SC/ST Act verdict
An act of unlearning
Heeding the lines on the map
SC/ST Act verdict
Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of ongoing protest over the verdict of the SC/ST Act.
(GS paper II)
- The recent Supreme Court judgment bans immediate arrest of those charged under provisions of the 1989 Act. A preliminary inquiry should be conducted first into the veracity of a complaint filed by a Dalit under the Act before registration of a first information report. The judgment led to massive protest.
- Both the Centre and State governments were caught unawares by the scale and intensity of the protests. Though the government has sought an urgent review, in an attempt to dispel the impression that its own stand was responsible for the Division Bench laying down fresh guidelines on handling complaints under the Act.
- Norms to safeguard the innocent against false complaints may not have been so unpalatable as the serious implications of the finding that there is large-scale misuse of the SC/ST Act. Proceeding on this premise, the court ruled that the bar under Section 18 of the Act on grant of anticipatory bail was not absolute.
- It mandated a preliminary inquiry into complaints before an FIR can be registered and barred any immediate arrest of the accused, unless approved by a higher authority in the case of public servants or the Senior Superintendent of Police in respect of private citizens.
- Whether these directions amount to judicial legislation and go against the grain of prevailing law and policy are complex questions that need careful judicial determination. But it is a moot question whether recent explosion of Dalit anger stems entirely from the fine print of the judgment. It is likely that it is a result of the perception that in a social environment where the legal and administrative system is already loaded against the community, a verdict like this may worsen the lot of the vulnerable.
- The Bench has declined to suspend the order and clarified that its objective was to safeguard the innocent and that it has not diluted the Act or undermined the rights of SCs and STs in any way. In a larger sense, there are two disparate factors at play- protecting the innocent against harassment and misuse of a law, and faithfully preserving the letter and spirit of a piece of legislation aimed at upholding the rights and dignity of the historically oppressed classes.
- As the Bench has now agreed to hear the petition to review its own March 20 order, what is needed is a conducive atmosphere for such a hearing.
Question –Discuss the recent judgement made by SC on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, why the verdict has gained protest? In your opinion whether the verdict requires re-examination or not?
An act of unlearning
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the struggle of the Indian university over the autonomy issue.
(GS paper II)
- In a historic decision, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has granted autonomy to sixty Higher Educational Institutions which have maintained high academic standards. The UGC have given special status, which will allow universities to start new courses, set curricula, offer more competitive salaries and establish off-campus centres without requiring approval from the government.
- The reform of university witnesses three at the outset. The first involves the attempt to appropriate the rhetoric of scholarship and to coat it with sheen of scientism, through the use of rankings and indicators. Quality is now a numbers game evaluated by a separate directorate.
- Second, concepts of freedom, autonomy, and the public good are bowdlerised and managerialised, transforming intellectual facts into a set of instrumentalities.
- Third, the public and the private are fused without any philosophical or ethical debate. One is opened up to privatisation under the claim that private institutions contribute to the public good. It narrows the notion of the public good from a democratic idea relating to welfare and justice to a market concept. The market replaces democracy as the grammar of this reform.
- All this process has been created through a simulated politics of urgency, a crisis inadvertently triggered due to the fact that there was no Indian university listed in the top 200 in the world. Suddenly, all India suffered from rankings envy and we decided to vie for the Olympics of rankings. Sadly, speed became a substitute for efficiency and mobility appropriated justice.
- Today there has been bureaucratisation of the intellect and its great institution, the university. And sadly it is the bureaucracy that is defining the university, even dictating what autonomy means for us. The ordinary process of research as learning, as a craft game, with a sense of play and experimentation is sidelined.
- The autonomy is reduced to a market instrument. The state seems to withdraw from education playing a reluctant Father Christmas. Institutions have now the right to change admission rules, charge more fees to attract more people. The idea of university as a public space, as a commons where subsidies allowed marginals to participate in education with dignity, is lost. The market creates its own filters and slowly the poor lose entry to a system.
- India is a split-level world where the majority of institutions suffer from neglect and mediocrity, while a few parade their affluence as quality. It is an attempt to enforce a Darwinism in education while pretending to offer freedom. The rich can create captive institutions while the middle class watches helplessly as quality education in democratic spaces empties out.
- Ranking is an act of fetishism where quality gets defined as a product than a process. The university loses its ritual right to initiate a student in terms of the rules of the craft. This world of creativity disappears as we instrumentalise education and reduce the university to a certification machine, a glorified tutorial college.
- All this is done in the name of acceleration where India hopes to manufacture two Oxfords without sensing the organicity or the tacit knowledges of education. Here autonomy as limited agency loses out to justice as a right to define and evaluate one’s situation.
- The academe becomes a passive receiver of diktats in the name of freedom. What one loses here is the creative pluralism of the university as the home of dissenting, as knowledge is standardised in the name of market efficiency.
- Also, freedom here is seen in the narrow sense of entrepreneurship. The creative tensions of the university get mowed down in this wave of standardisation and managerialization; market friendly freedom destroys many of the lesser domains of knowledge which are custodians of the value systems of the future.
- The Indian government’s decision to grant 60 universities “autonomous” status has been hailed as a “welcome step”, but question marks remain over how it will impact public funding of higher education.
- Also the university must stand strong, telling society gently that democracy without the cultures of knowledge is doomed.
Question –The autonomy to universities is an attempt to enforce a Darwinism in education while pretending to offer freedom. Analyse.
Heeding the lines on the map
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of China-India-Pakistan-Bangladesh axis in South Asia.
(GS paper II)
- At the heart of South Asia’s poor integration is India-Pakistan rivalry, which has been further, complicated by China-Pakistan proximity and India-China hostility. However, the time has come to make a paradigm shift in South Asia’s regional integration strategy. Politics and religion aside, across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (IPB) there are common socio-cultural bonds and people-to-people connectivity remains positive.
Assessment of IPB in South Asia
- The five of South Asia i.e. Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan are paying the price of regional disintegration caused by unresolved puzzles having roots in the China-IPB (CIPB) axis. If the big three (IPB) can have a strategic partnership that also factors in China, the remaining five can effortlessly fit into positive regionalism with a win-win situation for all.
- IPB account for approximately 95% of South Asia’s GDP and population. Along with China, they account for 18.5% of global GDP and 41% of global population. South Asia’s intra-regional trade, currently 5% of total trade, can grow to $80 billion from the current $28 billion, the lion’s share being within IPB.
- Pakistan and India have potential trade capacity of $20 billion compared to the current $3 billion. Underdeveloped transport and logistics services and bureaucratic procedures are deterring India-Bangladesh cross border trade, which can grow by 300%.
- The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) has a pivotal position in developing joint investment agreements but sluggish progress in infrastructural development has rendered the corridor nearly comatose. Due to its common borders with China and India, Myanmar’s significance also needs to be factored in.
- Although the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being developed as a bilateral initiative, if Indian sensitivities can be addressed, it can be a multilateral project, integrating India as well as other South Asian and Central Asian regions. Synergetic integration of the economic corridors with other BRI projects can accelerate inward investment into IPB.
- Due to cross-border barriers and lack of transport facilitation among IPB, freight movement is taking place along expensive routes, escalating investment cost. Movement of trucks across the international frontier is confined by absence of cross-border agreements between India and Bangladesh and India and Pakistan. China is injecting huge funds into physical infrastructure such as Pakistan’s Gwadar port project and $20 billion in various Indian industrial and infrastructural projects.
- Also rail connectivity is restricted due to technical problems of different gauges, track structures, signalling and so forth. Absence of a multilateral agreement has restricted the realisation of the railway potential. The deep-pocketed Chinese can invest in land and rail infrastructure to develop both inter-regional connectivity and intra-regional connectivity.
- Although India and Bangladesh have started exploring opportunities using Ashuganj inland port, regional inland waterways remain unexplored. Air cargo flights are encumbered by limited access to Indian airspace by Pakistan and vice-versa. China can lead in transport and transit agreements to facilitate smooth movement of freight and passenger vehicles across IPB resulting in integration with China and also South Asia.
- To unravel the full potential, energy treaties based on renewable sources have become imperative. China and India are shifting from fossil fuels to renewables. With greater electricity generation and utilisation of domestic energy endowments, combined efforts of BCIM, CPEC and the proposed China-Nepal-India (CNI) Economic Corridor under BRI, can capitalise on regional energy potential.
- By 2050, China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will experience water shortages. The three largest trans-boundary river basins, Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra, are all within CIPB. This represents a huge potential for water-sharing and hydro power projects across the basins, but political mistrust is an impediment. The Zangmu hydroelectricity dam, situated in the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra, has raised concerns in India over downstream water supply. This damming, along with that of the Ganga, could exacerbate Bangladesh’s downstream water scarcity.
- China has expressed interest to pursue water- sharing treaties and the other three affected can come together in a collaborative framework. This can boost the livelihoods of millions across the region.
- India and China are leading globally in terms of Internet and smartphone users, but Internet penetration for these four countries is below 55%, representing immense potential. Bangladesh, Cambodia and China have signed a framework to strengthen digital regional trade. China’s BRI initiative is projected to increase connectivity by developing digital infrastructure.
- The CIPB axis is an open-ended chess game played out against cross-border conflicts. A strategic collaboration that rises to the occasion, looking beyond historical animosity and misgivings, can unlock a new era of regionalism whose benefits far outweigh negatives.
Question – Forging a China-India-Pakistan-Bangladesh axis would be a game changer for all of South Asia, explain how?