04 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu
- Takeaways from the discussion
- India & its neighbourhood policy- (International relations)
- Anti - Conversion laws and Fundamental Rights (Polity & Governance)
- Farm bills and MSP - (Economy)
- Iran Nuclear deal and Biden administration - (International relations)
- Question for the day (Polity & Governance)
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
Sub Theme: Foreign Secretary’s Visit to Nepal | India-Nepal Ties | Complexity of India’s neighbourhood | UPSC
Context: Recent visits by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to countries in the region appear to show new energy in India’s neighbourhood policy. However, in the past there have various constraints in India's relationship with its neighbours. In this backdrop the article analyses the need for revisiting India's neighbourhood policy.
Complexity of India's neighbourhood:
- India's neighborhood is a complex one.
- Largest region in the world by Population.
- It is one of the least integrated regions with tremendous deficits in terms of infrastructure, connectivity, and interdependence.
- Also this region is now being exposed to various geopolitical competition dynamics because of rise of China, and increasing US influence in the region.
- In this backdrop India has realised that there is a need for greater connectivity and integration in the region, specially because of the increasing Chinese influence in its neighbourhood.
- Further to check the growing Chinese influence in the neighbourhood, India should focus on creating interdependence in the region with the aim of extracting strategic leverage.
- We know that India has taken over various connectivity initiatives, in terms of energy, interdependence, infrastructural connectivity, grants and loans.
- This has mainly been because India is facing competition from China.
- However its is being said that these connectivity initiatives will be meaningless if there is lack of economic integration and easy movement of people and capital.
SAARC has taken a backseat in India's regional pursuits -
- It is said that the format of SAARC is outdated and does not serve the complex, fluid regional cooperation agenda any longer.
- This is mainly because India has refused to attend the SAARC meeting in Pakistan over terrorism issue.
- Further Pakistan Pursuing its regional connectivity goals exclusively with China in the form of CPEC.
- While India which does not align itself with Chinese OBOR has started focussing on the Indian Ocean region.
- This has led to a split of the subcontinent between India and Pakistan which has effectively stagnated the SAARC.
- India has revived BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and worked in the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) quadrilateral for a framework on motor vehicle and water governance.
- However, India should understand that India's neighbouring countries other than Pakistan have shown interest in the working of the SAARC. And as such should not be averse to the idea of cooperation in the subcontinent by the way of SAARC.
- Also if India moves away from SAARC it is quite possible that China can be invited to this forum. This will make things even more difficult for India.
Do we need to revisit the neighbourhood policy?
- India's engagement with our neighbouring countries should not be episodic.
- It should not be event-oriented; it should be process-oriented. India needs to have a plan for continuous engagement at various levels.
- Further Domestic political considerations should not impact India's foreign policy considerations.
UPSC Current Affairs:Freedom of Conscience - UP Ordinance on forced conversion – Lead Article | Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: |Freedom of Conscience | Freedom of Religion | Forced Conversion | UPSC
Context: Allahabad High Court in Salamat Ansari verdict on forced conversion has held that the freedom to live with a person of one’s choice is intrinsic to the fundamental right to life and personal liberty. The Court also invoked Puttaswamy judgment of Right to Privacy and deliberated that freedom of conscience and religion (Article 25) cannot be examined by state as its sovereign function. This judgment becomes important in the backdrop of state government of UP passing an ordinance against forced conversions.
In this discussion, let us understand about Right to Privacy and Right to freedom of conscience and religion and how they help a citizen in enjoying right to life and personal thereby allowing them to chose a life partner of their choice.
Right to Privacy
Nine Judge Constitution Bench in K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India has ruled right to privacy as an integral part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Some of the important highlights of the judgment were:
- Life and personal liberty are inalienable rights. These are rights which are inseparable from a dignified human existence.
- The dignity of the individual, equality between human beings and the quest for liberty are the foundational pillars of the Indian Constitution.
- Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity.
- Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. (This allows an adult to make their own decisions regarding their choice including marriage).
- Privacy also connotes a right to be left alone.
- Privacy safeguards individual autonomy and recognises the ability of the individual to control vital aspects of his or her life.
- Personal choices governing a way of life are intrinsic to privacy.
- Privacy protects heterogeneity and recognises the plurality and diversity of our culture.
- While the legitimate expectation of privacy may vary from the intimate zone to the private zone and from the private to the public arenas, it is important to underscore that privacy is not lost or surrendered merely because the individual is in a public place.
- Privacy attaches to the person since it is an essential facet of the dignity of the human being.
Allahabad High Court on Conversion to different religion
- Allahabad HC overruled judgment of Noor Jahan v State of U.P. (2014) and held that marriage is a matter of choice and every adult woman has a fundamental right to choose her own partner even if such a decision results in other decisions of the partner including the choice to convert to religion of the spouse.
- Such conversions by free will and choice must not be subjected to state’s approval as it will be violative of the Constitution if state interferes in such choices of citizens.
Allahabad High Court on Freedom of Conscience
- The HC in overruling the judgment in Noor Jahan recognised the importance of Article 25 and observed that it did not see “Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat as Hindu and Muslim,” but rather saw them “as two grown up individuals who out of their own free will and choice are living together peacefully and happily....”
- Article 25 of the Constitution expressly protects the choices that individuals make. In addition to the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, it guarantees to every person the freedom of conscience.
- Oxford Dictionary explains the term conscience as “a person's moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one's behaviour.”
- So, the idea of conscience of a person goes beyond their religion and also involves ethical decision making in their day to day life.
Restrictions under Article 25
- Under Article 25(1) - all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. But state can regulate such practice on grounds of public order, morality and health.
- Further, under Article 25 (2)(a) - state can regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.
1977 Supreme Court judgment in Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh
- Two anti-conversion law made by the state of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa were challenged
- The Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968 and
- The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967
- These laws required that a District Magistrate be informed each time a conversion was made and prohibited any conversion that was obtained through fraud or illegal inducement.
- Supreme Court upheld two of the earliest anti-conversion statutes in India on grounds of public order.
- Supreme Court held that fundamental right to propagate religion does not include right to convert a person to other religion.
Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020
- The legislation makes not only religious conversions that are forcefully obtained an offence but that also declares void any conversion found to be made solely for marriage.
- Burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by marriage, lies on the person who has caused the conversion.
- Any aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him/her by blood, marriage, or adoption may lodge an FIR against such forced conversion.
- Reconversion to person’s previous religion will not be illegal even if it is vitiated by fraud, force, allurement, misrepresentation etc.
- Any person accused under the offence shall be punishable with imprisonment from 1 to 5 years and fine of upto Rs. 15, 000.
- If any person is involved in forceful conversion of minor, women or person belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe shall attract a punishment of imprisonment between 2 to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine of upto Rs. 25,000.
- A person previously convicted for forceful conversion, if found guilty for a second time, will be punishable with the double the punishment prescribed.
- Such marriage resulted out of forceful conversion shall be declared as void by the family Court.
- The offence is cognizable and non-bailable. It means that a police officer can arrest an accused without a warrant and bail can only be granted by the Court at their discretion and not by an officer.
Problems with Anti-Conversion Law in India
- State can interfere in citizens’ personal lives which the state is prohibited on account of fundamental right.
- Such anti-conversion laws would be violative of Right to Privacy Judgment which made right to privacy as an integral part of right to life and personal liberty. Right to privacy also include sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, home and sexual orientation.
- Results in violation of constitution every time matters of intimate and personal choice are made vulnerable to the paternal whims of the state.
- Freedom of conscience would mean nothing and take a back seat if every act of religious conversion is going to be presumed illegal unless proven otherwise.
- It reverses the criminal jurisprudence regarding burden of proof - The burden of proof in criminal cases is on the prosecution and the presumption is that a person accused of committing an offence is innocent until proven guilty.
- UP ordinance reverses the idea of burden of proof as every religious conversion is presumed illegal unless proven guilty. Thus, the burden is on the person carrying out the conversion to prove that it is by their will and not illegal.
- In view of the recent ordinance on forced conversion, it is time to revisit 1977 Supreme Court judgment in Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh considering the decisions given by Nine Judge Constitution Bench Judgment on Right to Privacy.
- Freedom of conscience would mean nothing if every religious conversion related to marriage is presumed illegal by the state.
UPSC Current Affairs: In farmers’ protests, the core is procurement - Article | Page - 06
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III – Economy
Sub Theme: Farmer’s Protest | Controversy on new Farm Law | Issue of procurement | UPSC
This article has appeared in the newspaper in the light of the controversy that has arisen over the three Farm acts passed by the Indian Parliament. This article argues that the Farmers based in Punjab and Haryana need not be apprehensive of dismantling of the MSP regime.
The recent passed farm acts have been opposed by the farmer groups mainly from the states of Punjab and Haryana. These farmers are apprehensive that the passage of the 3 farm acts would ultimately lead to dismantling of the MSP and they would be at mercy of the larger corporates.
Now, this apprehension is more prominent among the farmers in the states of Punjab and Haryana as compared to other states. Nearly 88% of the paddy production and 70% of the wheat production in Punjab and Haryana (in 2017-18 and 2018-19) has been absorbed through public procurement. However, in other states such as AP, Telangana, UP etc. the procurement is hardly around 40%. Hence, the dismantling of the MSP regime would have higher impact on the farmers based in Punjab and Haryana as compared to other states.
However, the article highlights that the farmers need not be concerned about the dismantling of the MSP regime because of the following reasons:
The Farm acts have not done away with the MSP regime. They only provide alternative trading channels to the farmers to sell their agricultural produce outside the APMCs. The farmers are allowed to sell their produce in the trade area, which can include Farm gate, Factory premises, Godowns, Cold Chain Infrastructure etc. Hence, the farmers still have an option to sell their produce in the APMCs at the prevailing MSP.
Just as farmers are dependent on FCI for the purchase of their agricultural produce, the FCI is equally dependant on the farmers to procure food grains to be sold through the network of ration cards. Now, the right to Food is a legal entitlement provided under the National Food Security Act, 2013 and hence it is unimaginable that FCI would stop procuring food grains from the farmers based in Punjab and Haryana.
Therefore, it is quite important that the government reaches out to the farmer groups and assures them of the indispensability of MSP-procurement system.
UPSC Current Affairs: The Iran challenge - Editorial | Page - 06
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
Sub Theme: Iran Nuclear and the Biden Administration | UPSC
- The U.S., along with other international powers, had signed a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 and both countries were cooperating in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq.
- Donald Trump, pulled the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
- Now, when Mr. Biden would assume the presidency on January 20, one of his most pressing early diplomatic challenges would be Iran.
- Biden had promised to take the U.S. back to the deal, but any such move would meet with strong opposition from its allies in West Asia, especially Israel.
- The assassination of Mohsen Fakhri Zadeh, a top Iranian nuclear physicist, last week has escalated tensions in the region.
- Iran has blamed Israel for the attack (Israel has neither confirmed nor denied reports of its involvement in the hit) and vowed revenge.
- Any retaliatory actions by Iran could cause a further flare-up, even leading to an open war, which could limit diplomatic options for a Biden administration.
- Biden post election has said he will seek to extend the restrictions on Iran (15 years, according to the JCPOA) and discuss the Islamic Republic’s “malign” activities in West Asia.
- This suggests Biden would want some amendments to the original deal.
Lessons from trump era -
- The Trump administration had pursued a policy of ‘maximum pressure’.
- However Iran resisted such move and did not come to the table as was expected by the Trump administration.
- Iran shot down an American drone over the Gulf in June 2019 and then the U.S. killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January this year.
Way ahead -
- It is in everybody’s interest that the nuclear deal is revived which would not only deny Iran a path to the bomb but also restore some order in the region.
- Biden will have to reassert himself and rein in America’s allies from launching more provocative attacks on Iranian regime figures, and press Tehran to return to the terms of the agreement and further talks on the country’s regional activities in return for economic and security assurances.
- Iran, on its part, should observe strategic patience and give diplomacy another chance.