1. It’s time for Africa (The Hindu)
2.Say no to Westinghouse (The Hindu)
3.A time for electoral reform (Indian Express)
4.Impact of Non-vegetarianism on environment
1. It’s time for Africa (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of increasing hate crimes against Africans.(GS paper II)
- Several black African students have been attacked in a series of hate crimes in Greater Noida over the last few days.
- This vicious race crime is a clear sign of terrible ignorance, arrogance and the recycling of old tropes of Africans as “uncivilised”.
Increasing hate crimes
- After two separate incidents of violence where Nigerian and Kenyan nationals were attacked in the Greater Noida region, the African community in New Delhi raised its voice against the unabated and misguided attacks.
- The assault on four Nigerian students in Greater Noida on 27 February follows a string of attacks on African nationals in the country in the last two years, despite the government’s attempt to prevent such incidents.
- From being called ‘negro’ and any number of racial slurs to being thought of as drug traffickers; and being accused of everything from prostitution to cannibalism; black people in India continue to be at the receiving end of many nasty forms of violence.
- This is not the first time such a shameful incident has occurred. At least six Africans were attacked in south Delhi in May last year in separate incidents, after 23-year-old Masonda Ketada Olivier, a French teacher, was stoned to death
A brief history of Africans in India
- India and Africa have a shared history in trade, music, religion, arts and architecture, but the historical link between these two diverse regions is rarely discussed.
- Many Africans travelled to India as slaves and traders, but eventually settled down here to play an important role in India’s history of kingdoms, conquests and wars.
- Some of them, like Malik Ambar in Ahmednagara (in western India), went on to become important rulers and military strategists. Ambar was known for taking on the powerful Mughal rulers of northern India.
- Abyssinians, also known as Habshis in India, mostly came from the Horn of Africa to the subcontinent. Africans were successful in India because of their military prowess and administrative skills.
- Apart from the Deccan sultanates in southern India, Africans also rose to prominence on the western coast of India. Some of them brought their traditional music and Sufi Islam with them.
- The African-ruled state of Sachin was established in 1791 in Gujarat. It had its own cavalry and a state band that included Africans, its own coats of arms, currency, and stamped paper. In 1948, when the princely states were incorporated into independent India and ceased to exist, Sachin had a population of 26,000 – 85% Hindu and 13% Muslim.
- The most celebrated of the powerful Ethiopian leaders in India was Malik Ambar (1548-1626). His mausoleum still exists in Khuldabad, near Aurangabad district in western India.
Why attacks on Africans.
- This vicious race crime is a clear sign of terrible ignorance, arrogance and the recycling of old tropes of Africans as “uncivilised”. Indians, with their preference for “whiteness” and their total lack of information and exposure to Africa’s rich cultural heritage and its contemporary politics, have denied Africans in India their basic humanity which is demonstrated in their accusations of “cannibalism” the ultimate denouncement of the “inhuman other”.
- As a people obsessed with a Fair-And-Lovely complexion, Indians cut a pitiful picture when it comes to people who don’t “look like us”, whatever that may mean in a country as diverse as India. Discrimination against the people from the North-East living is a case study as well. But somehow, when it comes to black people, the discrimination is harsher, tinged with an unreasonable fear that appears to manifest as frenetic violence.
- It is critical that proper orientation be given to African students coming to study in India. It is perhaps as or more critical for Indian students and members of communities where African students live to have a better understanding of Africa. This would require discussions and exposure to the many cultures and diversity of Africa.
- To date there are few efforts even among artists and intellectuals to address this issue of blatant racism so rampant in India and among Indians abroad. A much more concerted effort must be made by the Indian government, and Indian citizens, intellectuals, and artists to make Africans feel safe in India.
- The police too, who are often implicated in these racist incidents, must be trained, and issues of racism within the force seriously prosecuted.
- Students on Indian campuses must be made aware of racism towards foreign students and shown that it is no different from the racism faced by Indian students abroad, which India so vehemently denounces.
- In addition, for a country of India’s size and given the increasing number of Africans coming to India to study and for medical tourism, a far wider cultural engagement with the continent is necessary not only to combat the malevolent racism, but also to expand the global horizons of the Indian public.
Question: India had been a land of ideology of “Vasudeva kuttambakam”. However, recent cases of racial violence present a sorry state for India. How government should respond in such a situation?
2.Say no to Westinghouse (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of nuclear energy crisis due to failing of Westinghouse.(GS paper II)
- Westinghouse Electric, a US firm, owned by Japanese Toshiba has filed for bankruptcy. The firm was supposed to set up six nuclear reactors in Andhra Pradesh in partnership with the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
- Westinghouse-built operators in Andhra Pradesh were part of a multi-billion dollar deal and were to be operated by NPCIL.
- Now, the future of those projects, which once seemed to be on the leading edge of a renaissance for nuclear energy, is in doubt.
- The road map of the India-U.S. nuclear deal is in jeopardy. Under the deal, Westinghouse is slated to set up six AP1000 nuclear reactors in Kovvada, Andhra Pradesh.
- However, The U.S. embassy in New Delhi has reaffirmed the commitment to civil nuclear cooperation with India, and Westinghouse is reported to have indicated that it continues to stand behind the reactor delivery model that it presented in its Technical Commercial Offer to India and looks forward to progress on an agreement in 2017.
Assurances from Westinghouse
- Assurances are being given by Westinghouse but India must not enter into a contract involving billions of dollars with an American company that has already declared bankruptcy.
- Moreover, the company has a track record of delays and cost overruns which can be seen in its project performance in USA and China where projects are running far behind the deadline.
- Even for the reactors envisaged for Kovvada, no site work has started yet, and the local population is opposed to the nuclear power project.
Much larger problems
- Westinghouse going into bankruptcy causes much larger problems than just the financial consequences. With the bankruptcy filing, no creditors will come forward to lend the approximately $7 billion needed to bankroll the India project in the first phase.
- During the time of the Barack Obama administration, India had hoped to get a U.S. Export-Import (Exim) Bank loan for the Kovvada project. But with Donald Trump assuming the U.S. presidency and Westinghouse perilously in the red, there is little chance that the new American administration will favourably consider an Exim Bank loan for an Indian nuclear project to be technologically executed by a bankrupt U.S. company.
- Moreover, each Westinghouse 1000 MWe reactor will cost approximately three times the cost of two 500 MWe India-designed heavy-water reactors today, and perhaps eight times the cost of equivalent coal-powered supercritical power plants.
- In view of these difficulties, it is best to completely keep away from agreeing to purchase the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. In fact, the current status of world energy technology does not warrant the inclusion and consideration of nuclear power of any kind in the energy basket of our nation.
Question: Rather than going for nuclear energy, why govt. should focus more on renewable energy?
3. A time for electoral reform(Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the need of long pending electoral reforms.(GS paper II)
- Election exercise in India has seen enormous use of muscle power and money power. Such nuisances tend to erode the confidence of citizens from the Democratic governance.
- Hence, the need of the hour is to frame the policies and ecosystem to reform the electoral exercise in India.
- A debate in Rajya Sabha last week raised important questions regarding electoral reforms. Thus, suggestions like the Election Commission’s proposals and recommendations, must no longer remain unaddressed.
- The immediate provocation for the debate was allegation of manipulation of EVMs in the recent UP assembly elections.
- While a return to ballot papers was mentioned, most speakers demanded the use of VVPATs (voter-verified paper audit trail) in the forthcoming elections to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies, and eventually in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.
Some notable reforms which can be initiated
The EC’s proposals could broadly be divided into three categories.
- Reforms to cleanse the electoral system (debarring criminally-tainted politicians from contesting, checking money power, empowering the EC to deregister defunct and dubious parties)
- Reforms to make the EC stronger and more independent (appointment of election commissioners through a collegium, their elevation to CEC on the criterion of seniority and protecting their tenure by vesting the powers of impeachment on the CEC)
- Reforms to make the electoral system more efficient (like the introduction of totaliser machines to prevent disclosure of polling patterns in a polling booth).
Anti Defection Law in India
- The Law Commission recommends a suitable amendment to the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which shall have the effect of vesting the power to decide on questions of disqualification on the ground of defection with the President or the Governor, as the case may be, (instead of the Speaker or the Chairman), who shall act on the advice of the ECI. This would help preserve the integrity of the Speaker’s office.
Strengthening the office of the Election Commission of India
- The ECI should be strengthened by first, giving equal constitutional protection to all members of the Commission in matters of removability; second, making the appointment process of the Election Commissioners and the CEC consultative; and third, creating a permanent, independent Secretariat for the ECI.
Totalizer for Counting of Votes
- The Commission reiterates and endorses the ECI’s suggestion for introducing a totalizer for the counting of votes recorded in electronic voting machines to prevent the harassment of voters in areas where voting trends in each polling station can be determined. Prior to the introduction of EVMs, ballot papers could be mixed under Rule 59A of the Election Rules, although this was not permitted for EVMs. Using a totalizer would increase the secrecy of votes during counting, thus preventing the disclosure of voting patterns and countering fears of intimidation and victimisation.
- There is growing concern that the system can lead to majoritarianism. The members wanted this system to be replaced by the proportional representation system which can ensure that every section of the citizenry gets due representation. It was suggested that this will bring down the cost of holding elections and reduce the divisive nature of electoral campaigns.
- It came in for a lot of attack. It was seen as a surreptitious attempt to bring in the presidential form of government. Some speakers said it is against India’s federal polity, others believed it will go against the basic structure of the constitution.
- The other major concern across parties was about paid news. Members demanded that it should be made a cognisable criminal offence.
- There is urgent need to implement the electoral reforms suggested by EC and several law commission reports as the fair and transparent elections are the basic building blocks of a democracy.
- Moreover, a committee could be set up to look at all the reforms proposed by the EC over the years, instead of reinventing the wheel. It should deal with the entire gamut of electoral reforms and not recommend piecemeal solutions.
Question: The implementation of state funding and other electoral reforms seems bleak. What can be possible ways to build consensus among political class to introduce electoral reforms.
Impact of Non-vegetarianism on environment
- One of the biggest environmental impacts of a meat-eating diet is the depletion of natural resources, particularly the consumption of vast amounts of water for livestock production.
- Today, there are more than 17 billion livestock in the world; that’s about triple the number of people. Raising these animals requires huge amounts of water, most of it used to irrigate the grains and hay fed to the animals.
Environmental costs of meat
- Raising animals for food is one of the biggest causes of water pollution in the industrialised world. The bacteria, pesticides and antibiotics that are concentrated in animal flesh are also found in their faeces, and these chemicals can have catastrophic effects on the ecosystems surrounding large farms. In some countries, animals raised for food produce 130 times the excrement of the humans who live there! Much of the waste from factory farms and abattoirs flows into streams and rivers, contaminating water sources.
- Animals raised for food also produce toxic gasses such as ammonia and methane along with their excrement. According to the WorldWatch Institute, between 15 and 20 per cent of the methane gas emissions worldwide are produced by animals raised for food. These gasses contribute toclimate change and can sicken the people who live in communities around farms.
- As the world’s appetite for meat increases, countries around the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land to make more room for factory farms. Clear-cutting forests to create pasture and overgrazing by farmed animals have led to the extinction of indigenous plant and animal species, soil erosion and eventual desertification that renders once-fertile land barren. In fact, grazing animals, such as cows and goats, are a major contributor to the spread of deserts in many parts of India: these animals eat all the plants that grow in dry areas, and without the plants’ roots to hold the soil down, much of the fertile topsoil is washed away by rain.
- Raising animals for food is grossly inefficient because while animals eat large quantities of grain, they produce only small amounts of meat, dairy foods or eggs in return. Scientists estimate that animals must be fed up to 10 kilograms of grain to produce just 1 kilogram of meat. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people – more than the entire human population on Earth.
- Feeding our appetite for flesh requires fuel to produce fertiliser for crops to feed animals, oil to run the trucks that take them to slaughter and electricity to freeze their carcasses. In some countries, more than one-third of the fuel and raw materials used each year goes towards raising animals for food.
Question: The ecological cost of non-veg. diets are far more than ethical costs. Comment.