1. Anti-lynching Bills passed by four States hanging fire
Lynching not defined as a crime under IPC, Centre has said
Bills passed against lynching in the past four years by at least three States ruled by BJP rivals and one by the party itself have not been implemented, with the Union government taking the view that lynching is not defined as a crime under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The Union Home Ministry informed Parliament in 2019 that there was “no separate” definition for lynching under the IPC, adding that such incidents could be dealt with under Sections 300 and 302 of the IPC which pertain to murder.
In 2017, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collected data on mob lynching, hate crimes and cow vigilantism, but the figures were not published and the work was discontinued as these crimes are not defined and the data were found to be unreliable.
On December 22, the Jharkhand Assembly passed the Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021, providing for punishment ranging from three years to life imprisonment. The Bill awaits the Governor’s assent.
On August 5, 2019, the Rajasthan Assembly passed the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, providing for life imprisonment and a fine ranging from ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh to those convicted in cases of mob lynching leading to the victim’s death.
On August 30, 2019, the West Bengal Assembly passed the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, that proposes a jail term from three years to life imprisonment for those involved in assaulting and injuring a person and also defines terms such as “lynching” and “mob”. The government also proposed to set up the West Bengal Lynching Compensation Scheme.
To a Right to Information Act application by The Hindu, the Home Ministry stated the said law was received from the Rajasthan government on September 6, 2019.
What is meant by Lynching?
Any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting (encouraging) such act/acts thereof, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity or any other related grounds.
How are these cases handled?
There is “no separate” definition for such incidents under the existing IPC. Lynching incidents can be dealt with under Section 300 and 302 of IPC.
- Section 302 provides that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine. Offence of murder is a cognisable, non- bailable and non-compoundable offence.
- There should be a “separate offence” for lynching and the trial courts must ordinarily award maximum sentence upon conviction of the accused person to set a stern example in cases of mob violence.
- The state governments will have to designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
- The state governments need to identify districts, sub-divisions and villageswhere instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
- The nodal officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP about any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues.
- Every police officer shall ensure to disperse the mob that has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.
- Central and the state governments shall broadcast on radio, television and other media platforms about the serious consequences of mob lynching and mob violence.
- Despite the measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an FIR.
- The State Governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme in the light of the provisions of Section 357A of CrPC.
- If a police officer or an officer of the district administration fails to fulfill his duty, it will be considered an act of deliberate negligence.
2. The importance of caste data
Data will help us determine who needs and does not need affirmative action and the effectiveness of such a measure
Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the 27% quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the All-India Quota seats for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test and reiterated that reservations for backward classes were not an exception but an extension of the principle of equality under Article 15(1) of the Constitution. The judgment highlighted how open competitive exams give the illusion of providing equal opportunity in ignorance of the widespread inequalities in educational facilities, the freedom to pursue such education, and societal prejudices. The Court pointed out how such disparities are not limited to the issue of access to good education or financial constraints alone, but also to the psychological and social effects of inherited cultural capital (communication skills, books, accent, academic accomplishments, social networks, etc.), which ensures the unconscious training of upper-caste children for high-grade performance. The Constituent Assembly held a similar philosophy while introducing constitutional provisions which enable the government to make special provisions for the uplift of the “lower castes”.
However, despite the underlying good intentions, positive discrimination has been a controversial topic. Many oppose affirmative actions like reservation; they believe that such provisions only perpetuate caste differences and they call for a “casteless society”. As Justice D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out, “castelessness” is a privilege that only the upper caste can afford because their caste privilege has already translated into social, political and economic capital. On the other hand, individuals who belong to the lower castes must retain their caste identity in order to claim the benefits of measures such as reservation, which recognise historic harm.
Promises without justifiable data
But even for those who are conscious of these issues, it is hard to blindly trust the state’s motivations because of the caste and class politics ruling our country today. Political parties often promise reservation for communities on being brought to power without any credible data collection exercises to justify the decision. Not long ago, the Supreme Court struck down the reservation for the Maratha community in Maharashtra in excess of 50%, which was the limit set in the Indra Sawhney case, while observing that “when more people aspire for backwardness instead of forwardness, the country itself stagnates which situation is not in accord with constitutional objectives”.
Need for a credible exercise
Against this backdrop, it can be said that the faith of our citizens cannot be restored until credible exercises of data collection are undertaken regarding caste. Even though data concerning the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been included in the Census, there is no similar data on OBCs. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) conducted in 2011 has been called “faulty” and “unreliable”. Even the Mandal Commission’s recommendations were criticised as being based merely on the “personal knowledge” of the members of the commission and sample surveys. In the Indra Sawhney case, the Supreme Court held that the States must conclude the “backwardness” of a particular class of people only after proper assessment and objective evaluation. It held that such a conclusion must be subject to periodic review by a permanent body of experts. The National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993, provides under Section 11 that the Central government may every 10 years revise lists with a view to exclude those classes which have ceased to be backward and include new backward classes. This exercise has not been done to date. Last year, many calls were made for the inclusion of caste data (including that of the OBCs) in the 2021 Census, and the matter reached the Supreme Court. However, the government took the stand that the 2011 SECC was “flawed” and is “not usable”. Since the Census could not be undertaken in 2021 due to the pandemic, it is set to take place in 2022.
Caste data will enable independent research not only into the question of who does and does not need affirmative action but also into the effectiveness of this measure. As long as reservation results from violent agitations and political pressures, attempts at any affirmative action will always be under the shadow of caste and class politics. Impartial data and subsequent research might save the bona fide attempts of the uplift of the most backward classes from the shadow of caste and class politics and be informative to people on both sides of the spectrum – for and against reservation. It is not reservation that creates the current divide in our society but the misuse or the perceived misuse of reservation.
3. India to make digital maps of all villages
Updated guidelines to make it easier for surveys to be undertaken using drones, says Minister
India plans to prepare digital maps of all its 6,00,000 villages and pan-India 3D maps will be prepared for 100 cities, Union Minister of State for Scienc and Technology Jitendra Singh said on Tuesday at an event to mark a year of the updated geospatial policy guidelines.
An ongoing scheme, piloted by the Panchayati Raj Ministry, called SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2020.
The updated guidelines help private companies prepare a variety of maps without needing approvals from a host of Ministries and make it easier to use drones and develop applications via location mapping. The “trinity of geospatial systems, drone policy and unlocked space sector will be the hallmark of India’s future economic progress”, Dr. Singh said in a statement. The complete geospatial policy would be announced soon as the liberalisation of guidelines had yielded very positive outcomes within a year’s time, he said. The geographical information based system mapping would also be useful in forest management, disaster management, electrical utilities, land records, water distribution, and property taxation.
Dr. Singh estimated the size of the Indian geospatial market in 2020 to be ₹23,345 crore, including ₹10,595 crore of export which was likely to grow to ₹36,300 crore by 2025.
When the scheme was launched, Mr. Modi had said that it would help establish “clear ownership” of property in rural areas by mapping of land parcels using drone technology and providing a “record of rights” to eligible households by issuing legal ownership cards to them.
So far, drone surveys have covered close to 1,00,000 villages and maps of 77,527 villages had been handed over to States. Property cards have been distributed to around 27,000 villages, according to current information on the SVAMITVA portal.
SVAMITVA, a Central Sector Scheme of Ministry of Panchayati Raj was nation-wide launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on National Panchayati Raj Day, 24th April 2021 after successful completion of pilot phase of scheme (2020-2021) in 9 states. Scheme is a reformative step towards establishment of clear ownership of property in rural inhabited (Abadi) areas, by mapping of land parcels using drone technology and providing ‘Record of Rights’ to village household owners with issuance of legal ownership cards (Property cards/Title deeds) to the property owners. The Scheme is implemented with the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Revenue Department, State Panchayati Raj Department and Survey of India. The scheme covers multifarious aspects viz. facilitating monetisation of properties and enabling bank loan; reducing property related disputes; comprehensive village level planning, would be the stepping-stone towards achieving Gram Swaraj in true sense and making rural India Atmanirbhar.
The scheme seeks to achieve the following objectives: –
- Creation of accurate land records for rural planning and reduce property related disputes.
- To bring financial stability to the citizens in rural India by enabling them to use their property as a financial asset for taking loans and other financial benefits.
- Determination of property tax, which would accrue to the GPs directly in States where it is devolved or else, add to the State exchequer.
- Creation of survey infrastructure and GIS maps that can be leveraged by any department for their use.
- To support in preparation of better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) by making use of GIS maps
4. Where is the Ukraine crisis headed to?
Amid fears of war, West says Ukraine’s entry into NATO is not on agenda; Moscow signals more talks
In a televised address on Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had declared Wednesday (February 16), which U.S. officials had said could be the date of a Russian attack, as a day of “national unity”.
But he has also said the earlier predictions by western intelligence agencies of a possible attack had proven wrong. PBS Newshour, the American TV programme, reported late last week, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, that Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, had decided to launch an invasion and sent the orders.
But top officials of the Biden administration say, in on-the-record interactions, they don’t believe Mr. Putin has taken that call. They warn, however, that Russia has mobilised enough troops to launch an invasion “any day”. And then came Russia’s announcement, on Tuesday, that it’s pulling back some troops from the Ukraine border but will continue large military exercises. There are conflicting signals, and in fact, nobody is certain whether Mr. Putin will attack Ukraine and if so, when. This unpredictability appears to be at the core of Mr. Putin’s Ukraine strategy.
Russia has maintained that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. When he met the visiting French President, Emmanuel Macron, in Moscow last week, Mr. Putin told him Russia would not escalate. But at the same time, Russia has mobilised about 130,000 troops on the three sides of Ukraine. This includes 105 battalion tactical groups (each group having some 700-800 soldiers capable of fast manoeuvering in open terrain), 500 combat aircraft and some 40 warships in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. As part of the military drills with Belarus, Russia has also deployed S400 missile defence systems and Iskander surface-to-surface missiles. So with missiles, fighter jets, warships and tens of thousands of combat troops, Russia aims to ensure total domination in the land, in the air and in the sea in the event of a war.
When Russia says it won’t escalate or launch an invasion, what it actually means is that it won’t take escalatory steps without “a provocation”. The West had warned that there could be a “false flag operation” in the rebel-controlled Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which Russia could use as an excuse for an attack.
And invasion could trigger severe sanctions from the West. Even if the Russian economy is better-positioned today to offset the impacts of the sanctions, a full-scale invasion comes with other risks. Russia could overrun Ukraine within weeks and install a friendly regime in Kiev, but managing the post-invasion status quo in Europe’s largest country where the public opinion on Russia is almost evenly split would not be easy.
Last time when Moscow made a large military intervention — in Afghanistan in 1979 — it didn’t end well. So, is Mr. Putin ready to take such a risk on Ukraine? Or would he take a less risky route of providing more arms to the rebels in Donbas to push the frontlines of a civil war that has been frozen since 2015?
Troops and talks
Escalation is not the only way forward. On Monday, at the same time Russia was building its military pressure around Ukraine, in a choreographed meeting that was telecast on the state TV, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told President Putin that the diplomatic possibilities are “far from exhausted”. He proposed continuing talks with the West and Mr. Putin was seen endorsing Mr. Lavrov. The meeting was telecast at a time when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in Ukraine.
Germany, Europe’s largest economy and the destination of two Russian gas pipelines, is an important country for Moscow. Berlin, which has warned of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, has also been sensitive towards Russia’s security concerns — it refused to send weapons to Ukraine and barred other NATO members from sending German-made weapons. On Monday, Mr. Scholz said in Kiev that Ukraine’s entry into NATO “was not on the agenda right now”. He met Mr. Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.
Ukraine has also shown signs of a compromise. Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Britain, told a BBC interview that Kiev was considering giving up its bid for NATO membership to avert war. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry later said Prystaiko’s comments were taken out of context. But President Zelensky did not dismiss Mr. Prystaiko’s comments. The prospect of Ukraine joining NATO could be “like a dream”, said Mr. Zelensky.
President Joe Biden has already told Mr. Putin that the U.S. has no plans to deploy offensive missile systems in Ukraine. He has also offered signing an agreement with Russia on ruling out deploying such missiles and stationing permanent combat troops on reciprocal terms. But those offers did not lead to a breakthrough as Russia wants guarantees that Ukraine would never be taken into NATO. Now both western and Ukrainian leaders are hinting that Ukraine joining the alliance is a distinct possibility.
What’s to be seen is if this is enough to convince the Kremlin to opt for a ramp-off?