complicated the situation, necessitating meaningful actions to promote genuine reconciliation and transitional justice.
  • The review at the UN Human Rights Council serves as an important platform for monitoring Sri Lanka’s efforts in this regard.

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Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

India’s shift away from Diesel: Implications and Policy Proposals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India’s Pushback against Diesel

diesel

Central diIdea

  • Recent remarks by Road Transport Minister have sparked discussions about India’s transition away from diesel-powered vehicles and the potential imposition of an additional 10% GST as a “pollution tax.”
  • While these remarks have stirred concerns in the automotive sector, the government’s commitment to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions remains a key driving force in this shift.

India’s Pushback against Diesel

  • Policy Shift: Minister’s comments align with a broader policy shift aimed at reducing India’s reliance on diesel. The government aims to produce 40% of the country’s electricity from renewables and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.
  • Diesel Consumption: Diesel currently accounts for approximately 40% of India’s petroleum products consumption, with the transport sector being a significant consumer.
  • High Taxation: The government already imposes a 28% tax on diesel cars, coupled with additional cess based on engine capacity, resulting in a nearly 50% tax rate.

Impact on Diesel-Run Cars

  • Industry Response: Several automakers have scaled back their diesel portfolios. Maruti ceased diesel vehicle production in 2020, citing the high cost of upgrading to meet BS-VI emission norms.
  • Emissions Concerns: Diesel engines emit higher levels of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), contributing to environmental concerns. The Volkswagen scandal in 2015 further tarnished diesel’s reputation globally.
  • Fuel Economy: While diesel engines offer better fuel economy and torque, the price difference between diesel and petrol has diminished since the decontrol of fuel prices in 2014.

Reasons for Individual Diesel Preference

  • Fuel Efficiency: Diesel engines offer higher energy content per liter and inherent efficiency, making them preferred for heavy vehicles and haulage.
  • Cost Consideration: Historically, diesel was significantly cheaper than petrol, driving a preference for diesel-powered vehicles. However, this price gap has narrowed.

Reasons for Carmakers’ Retreat from Diesel

  • Emissions Challenges: Diesel engines tend to emit higher levels of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), making them environmentally less favourable compared to petrol engines.
  • Volkswagen Scandal: The 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, where the company manipulated emissions controls during lab tests, tarnished diesel’s reputation globally, affecting perceptions in India as well.
  • BS-VI Emission Norms: The rollout of the BS-VI emission norms from April 1, 2020, posed a significant challenge for diesel vehicles. Meeting these stringent standards required complex and costly upgrades.
  • Economic Viability: Upgrading diesel engines to comply with BS-VI norms involved installing three crucial components: a diesel particulate filter, a selective catalytic reduction system, and an LNT (Lean NOx trap). This technological overhaul resulted in high costs for car manufacturers, making diesel options economically unviable.

Impact on Diesel Buyers

  • Changing Economics: The historical price advantage of diesel over petrol has diminished since the decontrol of fuel prices in 2014. The price difference now stands at approximately Rs 7 per liter, significantly reducing the economic incentive for diesel vehicles.
  • Consumer Shift: Diesel cars, once preferred by Indian consumers, have seen their market share decline steadily, accounting for less than 20% of overall passenger vehicle sales in 2021-22.

Policy Implications

  • Phasing Out Diesel: Globally, many countries are moving towards phasing out diesel vehicles in alignment with environmental goals.
  • Challenges in India: Implementing a total ban on diesel vehicles in India poses challenges due to substantial investments made by carmakers and oil companies in transitioning to BS-VI standards. Additionally, the commercial vehicles segment heavily relies on diesel, making an immediate ban disruptive.
  • Alternative Fuels: Experts emphasize the importance of technology-agnostic policies that prioritize stringent operational standards, including emissions norms. Transitioning to alternative fuels like liquefied natural gas (LNG) and exploring electric vehicles (EVs) can play a pivotal role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Hydrogen Potential: The Energy Transition Advisory Committee report highlights the potential of hydrogen as a motive fuel, which could reduce emissions and transform the logistics market.
  • Environmental Initiatives: Oil marketing companies have taken steps to reduce the environmental footprint of diesel, including lowering sulphur levels and introducing biodiesel specifications.

Conclusion

  • India’s transition away from diesel is driven by environmental concerns, emissions reduction goals, and changing fuel economics.
  • While a pollution tax on diesel vehicles remains speculative, it reflects the government’s commitment to cleaner and greener alternatives.
  • This shift has implications for both the automotive industry and individual vehicle owners, emphasizing the need for cleaner and more sustainable transportation options.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

India’s Reforestation Legacy: A 200-Year Experiment

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Reforestation measures for India

reforestation

Central Idea

  • India’s extensive history of tree planting spanning over two centuries offers valuable lessons on the consequences of various approaches to restoring forests.

Plantations in Colonial-Era India

  • British Influence: From the mid-18th century, the East India Company and later, the British Crown, held sway over India’s affairs. During this period, British authorities directed their attention to India’s forests to meet their substantial timber needs for railway sleepers and shipbuilding.
  • Indian Forest Act of 1865: To secure a steady supply of high-yield timber trees like teak, sal, and deodar, the British enacted the Indian Forest Act of 1865. This act placed many forests under state ownership and curtailed local communities’ rights to harvest beyond grass and bamboo, even restricting cattle grazing. In response, some Indian communities resorted to burning down forests.
  • Proliferation of Teak Monocultures: Teak, well-suited to India’s hot and humid climate and prized for its durable timber, spread aggressively. This led to the transformation of pristine grasslands and open scrub forests into teak monocultures, displacing native hardwood trees like sal.
  • Introduction of Exotic Trees: Exotic species like eucalyptus, pines from Europe and North America, and acacia trees from Australia were introduced for timber, fodder, and fuel. The introduction of wattle in 1861 in the Nilgiris district of the Western Ghats marked the beginning of its invasion of this ecologically significant region.
  • Ecosystem Transformations: These introduced species, especially wattle and pine, began to displace native vegetation, impacting the ecology and livelihoods of local communities. The loss of native oak and sal trees, essential for various purposes, further exacerbated these challenges.

Importance of Studying Past Tree Plantation Efforts

  • Regeneration Strategies: Historical strategies for natural forest regeneration have reduced carbon emissions, boosted biodiversity, and created livelihood opportunities.
  • Global Tree Cover Initiatives: Past efforts also highlight the need to differentiate between reforestation for timber production and carbon offsetting. The latter often involves planting fast-growing trees to generate timber and certify carbon credits for emission offsets.
  • Sustainable Practices: Planting trees on farms and barren lands to provide firewood and timber eased the pressure on natural forests and aided their recovery.
  • Unintended Consequences: The introduction of exotic species without thorough research can lead to invasive species and dispossess local communities of their land and resources.

Current Restoration Efforts in India

  • Indian Commitment: India has pledged to restore around 21 million hectares of forest by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge, a global initiative aiming to restore degraded and deforested landscapes.
  • Focus on Single Species Plantations: To achieve the National Forest Policy target of a 33% forest cover, India has focused on planting single species like eucalyptus or bamboo, which grow quickly and increase tree cover.

Impact on People and Environment

  • Concerns for Indigenous People: Afforestation in grassland ecosystems, naturally low in tree cover, may harm rural and indigenous communities. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 empowers village assemblies to manage traditional forest areas.
  • Risk of Invasive Species: The continued planting of exotic trees risks the emergence of new invasive species, similar to the wattle invasion two centuries ago.

Case Studies

  • Community-Led Restoration: Gram Sabhas in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra have restored degraded forests, managing them sustainably as a source of tendu leaves used to wrap bidis (Indian tobacco).
  • Invasive Species Control: Communities in Kachchh, Gujarat, restored grasslands by removing the invasive Gando Bawal tree introduced by British foresters in the late 19th century.

Future Considerations

  • Holistic Approach: Policies should encourage both natural forest regeneration and plantations for timber and fuel while assessing their impact on people and ecosystems.
  • Local Implications: Assess the impact of afforestation on forest rights, local livelihoods, biodiversity, and carbon storage. Scale up successful restoration practices by communities.
  • Reviving Ecosystems: Policymakers should prioritize the revival of ecosystems with a limited number of tree species, emphasizing environmental benefits over forest canopy extent.

Conclusion

  • India’s historical journey in tree planting offers valuable insights into the complexities and consequences of reforestation efforts.
  • By learning from the past, India can develop more sustainable and inclusive strategies for restoring its forests, addressing the needs of both the environment and its diverse communities.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Ecocide Laws: Protecting Nature and Addressing Limitations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ecocide

Mains level: Read the attached story

ecocide

Central Idea

  • Mexico’s ‘Maya train’ project has generated controversy due to its scale and environmental impact.
  • The project aims to connect tourists to historic Maya sites across a 1,525 km route, with a cost of $20 billion.
  • Critics have dubbed it a “megaproject of death” for its threats to the Yucatan peninsula’s environment, Indigenous communities, and cave systems, leading to accusations of ecocide and ethnocide.

Understanding Ecocide

  • Ecocide, derived from Greek and Latin, means “killing one’s home” or “environment.”
  • It encompasses actions like port expansions damaging marine life, deforestation, illegal sand-mining, and polluting rivers.
  • Several countries, including Mexico, are considering ecocide legislation, with calls to elevate it to an international crime akin to genocide.
  • There is no universally accepted legal definition of ecocide.
  • A proposed definition states it as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge of causing substantial, severe, and either widespread or long-term environmental damage.

Historical Context

  • Biologist Arthur Galston in 1970 linked environmental destruction with genocide during the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange use.
  • British lawyer Polly Higgins advocated for ecocide as an international crime in 2010.
  • The Rome Statute of the ICC deals with four major crimes but only holds perpetrators accountable for intentional wartime environmental damage.

Importance of Ecocide as a Crime

  • Ecocide is a crime in 11 countries, with 27 others considering similar laws.
  • The European Parliament voted unanimously to include ecocide in law.
  • Ecocide laws provide a crucial legal instrument to protect the environment.
  • They can hold individuals in corporate leadership accountable and promote ethical investment practices.
  • These laws could offer justice to low- and middle-income countries disproportionately affected by climate change.

Limitations and Concerns

  • Some argue that ecocide definitions are ambiguous, setting a low threshold for implicating entities.
  • The concept might unintentionally suggest it’s acceptable to destroy the environment for human benefit.
  • Proving ecocide may be challenging, especially for transnational crimes involving corporations.
  • The ICC’s limited jurisdiction, inability to hold corporate entities liable, and uneven track record in securing convictions are concerns.

India’s Stance

  • India has recognized the legal personhood of nature in some judgments.
  • Some Indian judgments have used the term ‘ecocide,’ but it hasn’t fully materialized in law.
  • India’s legislative framework includes various environmental laws, which need consolidation and streamlining.
  • The National Green Tribunal lacks jurisdiction over certain critical environmental matters.
  • Addressing issues of liability and compensation remains a challenge, as seen in cases like the Bhopal gas disaster and CAMPA fund misuse.
  • India should align its environmental laws with the concept of ecocide.

Conclusion

  • Ecocide laws are crucial for protecting the environment and holding perpetrators accountable.
  • However, challenges in defining, proving, and enforcing ecocide must be addressed.
  • India needs to update its environmental laws to incorporate ecocide principles, promoting a more comprehensive approach to environmental protection.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

PM Modi to host SCO 2023 Summit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SCO

Mains level: Read the attached story

sco

Central Idea

  • The upcoming virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, holds significant importance in the current geopolitical context.
  • Ashok Sajjanhar, a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer and ambassador to several countries, shares his insights on the event and its potential outcomes.

What is SCO?

  • SCO is an international organization founded in 2001.
  • It is primarily focused on promoting cooperation and regional stability among its member states.
  • The SCO originated from the Shanghai Five mechanism, which was established in 1996 to resolve border disputes and promote mutual trust among China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
  • Uzbekistan joined the organization in 2001, leading to its formation as the SCO.
Member States China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan
Objectives Promote regional security, stability, economic cooperation
Cooperation Areas Political, security, economic, cultural
Security Cooperation Joint military exercises, counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing
Economic Cooperation Trade facilitation, investment, infrastructure development
Key Bodies SCO Summit, SCO Business Council, Interbank Consortium of the SCO
Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Coordination of anti-terrorism efforts
Dialogue Partners Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, Mongolia, among others
Observer States Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, among others
Outreach and Engagement United Nations, ASEAN, CIS, and other regional/international organizations

 

Significance of the Meeting during the Russia-Ukraine War

  • Major participants: The summit is expected to see the participation of key leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif.
  • Declining Influence of Russia: The meeting provides an opportunity for President Putin to gauge the declining influence and relevance of Russia, particularly in the Central Asian countries.
  • Message for Resolution: The decreased importance of Russia’s role in the region may convey the need for a prompt resolution to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

India’s Strategic Autonomy and Self-Assuredness

  • Successful India-US Relations: Prime Minister Modi’s recent successful visit to the United States highlights the growth of India-US relations.
  • India’s Role in SCO: India’s participation in the SCO while maintaining strong relations with the United States underscores its strategic autonomy and self-assuredness.

Impact of PM Modi’s Statement to Mr. Putin

  • Asserting India’s Voice: PM Modi’s statement, “this is not the era of war,” showcased India’s capacity to communicate with President Putin.
  • Influencing Diplomatic Outcomes: The statement helped in securing the Bali G20 summit declaration and demonstrated India’s voice as a mediator between Russia and the West.

Implications for India-China Relations

  • Unlikely Impact on Border Standoff: The virtual summit is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the India-China border standoff.
  • Ongoing Talks and Stalemate: Multiple rounds of talks between India and China have taken place, but there has been limited progress in de-escalation and disengagement at key points.
  • Snub to Pakistan: India’s strong stance on cross-border terrorism, as demonstrated in the past, is likely to be reiterated during the discussions.

India’s Opportunities at SCO

  • Central Asian outreach: India has historical and cultural ties with Central Asian countries and aims to expand partnerships in the region.
  • Neglected Engagement: Post-Soviet independence, India’s engagement with these countries was hindered by its lack of direct access through Pakistan’s territory.
  • SCO as a Platform: India’s SCO membership allows for interaction at various levels and offers opportunities to strengthen ties with Central Asian countries.

Conclusion

  • The SCO virtual summit presents a significant opportunity for India to engage with key regional players and enhance its profile and stature in Central Asia.
  • The summit’s outcomes, including the adoption of documents on various issues, will contribute to advancing India’s interests, strengthening trade ties, and promoting investments in the region.

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Coal and Mining Sector

Deep Sea Mining permits may be coming soon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: International Seabed Authority (ISA) , UNCLOS

Mains level: Deep Sea Mining

deep sea mining

Central Idea

  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is preparing to resume negotiations on deep sea mining, a process that involves extracting mineral deposits and metals from the ocean’s seabed.
  • These negotiations have raised concerns over potential impacts on marine ecosystems and habitats, highlighting the need for regulations and environmental safeguards.

About International Seabed Authority

  • ISA is a Jamaica-based organization established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • The authority holds jurisdiction over the ocean floors outside of the Exclusive Economic Zones of its 167 member states.

What is Deep Sea Mining?

  • Deep sea mining is a process that involves extracting mineral deposits and metals from the seabed.
  • These deposits are rich in materials such as nickel, rare earths, and cobalt, which are crucial for renewable energy technologies and everyday devices like cellphones and computers.
  • Types of such Mining include-
  1. Polymetallic Nodule Collection: Harvesting deposit-rich nodules from the ocean floor.
  2. Seafloor Sulphide Mining: Extracting minerals from massive seafloor sulphide deposits.
  3. Cobalt Crust Stripping: Removing cobalt crusts from rocks on the seabed.

Evolution of Mining Technology

  • Vacuum Extraction: Companies exploring the use of massive pumps to vacuum materials from the seafloor.
  • AI-Based Robotics: Developing artificial intelligence-based technology to teach deep-sea robots how to collect nodules.
  • Advanced Machinery: Utilizing advanced machines to mine materials from underwater mountains and volcanoes.

Strategic Importance

  • Depletion of Onshore Reserves: Deep sea mining offers access to strategically important resources as onshore reserves diminish.
  • Growing Demand: Crucial minerals are in high demand due to the increasing reliance on renewable energy and technological advancements.
  • Regulating Deep Sea Mining: Balancing Interests and Environmental Concerns

Regulating Deep Sea Mining: Balancing Interests and Environmental Concerns

  • The governance of deep sea mining is currently guided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • This framework aims to protect marine environments, facilitate economic benefits sharing, and support scientific research.

UNCLOS and Exploration Licenses

  • Maritime Territory Management: Countries govern their exclusive economic zones, while the high seas fall under UNCLOS jurisdiction.
  • “Common Heritage of Mankind”: The seabed and its mineral resources are considered global assets, requiring responsible management.
  • Exploration Partnerships: Mining companies collaborate with countries to secure exploration licenses, with focus in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone.

Pressure to Establish Regulations

  • Nauru’s Application: In 2021, Nauru and Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. applied to exploit minerals, triggering a clause that requires the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to establish regulations by July 2023.
  • Environmental Concerns: Urgency to address potential ecosystem impacts and safeguard marine habitats fuels the need for comprehensive regulations.

Environmental Concerns

  • Limited Knowledge: Only a small portion of the deep seabed has been explored, raising concerns about the potential damage to poorly understood marine ecosystems.
  • Impacts on marine ecosystem: Noise, vibration, and light pollution, as well as leaks and spills of chemicals, pose risks to marine life.
  • Sediment Plumes: Pumping slurry sediment back into the sea after extracting valuable materials can harm filter-feeding species and disrupt ecosystems.

Way Forward

  • Calls for Moratorium: More than a dozen countries, including France, Germany, and Pacific Island nations, advocate for a ban or moratorium until environmental safeguards are in place.
  • Research and Responsible Mining: Comprehensive research on deep-sea ecosystems is crucial to understand the potential implications of mining.
  • Sustainable Practices: Encouraging responsible mining practices, including minimizing pollution, reducing ecosystem disturbance, and implementing proper waste management.

Conclusion

  • Deep sea mining holds the potential to unlock valuable minerals critical for renewable energy and technological advancements.
  • However, the process raises significant environmental concerns and requires robust regulations to balance resource extraction with the protection of fragile marine ecosystems.
  • Continued research, responsible practices, and international cooperation are essential to ensure sustainable and environmentally conscious deep-sea mining operations.

 

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Electoral Reforms In India

Criminalization of Politics: Why ADR has approached the ECI?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Criminalization of Politicians

Central Idea

  • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an electoral watchdog, has written to the Election Commission seeking action against political parties that fail to disclose details of candidates’ criminal cases as mandated by the Supreme Court.
  • The ADR highlights the non-compliance of parties in publishing such information and urges strict action to be taken against defaulting parties.

About ADR

Concerns raised by ADR

  • Alarming Statistics: It revealed 43% of newly-elected MPs in 2019 had pending criminal cases.
  • Non-Compliance: ADR reveals political parties flouting Supreme Court’s orders and ECI’s directions.
  • Shortcomings in Forms: ADR identifies shortcomings in the prescribed forms (C2 and C7) used by parties.
  • Inaccessible Information: Many parties lack functional websites or fail to provide accessible links.
  • Improper Justifications: Parties cite “winnability” and popularity as reasons for selecting candidates with criminal records, contrary to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Supreme Court’s Mandate (2018)

  • Disclosure Directive: Supreme Court has mandated parties to disclose candidates’ criminal cases on their websites.
  • Prescribed Format: Election Commission of India (ECI) specifies the format for publishing this information.
  • Bold Publication: Supreme Court ordered parties to publish criminal case details prominently.
  • Candidate Obligation: Candidates with pending cases must inform the party about their criminal antecedents.
  • Multiple Publications: Parties and candidates must publish the information multiple times after filing nominations.

ADR’s Action and Demands

  • Adherence Supreme Court’s Directive: ADR directed to pursue remedies with the ECI.
  • Demanding Strict Action: ADR urges the ECI to take strict action against defaulting parties, including possible de-registration.
  • Transparency and Accountability: ADR calls for the publication of a list of defaulting parties and the imposition of fines.

Conclusion

  • Urgent Action Needed: ADR’s letter emphasizes the need for action against parties failing to disclose candidates’ criminal cases as mandated by the Supreme Court.
  • Upholding Transparency: Strict enforcement of these orders is essential to maintain transparency and prevent the criminalization of politics.

 

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LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

Tracing history of Pride and LGBTQ Rights in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 377

Mains level: LGBTQI Rights

lgbt

Central Idea

  • The context of the article revolves around the celebration of Pride Month and the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ rights globally.
  • It begins by highlighting the duality of Pride Month, which is celebrated as a recognition of progress made in LGBTQ rights while also serving as a protest against the persisting discrimination and challenges faced by the community.

History of the LGBTQ Movement: Stonewall Riots

  • Historical Significance: The Stonewall Riots, which took place in 1969, are widely regarded as a pivotal moment in the LGBTQ rights movement, igniting a wave of activism and mobilization.
  • Illegal Homosexuality: In the 1960s, engaging in homosexual activity was illegal in major American cities, leading to the creation of underground gay bars and secret gathering places.
  • Stonewall Inn: The Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, New York City, became a popular gathering spot for the LGBTQ community due to its acceptance and tolerance.
  • Police Raids and Resistance: The frequent police raids on gay bars, including the Stonewall Inn, prompted the LGBTQ patrons to resist, resulting in the spontaneous uprising known as the Stonewall Riots.
  • Turning Point: The Stonewall Riots marked a turning point in LGBTQ activism, as they galvanized the community to demand equal rights, visibility, and an end to discrimination.

Early LGBTQ Rights Initiatives

  • Pioneering Organizations: Organizations like the Society of Human Rights (1924), the Mattachine Society (1950), and the Daughters of Bilitis (1955) were among the earliest advocates for LGBTQ rights in the United States.
  • Anti-Homosexual Policies: During World War II and the McCarthy era, anti-homosexual policies in the military and society prompted the emergence of LGBTQ advocacy groups.
  • Activism: Frank Kameny, an astronomer fired for being gay, became a prominent activist and founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., advocating for LGBTQ rights and challenging discriminatory policies.
  • Protests in US: In 1969, a year after the Stonewall Riots, the first pride march was organized in New York City, marking a significant milestone in the LGBTQ rights movement.

Pride Celebrations Worldwide

  • Pride Month Origins: Pride Month is celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots and honor the LGBTQ community’s resilience, history, and the ongoing struggle for equal rights.
  • LGBTQ History Month: LGBTQ History Month takes place in October and aims to educate and raise awareness about LGBTQ history, achievements, and challenges.
  • Pride Parades: Pride parades, often held during Pride Month, are colourful and joyous celebrations that allow LGBTQ individuals and allies to openly express their identities and demand equality.
  • Global Pride Days: Various countries celebrate their own Pride-equivalent days, such as Christopher Street Day in Germany, to promote LGBTQ rights and visibility.

LGBTQ History in India

  • India’s First Protests: The AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA) organized India’s first-ever protests for gay rights on August 11, 1992, in Delhi, following the arrest of men suspected of homosexuality.
  • Fight Against Section 377: LGBTQ activists and organizations in India have long fought against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law that criminalized consensual same-sex relations until it was struck down in 2018.
  • Decriminalization and Progress: The decriminalization of homosexuality in India in 2018 marked a significant milestone in LGBTQ rights, paving the way for increased visibility, acceptance, and advocacy.

Post-Section 377 Judgement

  • Struggles for Marriage Recognition: Post the decriminalization of homosexuality, efforts have been made to seek legal recognition of same-sex marriages in India, with couples filing writ petitions and pushing for equal rights.
  • Supreme Court’s Stance: The Supreme Court of India has been involved in various cases related to LGBTQ rights and is instrumental in shaping the legal landscape for the community.
  • Legislative Attempts: Several legislative attempts have been made to further protect and promote LGBTQ rights, including bills advocating for same-sex marriage and policies to safeguard the rights of the LGBTQIA community.
  • Progress on Conversion Therapy: India has taken steps to address the harmful practice of conversion therapy, with the National Medical Commission banning it and classifying it as “professional misconduct.”

Global LGBTQ Rights

  • Varying Legal Status: LGBTQ rights vary across the globe, with some countries fully embracing equality and protecting LGBTQ rights, while others maintain discriminatory laws and practices.
  • Same-Sex Marriage: A growing number of countries have legalized same-sex marriage or recognized civil unions, granting LGBTQ couples the right to marry and access legal protections.
  • Anti-LGBTQ Laws: Unfortunately, many nations still have laws that criminalize homosexuality, and in some cases, impose severe penalties, including imprisonment or even the death penalty.

Continuing the Fight for LGBTQ Rights

  • Global Advocacy: The fight for LGBTQ rights remains a global issue, necessitating ongoing advocacy, awareness, and support to achieve full equality.
  • Achievements and Setbacks: Acknowledging the progress made in LGBTQ rights while recognizing the setbacks and challenges that still persist.
  • Importance of Advocacy: Emphasizing the crucial role of continued advocacy in ensuring the protection and advancement of LGBTQ rights worldwide.

 

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LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

Reservation for Transgender Community

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Horizontal and Vertical Reservations

trans

Central Idea

  • Maharashtra government said it was difficult to provide additional reservations to transgender persons in education and public employment due to existing reservations for various communities in India.
  • Transgender individuals in Mumbai protested against this statement.

Courts’ rulings on reservations for transgender community

  • National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) v Union of India (2014) case: The Supreme Court ruled that transgender persons have a right to reservation as they are considered a socially and educationally backward class.
  • Direction for reservations: The court directed the Centre and State Governments to treat transgender persons as socially and educationally backward and extend all kinds of reservation for admission to educational institutions and public appointments.
  • Lack of clarity on the nature of reservations: The NALSA judgment does not specify whether reservations for transgender persons should be vertical or horizontal.

Understanding horizontal reservations

  • Distinction between vertical and horizontal reservations: Reservation in India is divided into two categories—vertical and horizontal.
  • Vertical reservations: Aimed at addressing social asymmetry arising from caste hierarchy and backwardness, including reservations for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
  • Horizontal reservations: Cut across all vertical groups to provide affirmative policies for disadvantaged groups within categories. For example, disabled persons are guaranteed horizontal reservation in all vertical categories.

Demand for horizontal reservation for transgender community

  • Recognition of marginalization: Transgender individuals have faced long-term marginalization in society, warranting specific provisions and recognition of their social identity.
  • Employment challenges: A study reveals that only 6 percent of transgender people were formally employed in 2017, and many engage in informal work due to societal factors and survival needs.
  • Interpreting the NALSA verdict: The NALSA judgment has been interpreted as directing reservations for transgender individuals in the OBC category due to their identification as a socially and educationally backward class.
  • Concerns and choice: The demand for horizontal reservation raises concerns that Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi transgender individuals may have to choose between availing reservation based on caste and gender identities, leading to competition and exclusion.

Progress on horizontal reservations

  • Lack of action by the Central government: Since the NALSA judgment, the Central government has not taken steps to implement the right to reservation for transgender persons.
  • Legislative developments: The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015, which included provisions for reservations, was rejected in the Lok Sabha. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, does not mention reservations.
  • Parallel provisions for disabled persons: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, ensures horizontal reservation for disabled individuals under the Central government.
  • State-level initiatives: Tamil Nadu categorized trans-women under the Most Backward Classes (MBC) category, and Karnataka introduced 1% horizontal reservation for transgender persons. Madhya Pradesh included transgender persons in the OBC category.
  • Legal challenges and petitions: Transgender persons have filed petitions in various High Courts, seeking horizontal reservation in education and jobs.

Way forward

  • Need for legal action: The lack of progress in implementing horizontal reservations for transgender individuals requires legal challenges to ensure their rights are upheld.
  • Intersectionality and inclusive policies: Ensuring horizontal reservation while considering the diverse identities within the transgender community, including caste and tribal backgrounds, is crucial for equitable representation.
  • Promoting employment opportunities: Implementation of horizontal reservations can contribute to addressing employment challenges and empowering transgender individuals in various sectors.
  • Public awareness and support: Creating awareness about the need for horizontal reservation and garnering public support can strengthen the advocacy for inclusive policies.
  • Collaboration with civil society and stakeholders: Engaging with activists, community leaders, and organizations working on transgender rights can drive collective efforts to achieve meaningful horizontal reservations.

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Electoral Reforms In India

Exploring Assam’s Delimitation Draft

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Read the attached story

assam delimitation

Central Idea

  • The recent draft proposal on the Delimitation of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam by the Election Commission (EC) has stirred significant controversy.
  • The proposal suggests reshaping constituencies, increasing the number of reserved seats, and potentially affecting the political fortunes of various organizations and parties.

What is Delimitation?

  • Objective: Delimitation aims to redraw constituency boundaries to maintain equal population representation in Assembly and Lok Sabha seats.
  • Changing Constituencies: Delimitation may result in the alteration of constituency limits and, in some cases, the number of seats in a state.

Delimitation Process and Commission

  • Independent Delimitation Commission: Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC) constituted by the Union government.
  • Terms of Reference: The DC determines the number and boundaries of constituencies, ensuring population equality and identifying reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Implementation: The draft proposals are published for public feedback, followed by public sittings to consider objections and suggestions. The final order is published in official gazettes.

Historical Context of Delimitation

  • Early Delimitation Exercises: The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was conducted by the President. Subsequently, the responsibility was shifted to independent Delimitation Commissions.
  • Frequency of Delimitation: Delimitation has been carried out four times, in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002, based on the Acts enacted in respective years.

Postponement of Delimitation until 2026

  • Frozen Seats: Delimitation was postponed after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses, freezing the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
  • Justification for Postponement: An amendment further delayed delimitation until 2026, with the rationale that uniform population growth would be achieved throughout the country by that time.
  • The Last Delimitation: The most recent delimitation exercise, based on the 2001 Census, focused on adjusting boundaries of existing seats and reworking the number of reserved seats.

Delimitation Exercise in Assam

  • Delimitation exercises were carried out periodically, but in 1976, it was suspended due to the family planning program.
  • The process was deferred for Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, and Nagaland in 2008 due to “security risks.”
  • The Delimitation Commission for Assam and other states was reconstituted by the Central Government in 2020.

Overview of the Proposed Changes

  • Reshaping of Constituencies: The draft proposal suggests reshaping and renaming 24 Assembly seats.
  • Increased Reserved Seats: The number of reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC) would be increased from 16 to 19 and eight to nine, respectively.
  • Seat Juggling: The proposal involves converting six reserved seats each for SCs and STs into unreserved seats. Additionally, nine ST and seven SC general seats would become reserved.
  • Impact on Political Figures: Notable political figures, including MLAs and MPs from various parties, may lose their seats due to the proposed changes.

Opposition and Concerns

  • Protests and Discontent: The draft proposal has faced opposition and protests across Assam, with different groups expressing dissatisfaction with the changes.
  • Questioning the Legality: Some have raised concerns regarding the interpretation of Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, which allows reorientation of seats without altering their total number.
  • Use of Census Data: The use of 2001 Census data instead of the more recent 2011 Census data has raised suspicion and allegations of a hidden agenda.
  • Timing and Allegations: Opposition parties have criticized the timing of the delimitation exercise, alleging that it was rushed to affect representation ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Future Outlook and Potential Changes

  • EC’s Call for Suggestions: The EC has invited suggestions and omissions regarding the draft proposal and plans to revisit the State to engage with stakeholders.
  • Legal Challenges: The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has threatened to approach the court if the draft is accepted.
  • Chief Minister’s Perspective: Assam CM has emphasized the need to protect the rights of indigenous people and hinted at potential adjustments to ensure their interests are safeguarded.

 

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