Daily Current Affairs 30.07.2022 (Core sector output expands by 12.7%, Jaishankar pushes for Chabahar port, Manas reserve has 2.4 tigresses for every tiger, We need to protect whistle blowers, Overcoming the Aryan-Dravidian divide, One-man rule)

Daily Current Affairs 30.07.2022 (Core sector output expands by 12.7%, Jaishankar pushes for Chabahar port, Manas reserve has 2.4 tigresses for every tiger, We need to protect whistle blowers, Overcoming the Aryan-Dravidian divide, One-man rule)


1. Core sector output expands by 12.7%

Crude oil output dropped 1.7% from a year earlier

India’s eight core sectors’ output growth moderated to 12.7% in June, from 18.1% in May, with all sectors except crude oil registering an uptick in production.

Coal, cement, electricity and refinery products rose 15% or more, compared with the June 2021 output levels, while natural gas (1.2%), steel (3.3%) and fertilizers (8.2%) grew at a milder pace. Crude oil output dropped 1.7% from a year earlier, returning to contractionary territory after recording the first uptick in several months this May.

The Commerce and Industry Ministry also revised the index of eight core industries for March and May. Core sectors’ growth in March was pared to 4.8% from 4.9% estimated earlier, while for May, it was revised higher at 19.3% from the previous estimate of 18.1%.

While June marks the second successive month of double-digit growth in core sectors, which constitute about 40% of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), the overall core output shrank 4.08% compared with the previous month. Cement and fertilizers were the only sectors to record a sequential month-on-month growth in output in June of 6.9% and 0.32%, respectively.

Compared to pre-COVID levels, the core sectors reported an 8% growth in June with a healthy performance in all the sectors, except steel and crude oil, said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at rating agency ICRA.

The disaggregated trends are exceedingly mixed, she said, ranging from a contraction in crude oil to a robust expansion of 31% in coal.

The broad-based moderation in the growth rate to 12.7% from 19.3% in May, Ms. Nayar attributed to the ‘normalising base’ effects from 2021 amid the second COVID-19 wave.

“In line with the moderation in the year-on-year performance recorded by most high frequency indicators as well as the core sector in June 2022, we expect the IIP growth to ease to about 11% to 13%,” Ms. Nayar averred. The IIP had grown 19.6% in May.

Rajani Sinha, chief economist at CARE Ratings, said the low base from last year helped prop up the growth rate in June, but added she expects further momentum in coming months for the core sectors with a pick-up in investment demand.

Core Sectors of the Indian Economy

The eight-core sectors of the Indian economy are:

  1. Electricity
  2. Steel
  3. Refinery products
  4. Crude oil
  5. Coal
  6. Cement
  7. Natural gas
  8. Fertilizers

These industries have a major impact on general economic activities and also industrial activities. They significantly impact most other industries as well. The core sector represents the capital base of the economy.

These eight industries have a combined share of above 40% in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).

The IIP gives the growth rates of different industry groups of the economy over a specified period.

Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI)

The ICI is a production volume index prepared and released by the Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA), Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, GOI.

  • It is released 12 days before the IIP is released.
  • The objective of the Index of Eight Core Industries is to give an advance indication on the production performance of the industries which are of ‘core’ nature before the release of the IIP.
  • The ICI measures the individual and collective performances of the production in these eight core industries.
  • The ICI is used by policymakers including the Ministry of Finance, other Ministries, and Departments.
  • It is also used by banks for financing infrastructure projects and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • To calculate the ICI, the components covered under the eight core sectors are mentioned in the table below:
  • Coal – Coal Production excluding Coking coal.
  • Electricity – Actual Electricity Generation of Thermal, Nuclear, Hydro, imports from Bhutan.
  • Crude Oil – Total Crude Oil Production.
  • Cement – Production of Large Plants and Mini Plants.
  • Natural Gas – Total Natural Gas Production.
  • Steel – Production of Alloy and Non-Alloy Steel only.
  • Refinery Products – Total Refinery Production (in terms of Crude Throughput).
  • Fertilizer – Urea, Ammonium Sulphate (A/S), Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN), Ammonium chloride (A/C), Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), Complex Grade Fertilizer and Single superphosphate (SSP).
  • The ICI is released every month. The index is calculated by using the Laspeyres formula of the weighted arithmetic mean of quantity relatives.

2. Jaishankar pushes for Chabahar port

No talks announced at SCO meet in Tashkent with Chinese, Pakistan and Taliban Foreign Ministers

India welcomed the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to include Iran next year, as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar shared a table with Foreign Ministers of China Wang Yi, Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto, Russia Sergey Lavrov and central Asian countries at the ministerial meeting in Tashkent on Friday.

While India pushed for Chabahar port to be a conduit for trade to central Asia, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister promoted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for trans-regional trade, including in a meeting with Taliban-appointed Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Mr. Jaishankar held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but no meetings with Mr. Bhutto, Mr. Wang or Mr. Muttaqi, who was also in Tashkent for a special SCO reach out, were announced. Although the MEA release made no mention of it, the Russian embassy in Delhi tweeted that Mr. Jaishankar also held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Lavrov while in Tashkent, where it said they discussed bilateral ties.

Help to Afghanistan

Mr. Jaishankar highlighted India’s assistance to Afghanistan at the meeting. “Reiterated India’s position on Afghanistan and highlighted our humanitarian support: wheat, medicines, vaccines and clothing,” Mr. Jaishankar said after the meetings, adding that he had underlined the potential for Iran’s Chabahar for the “SCO’s economic future”.

The External Affairs Minister said he had also raised the problems of the energy crisis and food crisis arising from the “Ukraine conflict”, making no mention of Russia’s role in the conflict, as well as from the COVID pandemic.

“[The] response required includes resilient and diversified supply chains as well as reformed multilateralism,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that “zero tolerance” for terrorism was a must.

The External Affairs Minister also called on Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev along with the other Ministers, where he was seated next to Mr. Bhutto at the round table.

He said India, which would take over the SCO Presidency next year, would “give the fullest support for the success of the Samarkand Summit”, indicating Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend the summit on September 15-16. If all the SCO leaders attend the summit in person, it will be the first time Mr. Modi will come face to face with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Meeting SCO Secretary General, senior Chinese diplomat Zhang Ming, Mr. Jaishankar said India’s Presidency next year would give SCO cooperation a “renewed thrust”.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

  • About:
    • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organization.
    • It’s a Eurasian political, economic and military organization aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
    • It was created in 2001.
    • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002, and entered into force in 2003.
  • Genesis:
    • Prior to the creation of SCO in 2001, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
    • Shanghai Five (1996) emerged from a series of border demarcation and demilitarization talks which the four former Soviet republics held with China to ensure stability along the borders.
    • Following the accession of Uzbekistan to the organization in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
    • India and Pakistan became members in 2017.
    • On 17th September, 2021, it was announced that Iran would become a full member of the SCO.
  • Objectives:
    • Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states.
    • Promoting effective cooperation in -politics, trade & economy, research & technology and culture.
    • Enhancing ties in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, etc.
    • Maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
    • Establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political & economic order.
  • Membership:
    • Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan and Iran.
  • Structure:
    • Heads of State Council – The supreme SCO body which decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations, and considers international issues.
    • Heads of Government Council – Approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related to economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
    • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
    • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – Established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism.
  • SCO Secretariat – Based in Beijing to provide informational, analytical & organizational support.
  • Official language:
    • The official working language of the SCO Secretariat is Russian and Chinese.

3. Manas reserve has 2.4 tigresses for every tiger

Annual monitoring results released

The Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam has 2.4 tigresses for every tiger, the annual wildlife monitoring results of the trans-boundary wildlife preserve has revealed.

According to the latest camera trapping assessment stipulated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the 2,837.31 sq. km reserve with a critical tiger habitat area of 536.22 sq. km has 52 adult tigers along with eight cubs.

This is an increase of eight adults and four cubs over 2021, the results released by Pramod Boro, the Chief Executive Member of the Bodoland Territorial Region on Global Tiger Day showed.

The assessment said 29 tigers were “repeated” from 2021 while 23 new tigers were reported. The gender of 27 tigers could be properly ascertained – eight of them males and 19 females, giving a sex ratio of 1:2.4, which is “positively skewed towards females from the ecological point of view”, a statement from NTCA said.

The Manas Tiger Reserve authorities had set up 381 camera trap stations with support from conservation partners World Wide Fund for Nature-India, Wildlife Trust of India and Aaranyak.

Mr. Boro also released the results of the population estimate of all other major species found in the reserve, claimed to have been done for the first time in a holistic manner by the tiger reserve’s frontline staff through distance sampling.

Forest guards and foresters deployed in different anti-poaching camps in Manas collected data on line transects from the backs of elephants using an Android-based digital platform.

The information collected was analysed at the Field Directorate of Manas and validated by the NTCA’s Tiger Cell in Dehradun’s Wildlife Institute of India, officials said. The Manas Tiger Reserve is contiguous with the 1,000 sq. km Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body
  • It comes under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.
  • NTCA has been fulfilling its mandate within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country by retaining an oversight through advisories/normative guidelines, based on appraisal of tiger status, ongoing conservation initiatives and recommendations of specially constituted Committees.
  • The ‘Project Tiger’ is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, providing funding support to tiger range States for in-situ conservation of tigers in designated tiger reserves, and has put the endangered tiger on an assured path of recovery by saving it from extinction, as revealed by the recent findings of the All India tiger estimation using the refined methodology.

The objectives of NTCA are:

  • §  Providing statutory authority to Project Tiger so that compliance of its directives become legal.
  • Fostering accountability of Center-State in management of Tiger Reserves, by providing a basis for MoU with States within our federal structure.
  • Providing for an oversight by Parliament.
  • Addressing livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.

Powers and functions

Powers and functions of the National Tiger Conservation Authority as prescribed under section 38O (1) and (2) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006 are as under:-

  • to approve the tiger conservation plan prepared by the State Government under section 38 O (1) (a) of this Act
  • evaluate and assess various aspects of sustainable ecology and disallow any ecologically unsustainable land use such as, mining, industry and other projects within the tiger reserves
  • lay down normative standards for tourism activities and guidelines for project tiger from time to time for tiger conservation in the buffer and core area of tiger reserves and ensure their due compliance
  • provide for management focus and measures for addressing conflicts of men and wild animal and to emphasize on co-existence in forest areas outside the National Parks, sanctuaries or tiger reserve, in the working plan code
  • provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, estimation of population of tiger and its natural prey species, status of habitats, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, reports on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit including future plan conservation
  • approve, co-ordinate research and monitoring on tiger, co-predators, prey habitat, related ecological and socio-economic parameters and their evaluation
  • ensure that the tiger reserves and areas linking one protected area or tiger reserve with another protected area or tiger reserve are not diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses, except in public interest and with the approval of the National Board for Wild Life and on the advice of the Tiger Conservation Authority
  • facilitate and support the tiger reserve management in the State for biodiversity conservation initiatives through eco-development and people\’s participation as per approved management plans and to support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and State laws
  • ensure critical support including scientific, information technology and legal support for better implementation of the tiger conservation plan
  • facilitate ongoing capacity building programme for skill development of officers and staff of tiger reserves, and
  • perform such other functions as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act with regard to conservation of tigers and their habitat.
  • The Tiger Conservation Authority may, in the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions under this Chapter, issue directions in writing to any person, officer or authority for the protection of tiger or tiger reserves and such person, officer or authority shall be bound to comply with the directions.

NTCA members

  • The Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2006 provides for the constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • NTCA was set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests.
  • The Authority will have
  • eight experts having qualifications in wildlife conservation and welfare tribals,
  • 3 MPs,
  • The Inspector-General of Forests, in charge of project Tiger, will be ex-officio Member Secretary
  • Others

Current Activities:

Providing central assistance to States under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger for tiger reserves, for activities (recurring / non-recurring), as reflected in the Annual Plan of Operations of tiger reserves, based on their Tiger Conservation Plans is an important activity. This, interalia, includes protection, habitat amelioration, day to day monitoring, eco-development for local people in buffer areas, voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitats, and addressing human-wildlife conflicts, within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and guidelines of Project Tiger / National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The NTCA / Project Tiger also conducts the country level assessment of the status of tiger, co-predators, prey and habitat once in four years, using the refined methodology, as approved by the Tiger Task Force.

Tiger Protection & Anti-poaching operations

The illegal demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger outside the country continues to be a serious threat to wild tigers. Therefore, protection is accorded topmost priority in Project Tiger / NTCA. The States are engaged in an ongoing manner through the NTCA Headquarters as well as its Regional Offices, while issuing alerts, besides closely working with the CBI, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Police Departments. The following actions are taken in this context:

  • Alerting the States as and when required
  • Transmitting backward / forward linkages of information relating to poachers
  • Advising the States for combing forest floor to check snares / traps
  • Performing supervisory field visits through the National Tiger Conservation Authority and its regional offices
  • Providing assistance to States for antipoaching operations
  • Using information technology for improved surveillance (e-Eye system) using thermal cameras launched in Corbett
  • Launching tiger reserve level monitoring using camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers
  • Preparing a national database of individual tiger photo captures to establish linkage with body parts seized or dead tigers
  • Assisting States to refine protection oriented monitoring through monitoring system for tiger”s intensive protection and ecological status (M-STrIPES)
  • Providing grant through NTCA for patrolling in tiger rich sensitive forest areas outside tiger reserves
  • Assisting States to deploy local workforce in a big way for protection to complement the efforts of field staff [In all, approximately 24 lakh mandays are generated annually with 50% central assistance amounting to around Rs. 24 crores (excluding matching 50% share given by States) under Project Tiger. In case of Northern- eastern States the share is 90:10 i.e. 90% central assistance and 10% matching share given by states. Many local tribes constitute such local workforce (besides non-tribals), eg. Baigas, Gonds in Madhya Pradesh, Gonds in Maharashtra, Chenchus in Andhra Pradesh, Sholigas in Karnataka, Gujjars in Uttarakhand and Irulas in Tamil Nadu to name a few. The deployment of such local tribals has been fostered / encouraged in the last two years].
  • Supporting States for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force

Why is the National Tiger Conservation Authority required?

The body parts of tigers fetch a huge price in the illegal market, this in itself is a huge threat to the tiger population in India. To ensure the survival of Indian tigers, a body like the National Tiger Conservation Authority is required. Keeping tiger protection as a topmost priority, the NTCA cooperates with other bodies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Police departments by issuing alerts for any illegal poaching activities.

To prevent such activities it carries out the following tasks:

  1. Alerting the States as and when required by transmitting information related to poachers
  2. Advising the States for combing forest floor to check for snares/traps
  3. Providing assistance to States for anti-poaching operations
  4. Using information technology for improved surveillance using thermal cameras set up in Jim Corbett National Park.
  5. Launching tiger reserve level monitoring using a camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers.

International Cooperation

  • India has a bilateral understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife
  • India has signed a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
  • India has signed a with Bangladesh for conservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
  • A sub-group on tiger/leopard conservation has been constituted for cooperation with the Russian Federation.
  • Global Tiger Forum of Tiger Range Countries has been created for addressing international issues related to tiger conservation.
  • India is a party to CITES. CITES’s landmark decision states that ‘tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives’.

4. Editorial-1: We need to protect whistle blowers

Ignoring the fact that Right to Information users are facing death for keeping democracy alive is a threat to democracy itself

“Words, words, words” was Hamlet’s reply to Polonius’ question, “What do you read, my lord?” That is what our Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, is being reduced to. The Centre for Law and Democracy classifies it among the top five laws in the world. The RTI empowers us to participate in the policymaking process, by providing access to information relating to the functioning of all public authorities. Ordinary citizens have used the law to make public authorities accountable and transparent in their functioning. In fact, the law has been used extensively by a cross section of citizens including activists, lawyers, bureaucrats, researchers, journalists and most importantly, ordinary folk. They all have been asking simple questions and pursuing answers on the use of public funds, and unearthing corruption of all kinds from the Panchayat level right up to Parliament. The widespread understanding and use of the RTI is a shining example of a participatory democracy in spite of our current realities.

The killing of activists

Unfortunately, the dangerous underside of the RTI is manifesting itself through violent reactions from entrenched interests and powerful lobbies. Since the implementation of the Act, some 100 RTI activists across the country have been killed and several are harassed on a daily basis. This is a reality of one of the strongest laws for democratic accountability that we must systematically address through strong legal and institutional safeguards.

Bihar is turning out to be one of the most dangerous States for RTI activists despite being one of the earliest promoters of the law. The State ranks first in the number of deaths of RTI users. As many as 20 RTI users have lost their lives since 2010 in different districts across Bihar. In 2018, six RTI users were killed for seeking information related to the functioning of public programmes and institutions. These brutal murders have not only raised an urgent question of the protection of people engaging with the system to seek accountability, but also of the state’s responsibility to provide legal assistance, time-bound grievance redressal, compensation, and dignified access to justice to the families of those killed.

Earlier this month, civil society organisations organised a public hearing in Patna where families of the ‘whistle blowers’ disclosed that the whistle blowers had been working on issues of public importance and interest, exposing irregularities and corruption, pursuing transparency in the functioning of the Public Distribution System, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Anganwadi centers, housing schemes, illegally operating health clinics and so on. They had been requesting information that should have been mandatorily disclosed to the public under Section 4 of the RTI Act. Family members at the hearing also questioned the abdication of responsibility by the State government in assisting them to get justice in each case. After all, the whistle blowers were performing a basic civic duty of public vigilance that the government should encourage and initiate timely action on. The killing of RTI users and the intimidation of their family as they struggle for justice, in Bihar and other parts of the country, are reflective of the lack of action by the government and collusion of the police with powerful vested interests to deny, if not subvert, justice.

A new framework

We are living in a time where the government denies the existence of casualties emanating from its acts of omission and commission. This has prompted civil society to maintain lists of persons who lost their lives on account of demonetisation, COVID-19 and now RTI, so that the lives of the people, particularly the poor, are not remembered merely as numbers. We need to move beyond maintaining a count. We need to advocate for and move towards creating a socio-legal system that recognises RTI users under attack as human right defenders and build a framework that facilitates and protects them in their attempt to pursue issues of public interest. Otherwise, words in the RTI legislation will ring hollow.

There can be multiple components to such a framework, and it is time State governments take the lead without waiting for the Central government to set an example. First, State governments must direct law-enforcement agencies to expeditiously and in a time-bound manner complete investigations in all cases where RTI users are harassed. This must include making proactive efforts to provide adequate compensation to the victim’s family.

Second, available evidence clearly shows that the information requested by the murdered RTI users was information that should have been mandatorily disclosed in the public domain under Section 4 of the RTI Act. Therefore, the State governments must take immediate efforts to institutionalise proactive disclosure of actionable information. Is this possible? Rajasthan has taken the lead in active disclosure. Its Jan Soochna portal subsequently followed by Karnataka’s Mahiti Kanaja are outstanding examples of practical ways of mandatory disclosure.

Third, in all cases of threats, attacks or killings of RTI users, the State Information Commission must immediately direct the relevant public authorities to disclose and publicise all the questions raised and the answers given to the user. Giving wide publicity to such information may potentially act as a deterrent against attacks on RTI users, as perpetrators get the message that rather than covering up the matter, any attack would invite even greater public scrutiny.

Effective legislation

Last, there is an urgent need to enact an effective legislation to protect whistle blowers. In 2016, a Supreme Court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice A.K. Sikri came down heavily on the Union government for its reluctance in notify the Whistle Blowers Protection Act of 2014, but unfortunately to no avail. The Supreme Court observed that there was an “absolute vacuum” which could not be allowed to go on. The Central government was called upon to decide on a specific time frame to establish an administrative set-up to protect whistle blowers. The court recognised that the concept of a whistle blower is a global phenomenon and has become a reality. It cannot be wished away. Words, words, words that have no effect on the Central government. Eight years have gone by and the proposed Act has not been notified.

Given this reality, State governments, such as those of Bihar and Maharashtra, which have recorded the highest number of murders of RTI activists, must introduce their own mechanisms for protecting whistle blowers by enacting at least a State-level whistle blower protection law. Ignoring the plight of RTI users facing death for keeping our democracy alive is a threat to democracy itself.

5. Editorial-2: Overcoming the Aryan-Dravidian divide

Many eminent scholars, both local and international, have written about the Dravidian movement’s colonial origins

The Governor of Tamil Nadu has been criticised by some for expressing his views on the Aryan-Dravidian divide. Some have gone to the extent of calling this political interference. This is unfair. Expressing one’s views on a sensitive issue cannot be construed as political interference.

What the Governor has done through his comment, however, is disturb the popular view that former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai’s forsaking of the demand for a separate Dravidian state was only a practical compromise, and that Aryans and Dravidians continue to remain racially different people. The eminent historian, P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar, never subscribed to this view, even though he maintained that cultural differences existed between the Vedic and non-Vedic people. In Pre-Aryan Tamil Culture, he wrote, “A careful study of the Vedas… reveals the fact that Vedic culture is so redolent of the Indian soil and of the Indian atmosphere that the idea of the non-Indian origin of that culture is absurd.”

The Governor called the Aryan-Dravidian divide a handiwork of the British, which has been criticised as toeing the Hindutva line on the issue. This criticism is also unfair because many eminent scholars, both local and international, have written about the Dravidian movement’s colonial origins. The linguistic theory, unscientific histories of racial origins, the politics of the non-Brahmin movement and the modern rationalism of the self-respect movement all have deep roots in colonial thought.

Caldwell’s philology

One of the key early proponents of the idea of Dravidian language family as a scientific entity was Robert Caldwell, in 1856. Many may not know that 40 years before Caldwell, Francis Whyte Ellis, the Collector of Madras, had already laid the foundation for Caldwell’s theories through his writings. The American historian Thomas Trautmann writes, “Ellis’s Dravidian proof is a dissertation… [in which] we see more clearly the relation between the languages-and-nations project and the properly Orientalist scholarship of the British in India.” This “languages-and-nations project”, or tendency to link languages to nations, is, according to Trautmann, “not a matter of pure science freeing itself from the shackles of religion, as it has often been represented…[but] its deep roots are in the Bible, in the genealogy of the nations that descended from Noah and his three sons.” Even more problematic is the languages-and-race project. Trautmann says about this, “European view of race as a fundamental force of history had a deep effect on the interpretation of Indian history, and what I have called the racial theory of Indian civilization… how much text torturing is necessary to sustain the idea of the encounter of Indo-European and Dravidian languages in India as racial in character, and how false is its racially essentializing identification of civilization with whiteness and savagery with dark complexion.”

How far politics has overtaken science and history is clear from the fact the one can hardly find mainstream criticism of Caldwell’s philology today. Just a decade after Caldwell’s work was published, Charles E. Grover of the Royal Asiatic Society wrote in his famous work on Tamil folk songs, “[about] the true character of the language and linguistic progress made since the publication of Dr. Caldwell’s book, it may be noted that the learned Doctor gives an appendix containing a considerable number of Dravidian words which he asserts to be Scythian… It is now known that every word in this list is distinctly Aryan.”

Colonial masters

It was works of missionaries like Caldwell and G.U. Pope that British authorities exploited for political needs. As Director of The Hindu Publishing Group, N. Ram notes in a paper in the Economic and Political Weekly in 1979, influenced by these works, “the brutally repressive Governor”, Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff, looked at the non-Brahmins during his 1868 address to the graduates of the University of Madras and said, “you are of pure Dravidian race” and “I should like to see the pre-Sanskrit element amongst you asserting itself more”.

The eminent Cambridge historian, David Washbrook, identified the roots of Dravidian or non-Brahmin politics not in historic fault lines that were supposedly plaguing Tamil society but in “the novel types of government and politics which developed under the British in the early years of the present century.” According to Washbrook, it was the centralisation of bureaucracy in late 19th century Madras that led to fear among British civilians of “caste cliques” which could now control not only the districts but the entire province. So, the policy had to be ‘divide and rule’. That important leaders of the non-Brahmin movement were influenced either by colonial inheritance or narrow interests is best illustrated by Rajmohan Gandhi’s description of one of its founders, T.M. Nair, “entering politics as a congressman…holding brahmins responsible for an electoral reverse… he left the congress and became one of SILF’s founders… always found in western attire, a practice yet to spread among south Indian men. In a series of articles…he argued that British authority had kept India united” and “tried to convince Montagu that the Home Rule league was financed by German money.”

To the modern paradigm

Scholars like Ashis Nandy have for long highlighted the importance of unclear and overlapping identities in pre-modern India as sources of tolerance. Washbrook gave concrete examples and concluded as follows: “In his manual on Coimbatore district… F. A. Nicholson freely admitted his inability to separate ‘true’ Gounder Vellalas from the hosts of rich peasants who had adopted or were adopting Gounder ceremonies, dress and customs. In the census of 1891, Sir Harold Stuart noted the ability of the Nairs of Malabar to absorb immigrants… in a single generation without apparent friction… Similarly, Thurston recorded a famous Tamil proverb which describes the regular generational flow between the Maravar, Aghumudayar and Vellala castes. In more recent work, S. A. Barnett has suggested the diverse origins of those presently filling the category of Thondamandala Vellala… In these conditions, in which sub-regional varnas were so amorphous, the politics of caste confrontation were rare and circumscribed.” In fact, in his famous Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Edgar Thurston said, “admissions to the Paraiyan caste from higher castes sometimes occur.”

With modern rationalism came the need to enumerate and categorise. And with Western-style nationalism came the need to identify enemies. When one of the movement’s great literary figures wrote in praise of Tamil, he also had to include a death wish for the “Aryan language”. Many neutral observers have noticed parallels between Dravidian politics and other chauvinistic ideologies. Yet one does not see the same criticism of its ideology in mainstream intellectual circles as is normally reserved for other nationalist ideologies.

6. Editorial-3: One-man rule

Tunisia is slipping into constitutional authoritarianism under Kais Saied

With over 94% voters backing a new Constitution that would see the return of a strong presidency, Tunisia’s brief experiment with post-revolutionary parliamentary democracy has come to an end. President Kais Saied, who sacked the elected government of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended Parliament last year (which he later dissolved), has been pushing for constitutional changes that would institutionalise his one-man rule. Over the past year, Mr. Saied has ruled the country through decrees, awarding himself more powers. He has fired many judges, seized independent institutions such as the election commission and sidelined political parties, including the Ennahda, the Islamist party which had the most number of elected representatives in the dissolved Parliament. With the new Constitution, which awards him ultimate authority to form governments, name Ministers, appoint judges and even present laws, Mr. Saied is set to rule Tunisia with unchecked powers. Tunisia was the shining example for a peaceful transition to democracy from dictatorship after the Arab Spring protests rocked many countries in West Asia and North Africa. While the rest witnessed foreign interventions, counter-revolutions or widespread chaos, Tunisia got a new Constitution and multiparty governments. But Mr. Saied, who also claims to represent the spirit of the 2011 revolution, has effectively taken the North African country back to absolute presidency, which could slip into constitutional authoritarianism.

When Mr. Saied, a former law professor with no political experience, was elected President in 2019, not many had expected him to rewrite the country’s destiny in such a short span of time. When Tunisia fell into political instability amid a worsening economic and COVID-triggered healthcare crisis, Mr. Saied found an opportunity to expand his authority. He blamed the country’s parliamentary system and the infighting among the political class for the problems Tunisia faced. His move to suspend parliamentary democracy was relatively popular at that time. But Tunisia has seen little progress under Mr. Saied’s direct rule. His popularity has fallen from 82% last summer to 59% in April this year. The country’s economy grew 2.9% in 2021, after a 9.2% contraction in the previous year. Unemployment is 16% and inflation, 8.1%. Faced with a growing fiscal deficit and a current account shortfall, the government is negotiating with the IMF for a $4 billion loan. But any cost-cutting measures that would come with the loan would be met with strong opposition by the country’s powerful unions. The growing public discontent was visible in the referendum. Despite the regime’s high-decibel propaganda, only 30% registered voters turned up at polling stations as most political parties had called for a boycott. Mr. Saied may have clinched a victory with the ‘yes’ vote, but with mounting economic ills, an alienated opposition and growing discontent among the public, he will find it difficult to steer Tunisia, still in its revolutionary fervour, through the storm. If he fails, he will have nobody to blame but himself.

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