1. Assam plans to ban polygamy
Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati on Tuesday.
The drive against child marriage provided the government with information about the extent of the social malaise: CM
The BJP government in Assam has decided to set up a panel towards handling a “part of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC)” after a crackdown on child marriage – polygamy.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said a decision has been taken to form an expert committee to examine whether the government has the authority to ban polygamy in the State.
The committee would be tasked with scrutinising the provisions of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937, along with Article 25 of the Constitution of India, in relation to the directive principles of State policy for UCC.
Dr. Sarma could not provide data on the prevalence of polygamy in the State but said many cases were detected during the crackdown on child marriage launched in January.
Altogether, 4,404 cases have been registered and 3,397 people arrested under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, he told journalists at an event marking the completion of two years of his government. “Many cases were found in Barak Valley and Jamunamukh and Hojai,” Dr. Sarma said.
The areas he cited are Muslim-dominated. But he pointed out, polygamy was almost nil among the indigenous Assamese Muslims and those who were educated.
Polygamy was also detected among certain individuals among the indigenous communities, besides some ‘informal’ cases where men live with two or more women without marrying.
“During the drive against child marriage, we also found people aged 60-65 years and some influential people practising polygamy. After examining the data on child marriage, we realised it is also important to go beyond such cases and ban polygamy,” he said. He added the committee would be given six months to come up with a law following discussions with stakeholders, including legal experts. The committee will give suggestions to curb formal as well as informal polygamy, he added.
“We want to take the community along with us. We want to discuss with Islamic scholars, intellectuals, and influential personalities so that it is seen as a consensus-building activity rather than a provocation,” Dr. Sarma said.
He said the committee, comprising legal luminaries, would examine the legal provisions as well as the other personal and religious aspects.
“I studied Islamic law very carefully in the past seven days and I found that polygamy is not an essential part of Islam. Prophet Muhammad preferred monogamy. Polygamy is only with the consent of the wife if she suddenly fell sick or the family was issueless. On these grounds those days, not now, monogamy was the rule and polygamy an exception,” he said.
2. Green crosshairs
A multi-pronged counter is warranted to tackle the EU’s carbon tax plans
Starting this October, the European Union (EU) proposes to introduce a framework for levying a carbon tax on imports of products that rely on non-green or sub-optimally sustainable processes and where carbon emissions are deemed to have not been adequately priced. This Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) will begin with an import monitoring mechanism and culminate in the levy of duties as determined from January 2026. The EU argues that the CBAM will ensure its climate objectives are not undermined by carbon-intensive imports and spur cleaner production in the rest of the world. This poses a significant threat to some of India’s biggest exports to the trading bloc, including iron ore and steel, with carbon levies estimated to range from 19.8% to 52.7%. During a visit to France in early April, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said it was too early to gauge the tax’s impact on Indian exports, as operational clarity was yet to emerge. By last Thursday, top trade officials were more assertive and termed tackling this risk as one of the top items on the government’s agenda, with several options being explored.
It is critical that the Centre reacts with greater alacrity to what may be considered by some as a sophisticated trade barrier doused in ‘greenwashing’ optics, proposed by the EU. Last year, about a third of India’s iron, steel and aluminium exports, for instance, were shipped to EU members. Engineering products, the largest export growth driver in recent years, would be impacted too. Larger players across sectors are gradually turning to greener technologies, but the transition needs time — even more so for smaller businesses — to move away from legacy carbon-heavy technologies (such as blast furnaces for steel making). The EU believes the carbon tax is compatible with World Trade Organization norms, but India is looking to challenge that. It may also flag the incompatibility with the UN’s climate change framework which moots common but differentiated responsibilities for developed and developing nations. But even if these arguments are upheld, these two avenues lack enforcement options. So, a threat of retaliatory tariffs on EU imports is also being weighed even as plans are afoot to quantify the various carbon taxes levied in India. Having positioned itself as the voice of the global South, India must play that part to the hilt while at the helm of the G-20 this year and galvanise other nations to take on the EU’s carbon tax framework. This championing need not revolve around its own concerns, but the far worse implications the CBAM entails for poorer countries, many of whom rely more heavily on mineral resources than India does.
3. The ‘right to health’ goal and a role for Taiwan
Dr. Hsueh Jui-yuan is Minister of Health and Welfare, Republic of China (Taiwan)
As the world enters the fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is gradually improving. Most border restrictions have been lifted and global health governance is now focused on a post-pandemic recovery. Countries have stepped up efforts to achieve health and well-being for all and further the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose progress was impacted by the pandemic.
Taiwan fully supports health-related SDGs and the World Health Organization’s ‘Triple Billion targets’. Taiwan is committed to building a more resilient and equitable health service supply chain, maintaining an inclusive and equitable universal health coverage system, and providing disease prevention and management through a robust primary health-care system. It is willing and able to share its experience in creating a cross-sectoral, innovative, and people-centered health approach to help the international community work toward the realisation of health-related SDGs.
Taiwan’s pandemic response
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan effectively mitigated the spread of the disease by leveraging its comprehensive public health-care system, well-trained personnel, and epidemiological surveillance, investigation, and analysis systems.
The Taiwanese people played a pivotal role too by following appropriate social behaviour, following quarantine regulations and getting vaccinated. When compared with the 38 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states and Singapore, Taiwan ranks sixth-lowest in COVID-19 mortality and case-fatality rates. Taiwan also ranks fourth-highest for coverage rates of at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and third-highest in terms of vaccine boosters administered.
Last year, the World Health Organization’s Director-General outlined five priorities for the subsequent five years: promoting health, providing health services, protecting health, powering progress, and performing. Moreover, WHO’s ‘Achieving well-being’, a draft global framework for integrating well-being into public health that utilised a health promotion approach, further demonstrates its commitment to health for all.
A focus on disease prevention
Taiwan established a universal health-care insurance system in 1995, which provides disease prevention and health-care services for all. These include prenatal checkups, gestational diabetes screening, anemia testing, and three ultrasound examinations to reduce pregnancy risks and promote maternal and infant health. To assist infertile couples and reduce the financial burdens of in-vitro fertilization, the government has continued to expand subsidised infertility treatment programmes. Taiwan also aims to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment and provide preventive paediatric health care and health education. Taiwan has a number of prevention and management programmes for non-communicable diseases which include targeting chronic metabolic diseases help assist at-risk groups, diet and exercise guidance as well as smoking and betel nut cessation information to empower people. Taiwan also supports the global fight against cancer and WHO’s goal of reducing cancer mortality by 25% by 2025. In line with WHO’s Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative, Taiwan subsidises cervical screenings and human papillomavirus vaccinations. HPV vaccines have been administered to female students (12 to 15 years) since 2018, with a coverage rate of 92.1% by December 2022.
Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) offers financial protection and access to a range of essential services. The COVID-19 pandemic helped the international community recognise the importance of regional cooperation and digitisation in health care. Taiwan is committed to promoting digital health and innovation to enhance the accessibility and quality of health-care services, including plans for a next-generation NHI programme. Innovative services, utilising real-time tele-health consultations for remote areas and outlying islands, and is exploring applications for artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. During the pandemic, Taiwan issued 13 export licences for its herbal formula NRICM101 (Taiwan Chingguan Yihau) to help countries in the region combat the pandemic. Taiwan is currently implementing preventive measures such as strengthening the domestic production of critical drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients to avert future drug shortages. Taiwan will further share innovative technologies and best practices with partners around the world.
A place for Taiwan
Taiwan has not been invited to the World Health Assembly since 2017. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is abating and dialogue on strengthening health systems worldwide is accelerating, Taiwan should not be left out. Taiwan’s inclusion would make the world healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable.
Taiwan urges WHO and all relevant stakeholders to support Taiwan’s inclusion in the World Health Assembly as an observer, as well as its full participation in WHO meetings, mechanisms, and activities. Taiwan will continue to work with the world to help ensure the fundamental right to health enshrined in the WHO Constitution. In the spirit of the SDGs, no country should be left behind — especially not Taiwan, which has made significant contributions to global public health.
With the COVID-19 pandemic abating and dialogue on strengthening health systems worldwide accelerating, Taiwan should not be left out
4. Securing the migrant vote
Sanjay Kumar is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) Aaliyia Mallik is a researcher with Lokniti-CSDS Vibha Attri is a researcher with Lokniti-CSDS.
After several weeks of intense election campaigning by all the political parties, today is the day for the voters of Karnataka to exercise their franchise. As per a report in this newspaper, the number of migrants in Karnataka increased from the previous decade. Also, 42.12% of Greater Bengaluru’s population originates from outside the district or the State. Given this large migrant population in Karnataka, Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies conducted a study between April 28 and May 1 among the migrant voters of Bengaluru to find out their voting patterns.
Apprehensions of workers
Our study in the localities of migrant workers from north and north-east India showed that nearly 99% of them were not registered as voters in Karnataka. Most of these workers who live in houses near power mills or in makeshift arrangements near construction sites continued to retain their names on the voter lists of their home constituencies. Some of them were not able to adequately exercise their political voting rights due to geographical constraints; they found it difficult to travel home for every election. A migrant labourer from West Bengal said, “I went back home once to vote and I didn’t go twice. I will go back to vote during the next Lok Sabha election.”
Migrant workers across India are often apprehensive about registering themselves as voters in any other State apart from their home State. This is due to various reasons such as frequent changes in residence, fear of losing property in their home State, and their inability or unwillingness to bring their families with them as well. We found very few migrants (less than 5%) whose families were living with them. On being asked why this was the case, the migrants said their localities were not safe for women. A migrant shop owner said, “We are all men here, so we can’t bring our families. It’s not safe.”
The Election Commission of India (ECI)’s proposal for introducing Remote Voting Machines (RVMs) seeks to extend voting facilities to such migrant workers who find it difficult to travel to their native place to vote, and thus prevent the loss of votes. Some political parties objected to RVMs, saying the ECI has not responded to pending complaints and questions about the trustworthiness of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). While there was little awareness among the migrant workers about the ECI’s proposal to introduce RVMs, 80% of them supported the proposal when they were told about it. They were happy that RVMs would enable them to vote there and that they would not have to go home to vote. A barber from Bihar said, “If what you’re saying is true, it will be great, especially for us. Paying rent and then going home and coming back is a waste of money. If this is the plan, it’s a good one.”
Less than 10% expressed their apprehensions about this mode of voting. Many voiced their concerns and anxieties about the system’s accuracy. A mill worker from Uttar Pradesh said, “I will only cast my vote from my village. I don’t trust that machine.” Another worker said, “It shouldn’t be like this because we don’t know whether the vote is actually going to the person we voted for.”
These statements show an acknowledgement of the ECI’s move, but also bring to light the lack of dialogue around the procedure and viability of RVMs. The study shows that the RVM initiative is a much-needed one for many, but it requires an additional push. For remote voting to materialise as a good alternative for the lakhs of migrant workers across the country, it needs more thought and greater transparency.
It was reassuring that despite the difficulties involved in casting their vote or their inability to do so, the respondents greatly valued their voting rights. They said it was their duty and responsibility to vote as citizens of the country. They also said to vote is important in a democracy. A labourer from Malda in West Bengal said, “It is a necessity for us to cast our vote. We are Indians and this is a priority for us.”
The migrants said none of them had ever received money or goods or services from any candidates or parties in exchange for their vote. They said they travelled back to their home States without any support or expectations.
A minimum standard of living
The study also indicated the involuntary choices that migrant workers have to make in order to maintain a minimum standard of living. Many of the migrant workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam, who were living in Bengaluru and its outskirts, said low and irregular wages and lack of opportunities in their home States were motivating and compelling reasons for them to move to a new place without their families. Even though a sizeable proportion of the migrant workers had worked in Bengaluru for decades, they were happy to move to their home States if they were offered comparatively lower pay. The most popular reason for this was to be closer to home and to their families and meet fewer expenses. A labourer from Cooch Behar, West Bengal, said, “In a month, if I earn ₹30,000 here and if in West Bengal I earned ₹15,000-20,000, I would still work there, for I would be at home. Why would I come this far?”
Lakhs of migrants who left their homes in search of livelihoods live in places far from the heart of the city. Not only have they left their home States, they have also given up on significant rights. While elections are an opportunity for people to exercise their fundamental rights, the votes of migrant voters have been missing for years. While the ECI’s move provides a ray of hope to millions of migrant workers, two crucial priorities ahead are to create awareness about the initiative and ensure transparency.
While the Election Commission’s RVM proposal provides hope to millions of migrant workers, two crucial priorities ahead are to create awareness about the initiative and ensure transparency
5. Upsetting the apple cart in Himachal
Artificial Intelligence-linked apple production is disrupting the sector.
The use of high-density varieties of apple and artificial intelligence (AI) in production, it is widely considered, has benefits such as increased capital investment and mechanisation, but it is also causing a major disruption in the industry in Himachal Pradesh.
Apple production plays a major role in the State’s economy and in granting employment. Recent developments in science, technology and germination have ushered in major transformations in the sector. In 1950-1951, 500 ha of land were under apple production; this rose to 5,025 ha by 1960-61; and 1,15,016 ha by 2021-22.
Last year, the increasing cost of production and the increase in the Goods and Services Tax on cartons triggered protests in the State. The big players have already entered the market and are influencing the purchase of the crop. This unrest was one of the reasons for the party’s loss in the Assembly polls last December. The current Congress government has announced the implementation of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee and universal cartons for apple packaging.
However, the changes in production are continuing to disrupt the sector. In Gumma in the Kotkhai region, a rich farmer, Vishal Shangta, experimented with new imported varieties from a nursery in Italy. He sowed 1,500 plants over 4,000 sq m. These saplings were rootstocks. The difference between the conventional method of plantation and the new varieties is that the earlier plants would mature in 10-12 years whereas the rootstock varieties start bearing fruit in three years. The cost of planting 1,500 rootstocks is nearly ₹30 lakh, and the plantation is done in a protected environment. The cropping method is highly mechanised. Earlier, saplings were planted on hilly slopes or in fields, whereas the new ones are planted in proximity, with the base covered by artificial material to ensure that water is conserved and the growth of weeds is checked. Under this new method of cultivation, production is twice as much as what the conventional method yielded.
AI plays a pivotal role in production. Fasal, an AI Bengaluru-based company which has investors from Singapore and Australia, is providing the basic architecture of AI to map the soil moisture, read the IMD portal and advise the farmer on providing nutrients and water to the plant. The apple grower from Gumma showed me the app to explain the health of his plants. Fasal collates all the data.
Professor Vijay Singh, former Vice Chancellor of Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, says the major problem with these plants is that they cannot survive without continuous water. This is because the roots of the rootstocks are shallow. On average, 10 litres of water are required for each plant every week, and the method used is drip irrigation.
These high-density varieties are making massive inroads into Himachal. Rich farmers are shifting to this form of production where the capital cost of investment varies between ₹30 lakh and ₹1 crore depending on the size of the farm. They cite the examples of China, Europe, and the U.S., where the per-hectare yield is almost five times that of India, to argue that there is no other alternative but to shift to this form of production.
But 95% of the apple farmers cannot bear the burden of this transformation. The effects of this transformation will soon start showing, explains Prof. Singh, as most of them have started tapping water legally and illegally through boring, which could disturb the ecosystem. Further, geographical and environmental variations are unpredictable. This year, unseasonal rains could severely impact production. With these variations, it is difficult to ensure a set pattern of cropping. This transformation also points to the near-complete failure of government agencies, particularly the extension centres of horticulture universities and the much-touted Krishi Vigyan Kendras. It is YouTubers who are the guiding leaders of this transformation, not faculty from universities.
The rootstock plants are not natural. Only time will tell whether they will be able to bear the effects of climate change and help the farmers. But what is known is that there is a rapid transformation from mass horticulture production to a class of rich producers.
6. Arab trains to carry Indian goods to Israeli port: Cohen
Arab train networks in future would be carrying Indian goods to the Israeli port of Haifa, said Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Addressing the India-Israel Business Forum organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Mr. Cohen announced support for increasing the number of Indian employees in Israel and urged for an early conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.
“Our vision is that Israel, the Gulf Arab countries and India is the gate from the east to the west. The trade that will come from India will go to some Arab port and from there by train till Haifa port in Israel and from there to the markets in Europe,” said Mr. Cohen laying out the outline of a new regional connectivity and trade in the West Asian region.
The visiting Minister’s comment on railway transport is an early sign of the shape of the connectivity projects that are emerging in India’s backyard in the West Asian region.
Mr. Cohen’s visit to Delhi and Mumbai comes against the backdrop of growing interactions between India and Israel as the two sides are preparing for a possible visit from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to India.
The UAE became the first Arab Gulf state to sign an agreement for normalisation with Israel in 2020
7. It depends on who is giving the rating: Centre on India’s rank in press freedom index
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, made light of India’s fall to 161st position in press freedom ranking, saying “that depends on who is giving the rating. I can have my own forum and give India the first rating”.
The remark was in response to the Supreme Court’s observation that India has fallen to the 161st position out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by the non-profit organisation, Reporters Without Borders. In 2022, India was ranked at 150.
India is ranked behind countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.
“India is 161 in ranking in journalistic freedom,” Justice K.M. Joseph, addressed the Union and Gujarat governments, represented by Mr. Mehta, during a hearing in the Bilkis Bano case.
Hearing on July 10
The exchange between Justice Joseph and Mr. Mehta came while the Supreme Court ordered the publication of a notice giving the details of the case and the next date of court hearing, July 10, in two vernacular papers in Gujarat to alert those unserved among the 11 convicts who were released prematurely from their life imprisonment. They had been found guilty of the gang rape of Ms. Bano and the murder of her family members. Ms. Bano and other writ petitioners have separately challenged their remission.
The discussion was on the choice of the two newspapers and their circulation in Gujarat. Mr. Mehta said there were local papers published daily evening in every city of Gujarat.
The hearing, at one point, saw the Supreme Court wonder whether some of the released convicts were making a “mockery” of or even “playing” with the court by either going incognito to hamper the serving of notice of the case on them or seeking time to file counter affidavits. Previous hearings have been a no go with lawyers for the men seeking adjournment on procedural grounds.
The court decided to publish the notice in the newspapers so that the convicts would not take the plea of ignorance and the case could go ahead and be heard on merits.
It was in response to SC’s observation that India has fallen to 161st position out of 180 countries
8. Shah’s remark that Tagore composed ‘national songs’ of 2 countrieskicks up row
Day of remembrance: Amit Shah pays tribute to Rabindranath Tagore at ‘Jorasanko Thakurbari’ in Kolkata on Tuesday.
A political row erupted on Tuesday following Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remark that Rabindranath Tagore had composed “national songs” of two countries. Participating in an event at the international border outpost of Petrapole in North24 Parganas district of West Bengal, the Home Minister said that in the entire world “Kabiguru was the only person who had the privilegeof writing the national songs of two countries”.
“Once again, @BJP4India has proved that their leaders know nothing about the country’s history. On the auspicious occasion of Rabindra Jayanti, Union Home Minister @AmitShah claims that the NATIONAL SONGS of India and Bangladesh were written by Rabindranath Tagore! This is what happens when you spend more time revising history rather than studying it,” the Trinamool Congress tweeted.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while participating in an event on Rabindra Jayanti, also took a swipe at the Minister’s remarks.
Without directly naming Mr. Shah, Ms. Banerjee said that there are some people who, without knowing about Gurudev, come with a written note or a teleprompter and speak about the poet forthe purpose of elections. The Chief Minister further pointed out that it was the national anthem “Jana Gana Mana” of India and “Aamar Sonar Bangla” of Bangladesh that were written by Gurudev.
Earlier in the day, the Home Minister visited JorasankoThakurbariin Kolkata, the ancestral house of Rabindranath Tagore and offered floral tributes.
Mr. Shah also laid the foundation stone of Maitri Dwar, the second cargo gate of the Land Port Authority of India at Petrapole, and said it would enhance India’s trade relations with Bangladesh.
9. Third cheetah dies in Kuno; number of adults down to 17
A third cheetah, a female called Daksha, died at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday after it was injured during mating.
Daksha’s death brings the total number of adult cheetahs in the park to 17. Sasha died in February and Uday in April.
Since September 2022, 20 animals — eight from Namibia and 12 from South Africa — have been translocated from Africa to restore cheetahs in the Indian wilderness. One of the animals has produced a litter of four cubs, all reportedly well.
“Prima facie, the wounds found on the female cheetah Daksha seem to have been caused by a violent interaction with a male, during a courtship/mating attempt. Such violent behaviour by male coalition cheetahs during mating are common. In such a situation, the chances of intervention by the monitoring team are almost non-existent and practically impossible,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement.
The cheetah’s death comes a day after an expert committee, constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, coordinator of Project Cheetah, recommended that five more cheetahs be released from the acclimatisation camps into “free-roaming conditions” before the onset of the monsoon in June.
The decision to release two males into Daksha’s enclosure followed a recommendation by this committee, said a press statement by J.S. Chauhan, Chief Conservator of Forests, Madhya Pradesh. The NTCA’s Cheetah Action Plan says that an adult mortality of over 15% “would be a matter of concern for management to intervene”.
The death comes a day after a panel recommended that five more cheetahs be released from acclimatisation camp.
10. Fitch cuts India GDP growth forecast for this fiscal to 6%
Rating firm trims outlook from 6.2% projected earlier citing headwinds from elevated inflation, interest rates and subdued global demand; sees India as one of the fastest-growing sovereigns
FitchRatings has lowered its 2023-24 GDP growth forecast for India to 6%, from 6.2%, citing headwinds from elevated inflation and interest rates along with subdued global demand, with the expansion seen quickening to 6.7% in 2024-25, as against the 6.9% projected earlier.
The rating firm also reaffirmed India’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating at ‘BBB-’ with a stable outlook. A ‘BBB’ issuer default rating indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low and payment capacity to meet financial commitments is considered adequate, but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity.
While India will be one of the fastest-growing rated sovereigns, bolstered by “resilient investment prospects”, Fitch said this year’s growth will ease from the 7% expected for FY23, as pent-up domestic demand fades along with faltering global demand.
“We forecast headline inflation to decline, but remain near the upper end of the Reserve Bank of India’s 2%-6% target band, averaging 5.8% in FY24 from 6.7% last year. Core inflation pressure appears to be abating, falling to 5.7% in March,” it noted.