1. ‘Northeast citizens faced racial discrimination amid pandemic’
Region seamlessly fits Indians’ imagination of a Chinese person: study
A study commissioned by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) on racial discrimination and hate crimes against people from the northeastern States found that the “northeast India seamlessly fits [an] Indian’s imagination of a Chinese person”.
The study found that 78% of the people from the region who were interviewed believed that physical appearance was the most important reason for prejudice.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak last year, people from the region “faced an increased number of acts of hate and prejudices against them”. A series of attacks were reported in various parts of the country, where people from the region were “harassed, abused, and traumatised” and were disparagingly called “coronavirus”, the study said.
The Hindu accessed the findings of the unpublished report. The Centre for Criminology and Victimology at the National Law University (NLU), Delhi, conducted the study under the aegis of the ICSSR, Delhi, on the prevalence of hate crimes against the people of the region in six metropolitan cities — Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Around 1,200 people, mostly women from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, were interviewed for the research. The study’s associate is Garima Paul of the NLU.
G.S. Bajpai, chairperson of the Centre, said the majority of those interviewed faced discrimination when it came to renting accommodation, visiting a restaurant and even while finding transportation.
“The study revealed that the hate crime and racial discrimination against people from the northeast is deep-rooted even in the cosmopolitan cities. Even in restaurants they faced issues forcing them to eat mostly in eateries run by people from their communities,” Professor Bajpai said.
The study quoted a 2020 report from the Right and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) that found a significant upsurge in acts of racial discrimination against people from the region. It mentioned 22 reported cases of racial discrimination or hate crimes between February and March 25, 2020.
“The risk of being victimised in racial hatred remains subtle yet deeply entrenched. The highest number of incidents was reported from Mumbai (44.7%). Interestingly, 78% of the northeast people believed that physical appearance was the most important reason for prejudice. It appears as if the northeast India seamlessly fits Indian’s imagination of a Chinese person,” the report said.
Offensive and abusive language were reported to be most common across all the six cities. Mumbai recorded the highest offensive and abusive language-related crime (74%), followed by Chennai (72%), Pune (67.3%), Delhi (64%), Hyderabad (48.7%) and Bengaluru (43.3%). More than 60% of those interviewed said their studies and work were seriously hampered by such experiences.
“The most pervasive reasons behind hate crime incidents against the northeastern people as per our data analysis were public attitude and insensitivity (44.5%). The incidence of non-reporting of the incidents was 32.3%. As many as 34% of persons faced a common issue of refusal to file FIR by the police. The fear of hate crime was experienced to be particularly high in Chennai (74%),” the study said.
It said the M.P. Bezbaruah Committee in 2014 recommended amendments to the IPC by creating new offences under Section 153C and 509A to to deal with comments, gestures and acts intended to insult a member of a particular racial group. “It also suggested to make such offences as ‘gender-neutral’, ‘cognizable’ and ‘non-bailable’ with imprisonment extendable up to three years or five years with fine, respectively. The Supreme Court in Karma Dorji & Others vs Union of India & Others (2014) made several recommendations for the prevention and monitoring of racial hatred and violence. Though, not much seems to have been done,” said the study.
2. Iran blames Israel for nuclear plant outage, pledges revenge
Tehran says Israel aims to foil nuclear deal talks; possible minor explosion: official
Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a sabotage attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges and vowed it would take “revenge”.
Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack. It rarely does for operations carried out by its secret military units or its Mossad intelligence agency. However, Israeli media widely reported that the country had orchestrated a devastating cyberattack that caused a blackout at the nuclear facility.
While the extent of the damage at Natanz remains unclear, a former Iranian official said the assault set off a fire while a spokesman mentioned a “possible minor explosion”.
The attack also further strains relations between the U.S., which under President Joe Biden is now negotiating in Vienna to re-enter the nuclear accord, and Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop the deal at all costs.
“My policy as Prime Minister of Israel is clear: I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s terrorism.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, warned Natanz would be reconstructed with more advanced machines. That would allow Iran to more quickly enrich uranium, complicating the nuclear talks.
“The Zionists wanted to take revenge against the Iranian people for their success on the path of lifting sanctions,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Mr. Zairf as saying. “But we do not allow (it), and we will take revenge for this action against the Zionists.”
Officials launched an effort on Monday to provide emergency power to Natanz, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear programme. He said the sabotage had not stopped enrichment there, without elaborating.
International Atomic Energy Agency
- Widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace and Development” organization within the United Nations family, the IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear field.
- The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology.
- Headquarter: Vienna, Austria.
- The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
- In 2005, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for a safe and peaceful world.
- The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
- It is an independent international organization that reports annually to the United Nation General Assembly.
- When necessary, the IAEA also reports to the UN Security Council in regards to instances of members’ non-compliance with safeguards and security obligations.
Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to temporary measures to offset Iran’s decision to restrict access to inspectors.
- In December 2020, Iran’s Parliament passed the law demanding a suspension of some inspections if the USA failed to lift sanctions.
3. Chandra appointed Chief Election Commissioner
He is set to assume charge today
President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday appointed Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as the next Chief Election Commissioner. The incumbent CEC Sunil Arora’s tenure ended on Monday.
In a statement, the Law Ministry said: “The President has appointed Shri Sushil Chandra, the seniormost Election Commissioner, as the Chief Election Commissioner in the Election Commission of India.”
Mr. Chandra would assume charge from Tuesday. A notification to that effect was issued by the Legislative Department on Monday.
Mr. Chandra took office as an Election Commissioner on February 15, 2019, after retiring as the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes. A 1980 batch Indian Revenue Service officer, Mr. Chandra had worked in the areas of international taxation and investigation.
Election Commission of India
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
- Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
- The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
- Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc of the commission and the member.
|Articles related to Elections|
|324||Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.|
|325||No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.|
|326||Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.|
|327||Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.|
|328||Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.|
|329||Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.|
Composition Election commission of India:
The constitution provides for the following provisions in relation to the composition of the election commission:
- The election commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and a such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time fix.
- The appointment of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners shall be made by the president.
- When any other election commissioner is so appointed the chief election commissioner shall act as the chairman of the election commission.
- The president may also appoint after consultation with the election commission such regional commissioners as he may consider necessary to assist the election commission.
- The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners and the regional commissioners shall be such as the President may by rule determine.
CEC vs ECs:
Though the Chief Election Commissioner is the chairman of the election commission, however, his powers are equal to the other election commissioners. All the matters in the commission are decided by the majority amongst its members. The Chief Election Commissioner and the two other election commissioners receive equal salary, allowances and other benefits.
The Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners hold office for 6 years or till they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They can resign at any time by addressing their resignation to the president.
- They can resign anytime or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
- The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from his office in the same manner and on same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.
- Election Commission of India superintendents, direct and control the entire process of conducting elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.
- The most important function of the commission is to decide the election schedules for the conduct of periodic and timely elections, whether general or bye-elections.
- It prepares electoral roll, issues Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPIC).
- It decides on the location polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
- It grants recognition to political parties & allot election symbols to them along with settling disputes related to it.
- The Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
- It issues the Model Code of Conduct in election for political parties and candidates so that the no one indulges in unfair practice or there is no arbitrary abuse of powers by those in power.
- It sets limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same.
Importance of ECI for India
- The ECI has been successfully conducting national as well as state elections since 1952. In recent years, however, the Commission has started to play the more active role to ensure greater participation of people.
- The Commission had gone to the extent of disciplining the political parties with a threat of derecognizing if the parties failed in maintaining inner-party democracy.
- It upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution viz, equality, equity, impartiality, independence; and rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.
- It conducts elections with the highest standard of credibility, freeness, fairness, transparency, integrity, accountability, autonomy and professionalism.
- It ensures participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral process in an inclusive voter-centric and voter-friendly environment.
- It engages with political parties and all stakeholders in the interest of the electoral process.
- It creates awareness about the electoral process and electoral governance amongst stakeholders namely, voters, political parties, election functionaries, candidates and people at large; and to enhance and strengthen confidence and trust in the electoral system of this country.
- Over the years influence of money and criminal elements in politics has increased along with violence and electoral malpractices resulting in criminalization of politics. The ECI has been unable to arrest this deterioration.
- There has been rampant abuse of power by the state government who at times make large-scale transfers on the eve of elections and posts pliable officials in key positions, using official vehicles and buildings for electioneering, flouting the ECI’s model code of conduct.
- The ECI is not adequately equipped to regulate the political parties. The ECI has no power in enforcing inner-party democracy and regulation of party finances.
- In the recent years, an impression is gaining ground that the Election Commission is becoming less and less independent of the Executive which has impacted the image of the institution.
- One of the major institutional drawback is non- transparency in election of CEC and other two commissioners and is based on the choice of presiding government.
- There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes which corrodes general masses trust from the institution.
4. Editorial-1: Not on the same page at sea
L’affaire Lakshadweep shows not a betrayal by the U.S. but a different understanding of navigational freedom
India’s strategic community was agitated last week when the USS John Paul Jones carried out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands. Indian observers reacted with shock and dismay at what some described as an unnecessary provocation by the U.S. Navy. The disquiet in Delhi was heightened by an unusual press release by the Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, that said the operation, which was carried out in India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), “asserted navigational rights and freedoms… without requesting India’s prior consent”. Many saw this as political signalling by the U.S., oddly, at a time when U.S.-India relations are on a high.
In the aftermath of the incident, the U.S. Pentagon defended the military operation off India’s waters terming it “consistent with international law”. For the U.S. Navy, FONOPs are a way of showing that the maritime claims of certain states are incompatible with international law. India’s requirement of prior consent for the passage of foreign warships through Indian EEZs, U.S. officials believe, is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Articles 56 and 58,Part V of the Law of the Sea, they point out, entitle U.S. warships to high-seas freedoms in the 200-nautical mile EEZs of another coastal state.
India interprets the maritime convention differently. Indian experts note that the UNCLOS does not explicitly permit the passage of military vessels in another state’s EEZ. When it ratified the convention in 1995, New Delhi stated, “India understands that the provisions of the Convention do not authorize other States to carry out in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives without the consent of the coastal State.” This position is consistent with India’s domestic law — the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones of India Act of 1976 — and remains unchanged.
Despite disagreements over navigational freedoms, however, India and the U.S. have refrained from a public airing of differences. Indian observers have come to accept U.S. FONOPs as an instrument in Washington’s military and diplomatic toolkit that gives the U.S. Navy leverage in the contest with China in the South China Sea. U.S. officials, too, have learnt to take Indian posturing in their stride. Washington knows New Delhi’s real concern is the possibility of greater Chinese naval presence in Indian waters, in particular the threat of People’s Liberation Army Navy submarines near Indian islands. Delhi’s pronouncements on foreign military activity in Indian EEZs, they know, don’t need to be taken literally.
Needless to say, U.S. FONOPs in Indian EEZs have been relatively low key, serving mainly to check a box on the U.S. Navy’s record of activity in Asia. Since 2016, the U.S. Navy has carried out three forays through Indian EEZs keeping well outside Indian territorial waters. In contrast, U.S. warships challenged excessive Chinese claims thrice in 2016, four times in 2017, six in 2018, eight in 2019, and nine in 2020. Most patrols are said to have come within 12 nautical miles of the territorial sea limit around China’s islands. Those statistics say something about the U.S. Navy’s strategic priorities in Asia.
Lakshadweep: A smart choice
The choice of Lakshadweep for the FONOP doesn’t seem incidental. U.S. planners are likely to have known that a U.S. naval foray close to the ‘strategic’ Andaman and Nicobar Islands would be controversial. Besides necessitating a response from New Delhi, it could have exposed a wrinkle in the relationship that both sides have so far been discreet about: the disagreement over interpretation of the UNCLOS. U.S. planners are likely to have calculated that a naval operation in the waters off Lakshadweep would be unremarkable. With maritime boundaries around the Lakshadweep more settled than the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (where straight baselines on the Western edge of the islands have in the past raised uncomfortable questions), Indian officials could even afford to ignore the operation.
To guard against any misreading of intent, the U.S. Navy coupled its FONOP in Indian waters with another sail through the territorial seas of the Maldives, a country with which the U.S. signed a defence agreement in 2020. The idea, ostensibly, was to signal to China that the U.S. Navy is committed to uphold the rules-based order in the waters of opponents and partners alike. Alas, the U.S. 7th Fleet erred in releasing a press statement that set the issue ablaze. Once social media picked up the story, it took on a life of its own.
Bridging the divide
There are lessons for both India and the U.S. from l’affaire Lakshadweep. The U.S. must recognise that FONOPs have implications for New Delhi that go beyond the infringement of Indian jurisdiction in the near seas. Such operations normalise military activism close to India’s island territories that remain vulnerable to incursions by foreign warships. The U.S. Navy’s emphasis on navigational freedoms in the EEZs encourages other regional navies to violate India’s domestic regulations in the waters surrounding the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. U.S. hectoring on the subject isn’t acceptable as Washington is yet to ratify the UNCLOS.
But New Delhi, too, must rethink its stand on freedom of navigation in the EEZs. It isn’t enough for Indian officials and commentators to say U.S. FONOPs are an act of impropriety. The reality is that India’s domestic regulation is worryingly out of sync with international law. India’s declaration of straight baselines delineating zones around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (on the Western edge), in particular, is a discrepancy that cannot be explained as a minor departure from the provisions of the UNCLOS.
The U.S. Navy sail through the waters off Lakshadweep highlights a gap in the Indian and American perception of navigational freedoms, complicating an already complex domain of international maritime law. Yet it is not the betrayal of a friend that many have sought to portray the FONOP to be.
5. Editorial-2: India’s South Asian opportunity
Peace with Pakistan is not just a bilateral matter, but is essential for India to transform South Asia
The statement issued by the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan, in late February, that they agree to strictly observe all agreements between the two countries, coincided with a statement made by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Colombo that “our only dispute is Kashmir and it can only be resolved through dialogue.” This was later strongly endorsed by Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa. This shows that there is a growing, but unstated, realisation that neither country can wrest parts of Kashmir that each controls from the other. Rather, it is best to focus on resolving issues that blight the entire subcontinent — poverty, malnutrition and an unconscionable neglect of the young. It is a realisation that the India-Pakistan animosity hurts regionalism and South Asian growth.
A fair peace between India and Pakistan is not just good for the two states but for all the nations constituting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Reports such as the World Bank publication titled ‘A Glass Half Full’ and others from the Asian Development Bank and the European Union conclude that there is explosive value to be derived from South Asian economic integration.
While SAARC has facilitated limited collaborations among its members, it has remained a victim of India-Pakistan posturing. As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar observed in a December 2020 interview to this newspaper: “If SAARC is a serious regionalism initiative, and [Pakistan] blocks trade and connectivity and people-to-people ties… what regionalism are we speaking of?” Now, given that the two countries have agreed to maintain ceasefire, it is time for India to seize the moment and become more South Asia-concerned and much less Pakistan-obsessed.
An economically transformed and integrated South Asian region could advantageously link up with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and even join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest trading bloc of 15 countries, accounting for 30% of its GDP, as a much valued partner.
Writing in a commemorative volume in honour of the late Sri Lankan economist Saman Kelegama, Professor Selim Raihan of the University of Dhaka brings out India’s overwhelming ‘size imbalance’ in South Asia: “The shares of India in the total land area, population, and real GDP of South Asia in 2016 are 62%, 75%, and 83%, respectively. The two other big countries in South Asia are Pakistan and Bangladesh with shares in regional GDP of only 7.6% and 5.6%, respectively.”
Given its size and heft, only India can take the lead in transforming a grossly under-performing region like South Asia. Collectively with a population of slightly over 1.9 billion, South Asia has a GDP (PPP) of $12 trillion. Contrast this with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Numbering nearly 700 million, ASEAN has a GDP (PPP) of around $9 trillion and a per capita income which, at $14,000 (PPP), is closing in on China, with member states like Vietnam starting to grow spectacularly.
This is the moment for India to think big and act big by ambitiously aiming to engineer a South Asian economic miracle in half the time China did. If this sounds impossible, so did China’s rise in 1972. But for that to happen, India needs to view a peace with Pakistan not as a bilateral matter, to be arrived at leisurely, if at all, but as essential and urgent, all the while viewing it as a chance of a lifetime, to dramatically transform South Asia for the better, no less.