Newspaper notes for UPSC 16-07-18

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Peak hour flights may get costlier

  • The government is mulling over a proposal to impose a surcharge on airlines for operating flights during peak hours to enhance airport capacity and to avoid flight delays, according to the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
  • Currently, landing fees paid by airlines are determined by the weight of an aircraft and do not vary according to the time of the day.
  • A government official cited the example of Heathrow Airport to make a case for peak-hour pricing at Indian airports.
  • Heathrow introduced the formula in 1972 to check air traffic congestion, when it was already witnessing 72 movements during peak hours. It also levies a steep penalty on airlines that fail to be punctual.
  • An aviation industry insider with experience at a major airport in the country said the move would help spread demand through the day and, if passengers can pay extra for more comfort and leg room, they would be willing to pay more to fly during popular timings, while leisure travellers looking for cheap fares will still have the option of flying at non-peak hours.
  • Airlines are awarded slots for summer and winter schedules on a first-come-first-served basis as well as on the historicity of slots. An airline is said to maintain historicity of a particular slot if it is able to operate flights during a given slot punctually 80% of the time for a period of six months or the length of an entire season.
  • An airport typically sees four ‘peaks’ in a day. These are approximately between 6 a.m.-8.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m.-noon, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and 7 p.m.-9.30 p.m.
  • Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Terminal and Delhi’s IGIA are two of the most congested airports in the country and see up to 52 and 73 movements per hour (landings and take-offs), respectively, during peak timings.

Golden jackal faces threat in its habitat

  • Destruction of mangrove cover in the Bandar Reserve Forest (BRF), Andhra Pradeshis forcing the golden jackal (Canis aureus) out of its habitat, triggering a conflict with the local communities.
  • We have recorded several golden jackals in the BRF through camera traps. The sighting, out of its habitat, is a sign of its destruction,” said A. Appa Rao, an expert engaged in the restoration of the mangrove cover.
  • The conservation status of the animal is the ‘least concern’ and it preys on wild crab and fish.
  • Amid uproar over the aqua ponds, the Vigilance authorities in 2017 recommended to the State government to hand over the 24,363 acres under the BRF and the BRF extension (I to IV) to the Forest department for protection.

Flying into trouble

  • Harrier birds, a migratory raptor species that regularly visits vast swathes of India, are declining. This may foretell lurking dangers to the country’s grasslands.
  • The “poorly studied” species is the focus of a study by two researchers .
  • Every winter, several species of harrier birds travel thousands of kilometres to escape frigid Central Asia for the grasslands of the subcontinent.
  • At least five species of harriers were recorded in India over the years; India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
  • The researchers focused on six of the 15 major roosting sites in six States, where consistent observations had been made for over five years.
  • While a general declining trend was observed in all the monitored sites, researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, one of the largest. In the mid-1990s, an estimated 1,000 birds roosted here. By 2016, the number was down to less than 100 birds. In Hessarghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Western Marsh Harriers declined significantly, leaving the area nearly deserted.
  • The importance of area protection can be seen in the number of birds. While there is a median count of 125 harriers in protected areas, it’s less than half that number — 48 — in unprotected areas.
  • The gravest concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanisation or to agriculture. In February-March, peak season for the arrival of the birds, farmlands are burnt or over-grazed. Of the 15 roosting sites surveyed, eight no longer exist as grasslands, and only five are protected.
  • Excessive use of pesticides in farms in and around the roosting sites could also be a reason for the lowered population counts. In crops such as cotton, the use of pesticides kills grasshoppers, the harriers’ primary prey, and could lead to mortality of the birds themselves as they are on the top of the food chain.
  • Globally, of the 16 harrier species, only two are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, even though most of them are declining.

Be cautious in shifting to DBT, RBI tells States

  • Acknowledging that problems have been experienced by three Union Territories (UTs) in the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has advised States that are planning to shift to cash transfer to be cautious while effecting the migration.
  • In its report on State finances, the Bank referred to problems such as inadequacy of transfers to maintain pre-DBT consumption levels, insufficiency of last-mile delivery mechanisms and a weak grievance redressal system.
  • At present, three UTs — Puducherry, Chandigarh and urban areas of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli — are implementing the mode of cash transfer under which 9.31 lakh beneficiaries receive Rs. 12.82 crore every month through their bank accounts, according to a publication of the Department of Food and Public Distribution in the Union government. The beneficiaries have the choice of buying food grains from the open market.
  • On the question of whether cash transfer is an alternative to the public distribution system (PDS), the RBI has stated that the cash transfer mode reduced the need for large physical movement of food grains. Further, given the wide inter-State and intra-State variations in food consumption habits, the DBT provides “greater autonomy” to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket, apart from enhancing dietary diversity.
  • Another reason for promoting the concept of DBT is to reduce the leakage in the PDS, as the Central government has to absorb a huge food subsidy bill under the existing system of distribution of food grains in fulfilment of provisions of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
  • As for the processes to be followed by States prior to DBT execution, the RBI has referred to certain pre-conditions mentioned in the Central government’s 2015 food subsidy rules. The pre-conditions include complete digitisation and de-duplication of the beneficiary database, and seeding of bank account details and Aadhaar numbers in the digitised database.

Salient features of the National Food Security Act, 2013

  • Coverage and entitlement under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) : Upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households constitute poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.
  • State-wise coverage : Corresponding to the all India coverage of 75% and 50% in the rural and urban areas, State-wise coverage will be determined by the Central Government. The then Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) has determined the State-wise coverage by using the NSS Household Consumption Survey data for 2011-12.
  • Subsidised prices under TPDS and their revision : Foodgrains under TPDS will be made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. There after prices will be as fixed by the Central Government from time to time, not exceeding MSP.
  • In case, any State’s allocation under the Act is lower than their current allocation, it will be protected upto the level of average offtake under normal TPDS during last three years, at prices to be determined by the Central Government. Existing prices for APL households i.e. Rs. 6.10 per kg for wheat and Rs 8.30 per kg for rice has been determined as issue prices for the additional allocation to protect the average offtake during last three years.
  • Identification of Households : Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.
  • Nutritional Support to women and children : Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age.
  • Maternity Benefit : Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
  • Women Empowerment : Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism : Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up separate mechanism.
  • Cost of intra-State transportation & handling of foodgrains and FPS Dealers’ margin : Central Government will provide assistance to States in meeting the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State, its handling and FPS dealers’ margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.
  • Transparency and Accountability : Provisions have been made for disclosure of records relating to PDS, social audits and setting up of Vigilance Committees in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Food Security Allowance : Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
  • Penalty : Provision for penalty on public servant or authority, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.

Rajya Sabha Chairman is a referee, not a player


Former Vice-President Hamid Ansari expresses deep concern about the state of India’s institutions and erosion of values in a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the release of his book Dare I Question? Excerpts:

  • As Vice-President, you picked up critical themes that have defined India. What is your idea of India? My idea is the same idea with which this country has lived for seven decades and more, which is an inclusive India. We are a plural society. This society was not created by the Constitution; that has existed for thousands of years. The Constitution-makers took that existential reality as a given and created a structure which gave shape to it and to the aspirations of the public.

A number of cases, of late, have come which involve charges against members of the judiciary. What was your approach in such cases that came before you?

  • Look, there is an Act of Parliament (Judges Inquiry Act 1968), which governs the process. That if a member of the higher judiciary, meaning High Court or Supreme Court Judge, is to be impeached, then a number is prescribed. In the case of Rajya Sabha, it was 50 MPs who had to give notice of a motion that they want impeachment proceedings against X, Y or Z. Now, the first thing when such a notice of a motion comes, the Chairman instructs his secretariat to verify. Whether these 50 names and their signatures are actually those of the signatories or somebody else just put it there. Thereafter, the process kicks in and the Chair doesn’t sit in judgment on the merits of the case because the Act provides for a Committee to be set up.

Crucial week for Section 377 case

  • The Constitution Bench hearing in the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is entering a crucial second week.
  • Last week, pro-Section 377 lawyers asked why the court was hearing a batch of fresh writ petitions to delete it when the court had twice upheld the penal provision — in December 2013 and in the government’s review petition in January 2014.
  • the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has chosen to decide the new writ petitions filed by choreographer Navtej Singh Johar and others under Article 32 of the Constitution. The petitions seek a declaration that the fundamental right to life under Article 21 includes the right to sexuality, sexual autonomy and choice of sexual partner.
  • Questions have also been raised why the Bench, by hearing these writ petitions, ignored the express prohibition in the Rupa Ashok Hurra judgment of 2002. In this judgment, another five-judge Bench unequivocally held that no Article 32 petitions can be filed against a final judgment of the Supreme Court.
  • The Constitution Bench now hearing the Section 377 petitions has reasoned that the privacy judgment is a “subsequent development” which is not part of the pending curative petitions. Chief Justice Misra has observed that his Constitution Bench has to view the issue of Section 377 in the fresh light thrown upon the issue of Section 377 by the privacy judgment of 2017.

Only farm loan waivers are driving rural growth

  • The green-shoots of demand growth seen in some rural pockets is driven by farm loan waivers and not likely due to real increases in rural incomes and wages, indicative of the fact that the economy is still some time away from a full-fledged rural revival.
  • Noting that rural demand has been on the rise in recent months, the report says the upward trend is visible from the sale of big ticket items like tractors and the latest corporate earnings of consumer goods companies.
  • According to recent Nielsen data, rural growth outpaced urban demand, rising by 13.5% in the March quarter.
  • Many large States have announced farm loan waivers last year, as farmer suicides became a big political tool. Last week, Karnataka became the latest State to join U.P., M.P., Maharashtra and Punjab, among others, to write off farm loans.

Domestic tech security firms

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said in an order that it mandated giving preference in all public procurement to locally produced cybersecurity products where intellectual property rights are owned by companies or start-ups incorporated in India.
  • The notification is based on Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order 2017 which aims to enhance income and employment in the country.
  • Preference will be granted to a firm incorporated and registered in India or to start-up firms that meet the prescribed definition, provided revenue from the product and intellectual property licensing accrues to the firm in India. Though IP registration is not mandatory in the country, a firm claiming benefit should have the right to use and commercialise the product without third party-consents, distribute and modify it, the order said.

In knotty problems

  • The outcry and ban against plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging holds potential for the jute sector. But the more than 100-year-old sector, supporting five million families at the farm and the industry-level, may not be in a position to benefit from this opportunity, right away.
  • The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one-hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations.
  • A recent initiative called ‘The Jute Foundation’ (TJF) is trying to address many issues pertaining to the environment-friendly product. It is trying to engage all stakeholders –farmers, workers, mills, research organisations and consumers.
  • Pointing out that while the convenience of a plastic carry bag is “difficult to beat,” TJF said an initiative is being introduced for the industry to develop thin and slim jute shopping bags.
  • However, the industry’s ability to rise to this challenge hinges on the quality of the golden fibre. West Bengal is India’s single largest raw jute cultivator producing almost 75 % of the crop in Nadia, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts.
  • But acreage had stagnated amid low productivity and falling prices of the cash crop.
  • Primitive, labour-intensive cultivation methods and retting (drenching raw jute in water to extract the fibre) — a crucial determinant in raw jute quality — creates problems.
  • The I-CARE programme unveiled by the National Jute Board and the Jute Corporation of India seeks to address this issue by introducing a pilot project on retting technologies aimed at increasing farmers’ returns.

Politics over the Constitution

  • Though the phrase “history is written by the victors” is attributed to Winston Churchill, the origins of the catchphrase are lost in the mists of time.
  • But political parties, which come to power with a majority, take the axiom very seriously indeed. Take the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and their ideological backbone, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Though it engages in double-speak, clearly the right wing intends to rewrite the history of India and of the Constitution, if not today, then tomorrow.
  • The RSS did not participate at all in the history of our freedom struggle which culminated in the making of a Constitution. Therefore, the erasure of history is a must. The right wing is tiresomely predictable, and anyone can foresee that the first casualty of the exercise will be secularism. The second will be democracy.
  • The Indian Constitution is large and unwieldy but it is considered to be one of the finest in the world. The authors of the constitutional draft, especially B.N Rau and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, were known for their mastery of comparative law, history, politics, sociology and the literary idiom. More importantly, the Constitution was the outcome of two major movements in Indian history that shaped each other.
  • One was the series of colonial laws enacted to govern India; notably the Government of India Act, 1935.
  • The second was the freedom struggle that brought together large numbers of Indians in a spectacular anti-imperialist and nationalist project. The historical struggle generated imaginations, aspirations and ideals that were indisputably democratic.
  • As early as 1928, an All-Parties Conference established on May 19 a committee chaired by Motilal Nehru to consider and determine a future constitution for India. Among noteworthy recommendations of the committee was an integrated list of social, economic and political rights, minority rights, and universal adult franchise. The Motilal Nehru Report dismissed the idea that non-literacy could pose a problem for universal adult franchise.
  • The report deeply inspired the Constituent Assembly, which met in the wake of momentous movements for Independence in the 1940s. Introducing the resolution on the aims and objectives of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged that the strength of the people was behind the Assembly. He committed that ‘we’ shall go as far as the people, not any party or group, but the people as a whole shall wish us to go.
  • The Assembly also met in the shadow of tremendous violence sparked off by Partition. Despite major destruction of lives and property, the makers of the Constitution continued to hold fast to the values of the freedom struggle: democracy, fundamental rights, minority rights, limited government, rule of law, and an independent judiciary. That is why the Indian Constitution has held a fractious body politic together, when country after country in the post-colonial world has fallen prey to authoritarianism. It has enthused us; it has enabled us to make the transition from subject to citizen. There is cause for celebration.
  • Of course, constitutions can be changed if they prove wanting. But there must be good reasons for doing so. Rewriting a Constitution to obliterate a history that records the non-participation of the religious right in the making of democratic constitutionalism, is hardly reason enough. In any case what would a constitution that reflects ancient Indian culture look like? Dr. Ambedkar had warned in 1948 that no democratic constitution can be modelled on the Hindu tradition of state and village panchayats. What is the village he asked, but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism? Before it begins to speak of constitutionalising the soul of India, the religious right should recollect that this soul is deeply fractured by the indelible tracks of caste and gender.
  • The Indian Constitution also gave voice to democratic aspirations in the Preamble. The Constitution is a normative document, but the values it espouses are universal and ‘thin’. They do not reflect the belief system of one section of the population even if it is in a majority. Nor do these values dismiss the value systems of minority groups. The religious right, however, intends to move to a thick conception of the good: this is what we should believe, this is what we should do.
  • Ambedkar talked of constitutional morality. This is best realised when citizens do not worship but revere the Constitution. It is realised when citizens possess freedom and rights. And it can be realised because the Constitution provides a framework to accommodate rival points of view as well as mechanisms for reconciliation. Only then will the Constitution be as sacred to our opponents as to ourselves. Only a thin conception of the good in the Constitution can hold a plural and diverse people together.
  • But constitutional morality, warned Dr. Ambedkar, has to be cultivated. Our people have yet to learn it, for democracy is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic. His words proved prescient. It is the institutionalisation of constitutional democracy that has changed the way Indians think of themselves in relation to each other, and in relation to the state. The Constitution has managed to inculcate democratic sensibilities and spark yearnings for more democracy, not less.
  • Those who would change the Constitution should reflect on Dr. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly. On December 17, 1946, he reminded the Assembly that power is one thing, wisdom is quite another thing. When deciding the destiny of nations, dignities of people, dignities of leaders and dignities of parties ought to count for nothing. The destiny of the country should count for everything.

What is Constitutional morality ?


Constitutional morality means adherence to the core principles of the constitutional democracy. The scope of constitutional morality is not limited only to following the constitutional provisions literally but it is so broad that it includes commitment to inclusive and democratic political process in which both individual and collective interests are satisfied.


It encompasses ensuring the Constitutional values like rule of law; social justice; democratic ethos; popular participation in governance;individual freedom; judicial independence; egalitarianism; sovereignty and so on. While it is clear as to what Constitutional morality means, practical percolation of these values in governance and citizen entitlements requires a sensitive State apparatus- Parliament that is representative in a true sense; Executive that is responsive and empathic; and judiciary that is vigilant and empowering.


There are many laws made by Parliament that show great moral commitment like Food Security Law; CrPC amendments made in 2013 in favour of women. Similarly, judicial verdicts too. For example the recent verdict in Shreya Singhal case(2015) and various electoral reforms enforced by the apex court since 2013.


Preamble to our Constitution contains the most impeccable goals whose realization requires greatest commitment to morality. Corruption-free, transparent and accountable governance will go a long way in making one and all in India realize their potential: the sum and substance of Constitutional morality.


Transatlantic rift

  • The summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders in Brussels was expected to be tense, given the widening rift in the Western alliance over the U.S.’s imposition of trade tariffs.
  • But President Donald Trump’s call to member-countries to double their annual defence expenditure to 4% of GDP has the potential for greater harm than his repeated denigration of NATO or his disregard for diplomatic niceties.
  • NATO members were reminded of the unequal burden-sharing within the organisation via letters despatched from the White House ahead of the summit.
  • Trump took aim especially at Germany, highlighting in particular the incongruity between its military spending and huge trade surplus with the U.S.
  • A relatively recent dimension to the diatribe is the attack on Germany’s large imports of gas from Russia, a divisive issue within Europe, particularly after the threats posed by Moscow’s regional ambitions.
  • Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s claims, Europe’s expenditure on defence has been on the rise since 2014, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). One explanation for this shift is the security situation following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
  • IISS data also show that Washington’s commitment to Europe’s security is just over 5% of the total U.S. defence budget. Within that, its contribution to NATO’s common funding is an estimated 22.1%, besides investments in other initiatives.
  • The communiqué issued after the summit reiterates the group’s resolve to meet the 2024 deadline on defence spending. But Mr. Trump seems impatient on achieving the target sooner, without spelling out his reasons.

A helping hand for Indian universities

  • The future of Indian universities (public and private) will significantly depend upon our ability to harness the possibility of individual, institutional and corporate philanthropy for the purposes of higher education.
  • A major legal and policy reform to promote some form of mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) was initiated through the Companies Act, 2013. Path-breaking, it had the potential to transform the relationship between business and society.
  • The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has observed that among the 5,097 companies that have filed annual reports till December 2016 (financial year 2015-16), only 3,118 companies had made some contribution towards CSR expenditure..
  • During FY 2014-15, 3,139 companies had spent 74% of the prescribed CSR expenditure — most were to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
  • There has been very little strategic thinking and innovation in the CSR where corporations can play a leadership role in contributing to society. This also shows that companies in India have generally not understood the larger goals of CSR, viewing it more as a charitable endeavour.
  • the fact is that higher education and universities do need to receive significantly more attention. Every aspect of a university’s growth requires substantial financial resources: hiring of world class faculty; developing research centres; funding research projects; having rewards and incentives for faculty publications; building physical infrastructure, and making available scholarships for students.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development should be working closely with the MCA to have a road map that incentivises CSR funding to be made available for universities.
  • A range of reforms are being promoted in higher education. Recognising that universities in India need to be significantly empowered in order to achieve excellence, the government has initiated five major reforms in the areas of regulation, accreditation, rankings, autonomy and internationalisation. However, the most critical aspect of building world-class universities as well as upgrading existing universities is in relation to funding and the availability of substantial financial resources.
  • The higher education sector can be truly re-energised only by a significant increase in loans, grants and philanthropy. Banks and financial institutions have been rather timid and even indifferent towards funding in higher education. Therefore, there is an urgent need for policy intervention, where universities and related funding should be designated a priority sector. It should be seen as being more important than infrastructure development.
  • Beyond a few examples of philanthropy in higher education in India, contemporary leadership in philanthropy in higher education is limited and almost non-existent.
  • Today, public universities (State universities and other higher education institutions) face serious financial challenges. While the Central universities and institutions of higher education are better situated, complex procedures, incessant delays, regulatory obstacles and a labyrinth of regulations for access to the funds have created many disincentives for universities to have the necessary freedom and flexibility to spend resources as per their needs and priorities.
  • As far as private universities/higher education institutions are concerned, the problem is even more serious. The opening up of the private sector to higher education has ended up creating many mediocre institutions. The privatisation of higher education has not been driven by philanthropy but to a large extent by commercial and for-profit interests that do not have a symbiotic relationship with the vision, values and ethos of a university. Higher education and universities (private or public) by their very nature ought to be not-for-profit and established through philanthropy.
  • The Institute of Eminence (IOE) policy by the government did create hopes and expectations for establishing world class universities in India. Unfortunately, the policy, procedure and the process of selecting IOEs has been marred by a lack of transparency, vision and imagination in institution building. Therefore, there is an urgent need in Indian universities to reflect upon the crisis of leadership and the inability to seek reforms relating to institution building. In this, leadership in philanthropy is central to enabling an institutional vision that will help build the future of higher education in India.

Becoming Pakistan?

  • The response to Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor’s recent reference to the danger of India being turned into a “Hindu Pakistan” has been a concerted attempt at misinterpreting it as maligning Hindus.
  • This is the opposite of what Mr. Tharoor, the author most recently of Why I am a Hindu , intended to do. The ugly word in the term “Hindu Pakistan” is not “Hindu” but “Pakistan”.
  • What Mr. Tharoor was warning about is that if the current political dispensation continues beyond 2019, it will turn India into an intolerant majoritarian state just like Pakistan.
  • Pakistan was created expressly with the idea of perpetuating the dominance of the Muslim majority.
  • The Indian concept of citizenship as enshrined in the Constitution was vastly different. It grants equality of status to all citizens and expressly rejects the identification of the state with any single religion.
  • Tharoor was pointing out the grave danger that this ideal faced with the continuation of the expressly Hindu nationalist BJP in power. The wave of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits on the suspicion that they were eating beef is one symptom of this malaise. What is worse is the governing elite’s condoning of such acts as the recent action of Union Minister Jayant Sinha has demonstrated. The feeling of insecurity and discrimination among the minorities, especially Muslims, is now palpable. Mr. Tharoor was warning that religious divisions and communal violence, especially if endorsed by the powerful, could lead to the decimation of India’s democratic structure. India is likely to become a mirror image of Pakistan if the two distinctive features of the Indian polity, secularism and liberal democracy, are eroded beyond repair.
  • To construe such a warning as an act of treachery is an indication of how low Indian politicians can stoop in their partisan assaults.

Beyond Section 377

  • One of the lowest moments for human rights in India came in 2013 when the Supreme Court reversed the progressive 2009 judgment of the Delhi High Court reading down Section 377.
  • As arguments recently reopened on the curative petition against this 2013 judgment, India’s LGBTQI community is hopeful.
  • The law is not abstract and it’s important to consider how insufficient law impacts the lived experiences of human beings. Instead of focusing on the question of validity alone, the Court also needs to concern itself with how current laws impact the lives of the LGBTQI community.
  • There is also the matter of the Court’s own precedent in another recent ruling — one that found in favour of individual privacy — in the case of Puttaswamy vs Union of India which terms “sexual orientation” an essential attribute of “identity” and “privacy”. It terms discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as deeply offensive to the “dignity and self-worth of the individual”.
  • The Court now needs to concern itself with a broader question: What is freedom in the absence of a formal set of legal rights and protections? It needs to expand the ambit of this discussion to include other issues such as the right to form partnerships, inheritance, employment equality, protection from gender-identity-based discrimination, and so on.
  • Without these rights, sexual minorities will continue to face unequal treatment, abuse, discrimination in workplaces and housing, violence, and denial of recognition.
  • The Court should also consider closely the fact that individual dignity and freedom cannot be achieved without equal rights. Failure to use a rights-based approach also has serious social repercussions. There is sufficient evidence to show that suicide rates are higher among sexual minorities. Moreover, this lack of rights and protections feeds a homophobic culture that overemphasises and empowers patriarchy and masculinity.
  • The Court knows well that Section 377 is inhumane. It is disingenuous to say that its only concern is the law’s constitutional validity. It is time now for the Court to safeguard the human rights of sexual minorities with an open and reassuring discussion of their rights — one that engages every Indian and reinforces ideas of justice, equality and liberty for all.

350 cops in tow, Dalit groom takes his­toric ride in vil­lage

  • Nizam­pur vil­lage of Kas­ganj district, which has been in news for the past six months af­ter the lo­cal Thakur com­mu­nity al­legedly threat­ened to dis­rupt a Dalit wed­ding in the vil­lage, wit­nessed a peace­ful wed­ding on Sun­day in the pres­ence of 350 po­lice per­son­nel as well as Pro­vin­cial Armed Con­stab­u­lary (PAC).
  • For the vil­lagers, it was his­tory in the mak­ing as 27-year old the Dalit groom who hails from the neigh­bour­ing district of Hathras, rode into the vil­lage on a horse­drawn buggy on Sun­day af­ter­noon.
  • The groom beamed through­out the ride. The 18-year-old bride,, was equally ex­cited as she watched the progress of the baraat on news chan­nels.
  • “We fought against all odds to just earn re­spect, dig­nity and equal­ity for our com­mu­nity. Nei­ther my com­mu­nity nor I was against lo­cal Thakurs, but we were against dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of caste,”.

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