காவிரி ஆற்றின் குறுக்கே கர்நாடகத்தின் முதல்வர் எடியூரப்பா தெரிவித்துள்ள கருத்து, இரு மாநிலங்களுக்கு இடையில் நீண்ட காலமாக நீடித்துவரும் நதிநீர்ப் பங்கீட்டுச் சிக்கல்களை இன்னும் தீவிரப்படுத்திவிடக்கூடிய வாய்ப்புகளையே கொண்டிருக்கிறது. இது தொடர்பில், சில நாட்களுக்கு முன்பு அவர் தமிழ்நாடு முதல்வருக்கு எழுதிய கடிதத்துக்குத் தாம் விரும்பிய பதில் கிடைக்காத நிலையில், தற்போது அணை கட்டுவதில் உறுதியாக இருப்பதாகத் தெரிவித்துள்ளார். தமிழ்நாடு முதல்வருக்கு அவர் எழுதிய கடிதம் என்பது முடிவைத் திணிக்கும் நோக்கம் கொண்டது என்பதும் உண்மையிலேயே பேச்சுவார்த்தைகளை நோக்கி இட்டுச்செல்லும் எண்ணமில்லை என்பதும் இதிலிருந்து தெரிகிறது. மேகேதாட்டு அணை தொடர்பாக தமிழ்நாட்டு விவசாயிகளின் அச்சத்தை நியாயமெனக் கொள்ளும் வகையிலேயே கர்நாடக முதல்வரின் சமீபத்திய கருத்து அமைந்துள்ளது.
ஏற்கெனவே, தென்பெண்ணையின் துணை ஆறான மார்க்கண்டேய நதியில் கட்டப்பட்ட தடுப்பணையை எதிர்த்துப் போராட்டம் நடத்திவரும் தமிழ்நாடு விவசாயிகள், தற்போது மேகேதாட்டு அணைக்கு எதிராகவும் அத்திட்டத்துக்கு ஒன்றிய அரசு அனுமதி அளிக்கக் கூடாதென்றும் போராட்டங்களை நடத்தத் தொடங்கியிருக்கிறார்கள். மேகேதாட்டு அணையை அனுமதிக்கக் கூடாது என்று பிரதமரைத் தமிழ்நாடு முதல்வர் கேட்டுக்கொண்டிருந்த நிலையில், உரிய அமைச்சகத்தை அணுகுமாறு பதில் தெரிவிக்கப்பட்டிருந்தது. தமிழ்நாடு அரசின் கருத்தைக் கேட்காமல் மேகேதாட்டு அணைக்கு அனுமதியளிக்க மாட்டோம் என்று ஒன்றிய அரசின் நீர்வளத் துறை அமைச்சர், தமிழ்நாடு நீர்வளத் துறை அமைச்சரிடம் உறுதியளித்துள்ளது மட்டுமே தமிழ்நாட்டின் தற்போதைய ஒரே நம்பிக்கை.--Source: hindutamil.in
பொது முடக்கத் தளர்வுகளைத் தொடர்ந்து, தடைபட்டிருந்த பொருளாதார நடவடிக்கைகள் மீண்டும் செயல்படத் தொடங்கியிருக்கின்றன. பொதுமக்கள் மத்தியில் வாங்கும் சக்தி அதிகரித்து சில்லறை விற்பனை தொடங்கி, முன்புபோல வர்த்தகச் செயல்பாடுகள் அதிகரித்தால் மட்டுமே உற்பத்திப் பெருக்கமும், பொருளாதார மேம்பாடும் சாத்தியப்படும்.
மத்திய நிதியமைச்சர் நிர்மலா சீதாராமன் கடந்த மாதம் அறிவித்திருக்கும் ரூ.2.67 லட்சம் கோடிக்கான நிதி நிவாரணத் திட்டத்தின் நோக்கம் உற்பத்தியை அதிகரிப்பதும், அதன் மூலம் பொருளாதாரத்தை மேம்படுத்துவதும் என்பதை சொல்லித் தெரிய வேண்டியதில்லை. மத்திய நிதியமைச்சகம் வழங்கியிருக்கும் உத்தரவாதத்தின் அடிப்படையில், பாதிக்கப்பட்ட தொழில் துறையினரை, எந்த அளவுக்கு கூடுதல் கடன் வழங்கி வங்கிகள் ஆதரிக்கும் என்பதைப் பொருத்து அறிவிப்பின் வெற்றி - தோல்வி அமையும்.
வங்கிகளின் எச்சரிக்கைப் போக்கை அரசு உத்தரவாதம் சற்றுத் தளர்த்தி கூடுதல் கடனுதவி வழங்குவதை ஊக்குவிக்கும் என்பது எதிர்பார்ப்பு. ஆனால், இதுவரை இந்த அணுகுமுறை எதிர்பார்த்த வெற்றியை வழங்கியதில்லை என்பது அனுபவ நடைமுறை.
கடந்த ஆண்டு வங்கிகளில் போடப்பட்ட வைப்பு நிதி 9.7% அதிகரித்தது. அதே நேரத்தில் வங்கிகள் வழங்கிய கடனுதவியின் அளவு 5.7%தான் அதிகரித்தது. நோய்த்தொற்றின் இரண்டாவது அலைக்கு முன்பிருந்த நிலைமையும் இதுதான். தங்களிடம் பணம் இருந்தாலும்கூட, வாராக்கடன் ஆகிவிடுமோ என்கிற அச்சத்தில் வங்கிகள் சிறு, குறு, நடுத்தரத் தொழில்களுக்கு கடனுதவி வழங்குவதில் தயக்கம் காட்டுகின்றன என்கிற உண்மையின் வெளிப்பாடுதான் இந்தப் புள்ளிவிவரம்.
பொருளாதார இயக்கத்தை மேம்படுத்த உற்பத்தியை அதிகரிப்பது என்பது மட்டுமல்லாமல், வேலைவாய்ப்பையும் அதிகரிப்பது என்கிற கண்ணோட்டத்துடன் செயல்பட வேண்டிய அவசியம் இருக்கிறது. வேலைவாய்ப்பு அதிகரிக்கும்போதுதான் மக்கள் மத்தியில் வாங்கும் சக்தி அதிகரித்து, பொருளாதார நடவடிக்கைகள் சுறுசுறுப்படையும் என்பது பொருளாதாரத்தின் அடிப்படை இலக்கணம்.
இந்தியப் பொருளாதார கண்காணிப்பு மையம் என்கிற அமைப்பு கடந்த மாதம் ஒரு புள்ளிவிவரத்தை வெளியிட்டிருக்கிறது. அதன்படி, அதற்கு முந்தைய மாதமான மே மாதத்தில் மட்டும் 1.53 கோடி இந்தியர்கள் வேலையிழந்திருக்கிறார்கள். ஏப்ரல் மாதம் 39.07 கோடி பேர் இருந்தது போய், மே மாதம் மரபுசார்ந்த பணிகளில் நிரந்தர அல்லது ஒப்பந்தப் பணியாளர்களாக இருப்பவர்களின் எண்ணிக்கை 37.54 கோடியாகக் குறைந்திருக்கிறது.
வேலைவாய்ப்பை இழப்பவர்களுடைய எண்ணிக்கையும், வேலைவாய்ப்புக்கான வாய்ப்பும் குறைந்து வருவதும் பொதுமக்களின் செலவழிக்கும் தன்மையில் பின்னடைவை ஏற்படுத்தி, பொருளாதாரச் சுணக்கத்தை ஏற்படுத்தும்.
இந்தியப் பொருளாதார கண்காணிப்பு அமைப்பின் அந்த அறிக்கை இன்னொரு புள்ளிவிவரத்தையும் வழங்குகிறது. இந்தியாவில் வேலை இழந்து மாற்று வேலைவாய்ப்புக்காக காத்திருப்பவர்களின் எண்ணிக்கை 1.7 கோடியிலிருந்து 5.07 கோடியாக அதிகரித்திருக்கிறது. இவர்கள் எந்த வேலையையும் செய்வதற்குத் தயாராக இருந்தாலும், அதற்கான வாய்ப்பு இல்லாதவர்களாக இருக்கிறார்கள்.
வேலைவாய்ப்பு இல்லை என்பது மட்டுமல்லாமல், கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்று காரணமாக வர்த்தகம் குறைந்து காணப்படுவதால், புதிதாக வேலைக்கு ஆட்களை அமர்த்துவதிலும் தயக்கம் காணப்படுகிறது. நேரடியாக வேலைக்குப் போவதைவிட நோய்த்தொற்றுக்கு பயந்து வீட்டிலிருந்து வேலை செய்ய விழைபவர்களின் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகரித்திருப்பதும், வேலையில்லாதவர்களின் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகரித்திருப்பதற்கு ஒரு காரணமாக இருக்கக் கூடும்.
சில்லறை விற்பனையானாலும், மோட்டார் வாகனம், சுற்றுலா, கேளிக்கை விடுதிகள், வணிக வளாகங்கள் என்று எல்லா துறைகளிலுமே வேலைவாய்ப்புக்கான வாய்ப்பு குறைந்து காணப்படுகிறது. 2022-க்குள் தகவல் தொழில் நுட்பத் துறையில் 30 லட்சம் பேருக்கான ஆட்குறைப்பு நடவடிக்கை இந்தியாவில் மேற்கொள்ளப்படும் என்று பேங்க் ஆஃப் அமெரிக்காவின் அறிக்கை ஒன்று பயமுறுத்துகிறது. ஊழியர்களின் ஊதியத்தில் அதன் மூலம் ஆண்டொன்றுக்கு 100 பில்லியன் டாலர் (சுமார் ரூ.7.47 லட்சம் கோடி) சேமிக்க முடியும் என்று முக்கிய தகவல் தொழில் நுட்ப நிறுவனங்கள் கருதுவதாக அந்த அறிக்கையில் கூறப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.
நோய்த்தொற்று காலத்தில் முன்பைப் போலல்லாமல் பெரும்பாலான மாணவர்கள் இணைய வழிக் கல்வியில் ஈடுபட்டிருக்கிறார்கள். பலரும் முறையான தேர்வுகள் இல்லாமல் தேர்ச்சி பெற்றிருக்கின்றனர். இவர்கள் எந்த அளவுக்கு வேலைவாய்ப்புக்கு உகந்தவர்கள் என்பது கேள்விக்குறியாகி இருக்கிறது.
தனியார் நிறுவனங்களில் கடுமையான தகுதித் தேர்வுகளுக்குப் பிறகுதான், காணப்படும் குறைந்த வேலைவாய்ப்பு இடங்கள் நிரப்பப்படும். அதனால், வேலைவாய்ப்பின்மை நடப்பு நிதியாண்டிலும் அடுத்த நிதியாண்டிலும் கடுமையாக அதிகரிப்பதற்கான வாய்ப்பு காணப்படுகிறது என்று எச்சரிக்காமலும் இருக்க முடியவில்லை.
ஏற்கெனவே மத்திய - மாநில அரசுகள் கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்றை எதிர்கொள்ளவும், புதிய கட்டமைப்பு வசதிகளை ஏற்படுத்தவும்கூட முடியாமல் நிதிப்பற்றாக்குறையால் தத்தளிக்கின்றன. அரசு அலுவலர்களுக்கு ஓய்வூதியம் வழங்குவதற்கு திணறும் நிலைமை பல மாநிலங்களில் காணப்படுகிறது. அதனால், அரசு வேலைக்கான வாய்ப்பும் குறைவாகவே இருக்கிறது.
வங்கிக் கடன் மூலம் சுய வேலைவாய்ப்பை ஊக்குவிப்பதும், சிறு, குறு, நடுத்தர தொழில்களை ஊக்குவித்து அதிகரிக்கச் செய்வதும்தான் இந்தியா எதிர்கொள்ளும் வேலையின்மை பிரச்னைக்கான தீர்வாக இருக்கும்!--Source: dinamani.com
It has been 81 years since Arthur Koestler’sDarkness at Noonwas first published. The novel is set in the backdrop of the Great Purge of the late 1930s in the Soviet Union under Stalin. This period was marked by, among other things, political repression, police surveillance, general suspicion of the opposition, imprisonment, and executions. Decades on, thousands of miles away, darkness fell at noon in India too, when Father Stan Swamy passed away at a private hospital in Mumbai on July 5. Ominously reminiscent of the macabre world Koestler had drawn, Fr. Swamy’s death is much more than the death of an activist accused of terrorist activities. It is the result of a systemic abuse of majoritarian authority and disregard for the rule of law.
His life in a nutshell
For many, Fr. Swamy will be remembered as an inspiration. A Jesuit priest, he chose to make the upliftment of marginalised communities in Jharkhand his life’s work. He lived and worked in a single room, prolifically writing (over 70 books are credited to him) on dispossessed people. He was an activist for most of his life, and used the legal system to fight for the rights of those who were being unfairly targeted, and thought that the Constitution would help in securing justice, even moving the Jharkhand High Court in a public interest litigation on undertrials. When doing all of this, surely, he would never have imagined that his fate would be decided by the very system he used and believed in.
It started in August 2018, when the Pune police raided Fr. Swamy’s single-room home, seized his computer, cell phone, books and some classical music cassettes. Another raid took place in June 2019. Finally, on October 8, 2020, Fr. Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the 16th to join a roster of professors, activists, writers, and public intellectuals, as a suspect in the Bhima-Koregaon case. Fr. Swamy, aged over 80, remained an accused, in the custody of the state, till his death. Besides being arrested for what many believe to be improbable causes, and being possibly the oldest person ever accused of terrorism in India, the most tragic story is how his detention was handled by the state, by the police and worst of all, by the courts.
Fr. Swamy was arrested on flimsy evidence of some propaganda material and communication with other activists in the field, such as Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao, who were also arrested for similar charges. The authenticity of some of the allegedly indicting documentation, including a key report, has been questioned by international forensic data experts. But the state defended its arrest arguing that these issues must be gone into only during trial, and that the accused — i.e., Fr. Swamy — should remain in jail until then.
Pointer to judicial decline
This is the outcome also of the problematic Watali judgment, which I discuss in subsequent paragraphs. Repeated pleas for medical assistance by Fr. Swamy were consistently ignored or dismissed. Medical reports taken on record clearly showed that Fr. Swamy had the degenerative Parkinson’s disease, and could not even do basic tasks, such as holding a spoon, writing, walking or bathing. Indeed, the court noted that he had a severe hearing problem, and was physically very weak. But even that did not move them. Every regular bail application that was filed by his lawyers was unequivocally rejected. When he applied for medical bail, the court kept adjourning the matter, and merely offered him the services of a private hospital. In my opinion, this demonstrates a lack of sensitivity on the part of the judges, which is deeply saddening.
The series of events that led to Fr. Swamy’s eventual and tragic passing is testimony to the judicial decline that we have seen in recent years, which coincidentally or not, appears to be coterminous with the current political regime in India.
Why is the political establishment, and the police, so emboldened to pursue cases under UAPA against individuals like Fr. Swamy? A key reason, undoubtedly, is the weak judiciary we have today. Indeed, our judiciary today suffers from a great many flaws besides mere weakness. In Fr. Swamy’s case, the judges displayed apathy of a shocking order. It is perplexing when, on the one hand, the Chief Justice of India grandiloquently states that personal liberties and fundamental rights must be protected, and courts do precisely the opposite.
A weakened central principle
It would not be too bold to suggest that the idea of the “presumption of innocence” — a central principle of criminal law and procedure — is on a terribly weak footing these days in our country, and this should worry all of us greatly.
The source of this worry is the Supreme Court of India itself. Its April 2019 decision inNational Investigation Agency vs Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watalion the interpretation of the UAPA has affected all downstream decisions involving the statute. This decision has created a new doctrine, which is that effectively, an accused must remain in custody throughout the period of the trial, even if it is eventually proven that the evidence against the person was inadmissible, and the accused is finally acquitted. The illogic of this veers on the absurd: Why must an accused remain in jail only to be eventually acquitted?
According to the decision, in considering bail applications under the UAPA, courts must presume every allegation made in the First Information Report to be correct. Further, bail can now be obtained only if the accused produces material to contradict the prosecution. In other words, the burden rests on the accused to disprove the allegations, which is virtually impossible in most cases. The decision has essentially excluded the admissibility of evidence at the stage of bail. By doing so, it has effectively excluded the Evidence Act itself, which arguably makes the decision unconstitutional. Bail hearings under the UAPA are now nothing more than mere farce. With such high barriers of proof, it is now impossible for an accused to obtain bail, and is in fact a convenient tool to put a person behind bars indefinitely. It is nothing short of a nightmare come true for arrestees.
This is being abused by the government, police and prosecution liberally: now, all dissenters are routinely implicated under (wild and improbable) charges of sedition or criminal conspiracy and under the UAPA. Due to the Supreme Court judgment, High Courts have their hands tied, and must perforce refuse bail, as disproving the case is virtually impossible. As a result of this decision, for instance, a High Court judge can no longer really adjudicate and assess the evidence in a case. All cases must now follow this straitjacketed formula of refusing bail. The effect is nearly identical to the draconian preventive detention laws that existed during the Emergency, where courts deprived people access to judicial remedy. If we want to prevent the disasters of that era, this decision must be urgently reversed or diluted, otherwise we run the risk of personal liberties being compromised very easily.
The most flagrant abuse of the UAPA, and constant rejection of bail applications of those accused as a means of silencing opposing voices, can be seen in the Bhima Koregaon cases, including Fr. Swamy’s case, as well as the cases pertaining to protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), where mere thought is elevated to a crime. In multiple instances, evidence is untenable, sometimes even arguably planted, and generally weak overall. But as a consequence of UAPA being applied, the accused cannot even get bail. Courts cannot go into the merits of the case due to the Supreme Court judgment.
An issue for the judiciary
When courts do go into such matters, as in the instance of the Delhi High Court granting bail to three young activists accused in a conspiracy relating to the 2020 riots in Delhi, the Supreme Court uncharacteristically decides to weigh in. The Supreme Court reportedly expressed “surprise” and dissatisfaction at the High Court’s decision, giving the direction that the decision will “not to be treated as precedent by any court” to give similar reliefs. Specifically, the Supreme Court reportedly said that “in a bail application, a 100-page judgment discussing all laws is surprising us”, perhaps forgetting that the case that started it all, i.e., the Watali judgment of the Supreme Court, was itself a judgment in a bail matter! This seems to imply that only the Supreme Court can hold forth on matters of statutory interpretation, and that High Courts — which are constitutional courts in their own right — may not? By extension, if statutes ought not to be examined at all by High Courts, does this mean that individual arrestees must languish in jail till, say, the constitutional validity of the statutes under which they are arrested are decided? Surely, this would be completely irrational.
Posterity will blame the judiciary for the incarceration and unfortunate death of Fr. Swamy, and the continued imprisonment of so many others like him. But voices will continue to rise in protest. As Fr. Swamy himself said, though, “we will still sing in the chorus. A caged bird can still sing.”
Ajit Prakash Shah is Former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court and Former Chairperson, Law Commission of India
In these troubled times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Population Day on July 11 brings some positive news — India has entered a demographic sweet spot that will continue for another two to three decades. Half of India’s population is under 29 years of age, which means that in this period, a greater proportion of young people will drive India’s economic growth and social progress. So, they must not only be healthy, knowledgeable and skilled but must also be provided with the rights and choices to develop to their fullest potential, including, and especially, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
The Guttmacher– Lancet Commission (Starrs et al, 2018) in looking at how to improve SRHR in populations formulated a comprehensive definition of SRHR that encompasses a broader range of issues. These include SRHR and issues such as violence, stigma and respect for bodily autonomy, which greatly impact the psychological, emotional and social well-being of individuals.
India’s population growth is now stabilising. The decline in overall fertility notwithstanding, the population will continue to grow because of the effect of ‘population momentum’. It is like a Jumbo Jet that has started to descend but will take some distance to stop. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR), presently at 2.2 children, will soon reach replacement level (2.1). However, the TFR remains higher than the national average of 2.2 children among women who live in rural areas, have little formal education and are in the lowest income quintile — a majority of them live in the poorer States.
Changing social norms is one of the biggest challenges for India to address the needs of the next generation. For example, India’s population stabilisation strategy must be adjusted keeping in mind the rights of women and girls. Women must have a greater say in choosing their family size. Prescriptive or coercive methods, such as one- or two-child norms, have rarely worked well anywhere for long. It goes without saying that for women and girls, the empowerment to make choices leads to better health outcomes, such as knowing how to prevent unintended pregnancy or giving birth with the help of a skilled birth attendant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in healthcare systems and has led to serious gaps and challenges in the provision of information and services on sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Even before the pandemic, pervasive negative social norms, health system barriers and gender inequality hindered universal access to SRHR as envisioned under the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). On World Population Day this year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India recognises that even if health systems are understandably strained, the provision of these services cannot wait. Any further delays will curtail the health and well-being of women and girls, the consequences of which can last a lifetime.
In the last two decades, India has made substantial gains with SRH indicators. Progressive policies for maternal health have resulted in improved rates of institutional delivery and a decline in maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 327 in 1999-2001 to 113 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18, as per Sample Registration System (SRS) data.
There have also been significant shifts in family planning in the past decade, and data from the National Health Family Survey 5 for the year 2019-20 (NFHS-5) show how contraceptive prevalence has improved in most States. We ought to celebrate India’s success, as it significantly contributes to global progress.
The current government, with programmes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), has made some efforts to challenge existing social norms and has underlined that investments in social causes must go alongside economic progress. All sections of society must embrace this call for positive change, each doing their part, from the individual to the institution level. The UNFPA is keen to take India’s success models and strengthen the South-South Collaboration further.
But success is hard-earned and never assured. There are many challenges on the path to 2030, the goalpost for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Two million adolescent girls (15-19 years) each year had a pregnancy, and of these, nearly 63% were unwanted or unintended (Guttmacher Institute, 2021). This points to inadequate information and access to SRH services for this age group. In girls aged 15-19 years, 22.2% had an unmet need for contraception, according to NFHS-4.
Girls are still marrying too young — 26.8% of women aged 20-24 years are married before they turn 18, often having their first child within the first year of marriage. Far too many girls and women face gender-based violence and harmful practices that are socially sanctioned. All of these practices are rooted in social norms, beliefs and practices that deny women their bodily autonomy.
India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia in The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report (2021). Time to achieve the ambitious targets of the SDGs is running out. India must hence choose its priorities carefully. Our analysis seems to suggest that placing youth, women and girls at the centre of policymaking and services could trigger a positive ripple effect. If young people, and adolescent girls in particular, have access to education, relevant skills, information and services to make healthy choices, including related to SRH, are empowered to exercise their rights, and have access to opportunities for employment, then India will be on a clear path to achieve its goals.
What research and practical experience show is that when women can make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health, and when they have access to services to support their choices, societies are healthier and more productive. A woman who has control over her body gains not only in terms of autonomy but also through advances in health, education, income and safety. She is more likely to thrive, and so is her family. The UNFPA calls upon stakeholders to help build a new set of social norms to drive this mission.
The author is Representative, UNFPA India and Country Director, UNFPA Bhutan
Benjamin Netanyahu is out and Israel has got a government without him after 12 years. The new government has cobbled together a very unexpected coalition of eight political parties led by Naftali Bennett (picture) who is head of the smallest segment of the coalition. With only six seats of his far-right party, Yamina, Mr. Bennett has surprised all by preventing two things — Netanyahu’s hold on power and the fifth national election that most Israelis feared coming their way.
It is Yair Lapid, Israel’s new Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister-in-waiting, who is the key architect of the coalition. Mr. Bennett acknowledged him in his first speech in the Knesset (https://bit.ly/3wmqVcG) by saying that Mr. Lapid “showed national responsibility, political generosity, and without whom we would not be here today”. Under the coalition deal, Mr. Bennett will be the Prime Minister for the first two years, followed by Mr. Lapid for the remaining two. While there are not many who predict that this coalition will last that long, the very strange union is still a welcome change in Israeli politics after the four national elections in less than two years. The eight parties do not have any ideological coherence but the single agenda to keep Mr. Netanyahu out of power, in the short run, and to uphold the democratic system based on consensus building, in the long run.
What makes this coalition unique as much as fragile is the fact they fight each other on the most essential matters of politics. Yet, the fight against Mr. Netanyahu has given the Israeli people the most representative government: the coalition has three right-wing parties, two centrist parties, two left-wing parties and one Arab party. Women leaders have done well too, comprising nine Ministers out of the total of 27 Ministers. It is remarkable from the gender point of view as Israel, like most other nation- states, is male-dominated. There is no religious party in the coalition, but Mr. Bennett is a religious individual unlike Mr. Netanyahu; he is also the first kippa (skull cap) wearing Prime Minister of Israel.
The political stalemate is over for the time being, and Mr. Netanyahu is not the ‘King Bibi’ of Israel after all. He has been outdone by the far-right political leaders who were once his loyal aides; they include Mr. Bennett, Mr. Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman. What makes the new government unprecedented is the fact that the far-right, in order to fight its mentor Mr. Netanyahu, walked up to the left parties as well as an Arab-Islamist party of Mansour Abbas.
While Israel is a strong and militarily capable state, it is also deeply divided as a society, with too many fundamental frictions among its Jewish population. Therefore, diverse and different ideological groups in this government can help in enabling political stability and inner-social-cohesion. The role of one Arab party in the government is much needed assurance for the otherwise marginalised and stigmatised Israeli Arabs minority.
The challenge ahead is to satisfy each party’s core ideological interests but not at the cost of the other so that the fickle unity can last. It demands compromise, reconciliation and acceptance of the other. Anti-Netanyahu sentiment is pivotal thus far and this will be the glue but a constructive and long-lasting common minimum programme is what the Israeli democracy is striving for after a battered past.
Change of leadership
Mr. Bennett was born and raised by American immigrant parents who moved to Israel from the United States after the 1967 war. He is a former commando of the army’s most prestigious commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, the one that Netanyahu used to boast about himself. Mr. Bennett made his way to active politics in the aftermath of the Lebanon war in 2006. Though religious, he is not ultra-orthodox. He is a self- made millionaire who had a greatly successful high-tech career. In short, he is a poster boy for a Start-Up Nation.
As a free-spirited entrepreneur, he has an astonishing ability to take risks and can be called a politically audacious leader. He was Mr. Netanyahu’s loyal man for long and served under him as Defence and Education Ministers, and in those years, he demonstrated his far-right inclinations without any qualms such as advocacy for settlements, annexation of major parts of West Bank, Jewish religion and its major role in Israeli society and politics. However, while he struggled to come out of the shadow of Mr. Netanyahu, he transformed himself as flexible and negotiable politician which was clear when he delivered his first speech and said, “Twice in history, we have lost our national home precisely because the leaders of the generation were not able to sit with one and another and compromise. Each was right, yet with all their being right, they burnt the house down on top of us. I am proud of the ability to sit together with people with very different views than mine.” It is going to be intriguing how he conducts himself with the others in the coalition and revisits some of his core ideological beliefs and assumptions.
The world watches
Israeli foreign policy is Prime Minister- driven, so the world awaits to see how the new leader will be outside Israel. He has not given many hints about his foreign policy agenda except that he will work to cement Israel’s special relationship with the United States, and that he is also well-prepared to deal with Iran firmly and aggressively like his mentor, Mr. Netanyahu. As far as Hamas is concerned, he is likely to leave that to the Defence Minister as he thinks it is a security issue and not a political question.
Khinvraj Jangid is Associate Professor and Director, Jindal Centre for Israel Studies, Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana
Haryana’s performance towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is disappointing. The NITI Aayog’s latest report on SDGs has put Haryana among the top three States in terms of unemployment and crime, with a dismal show in the fields of health and education and in industrial and economic growth as well. The results are the outcome of the current dispensation’s misplaced priorities. The report ranks Haryana 14th among all States with 67 composite points, just a notch above Tripura. Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, its neighbouring States, have done pretty well.
However, Haryana could have done much better as the Congress government led by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had handed over a robust State to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014. As per the NITI Aayog report, at 11.16%, there is no change since 2019 in the number of people living below the poverty line (BPL) in the State. Clearly, the government has failed to lift people from the vicious circle of poverty. Similarly, there is no change in the proportion of the children below five who continue to be underweight (28.80%) and stunted (34.90%). As many as 55% of pregnant women in the age group of 15-49 years continue to be anaemic. Crimes against women were 88.7 per one lakh female population in 2019, which went up to 108.5 in 2020. The State reported 3.90 murders per one lakh population in 2020 as compared to 3.74 in 2019.
Instead of living in an ivory tower, the government must focus on adding resilience to education, which has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the claims around ‘Digital Haryana’, the State failed to ensure seamless online classes for all students. The current State government had also promised to build a medical college in every district.
Before 2005, there were only eight universities in the State, but the number went up to 43 during the Congress tenure from 2005 to 2014. Many technical education institutes, ITIs and new government colleges were opened during the Congress regime, but in the past seven years, only two universities have been set up.
Bigger challenges such as improving gross enrolment ratio, checking dropouts, addressing poor student-teacher ratio and introducing enabling interventions for providing skill training in schools and colleges have taken a backseat. The government has not been able to implement a zero vacancy policy, due to which a large number of teaching posts are vacant. In schools, 31,232 posts of teachers were lying vacant as of last year.
Compromised education has a direct relation to employability. The Periodic Labour Force Survey (2018 -19) data pegged Haryana’s unemployment rate at 9.2%, which was significantly higher than the all-India figure of 5.8%. In February, data from the Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy revealed a 26.4% unemployment rate, the highest among States; in 2012-13, the Department of Economics and Statistical Analysis had put the unemployment rate in Haryana at just 3%. But instead of providing jobs, the current regime’s focus is on ill-thought steps like providing reservation in private jobs.
Similarly, Haryana has failed to enhance the quality of health infrastructure. It was the first State in the country to give free medicines to OPD patients in government hospitals. Free referral transport service for expecting mothers for delivery, patients of BPL families, accident victims and freedom fighters, had attracted the attention of other States. The Congress had laid significant emphasis on the health sector. One State health university and four medical colleges were set up at Karnal, Faridabad, and Nuh in Mewat, including one for women in the rural area of Sonepat district. Also, AIIMS-II and the National Cancer Institute were set up at Badshah village in Jhajjar district.
The State’s financial health, which is worsening due to mounting debt, huge funds deployed on various boards and corporations, and interest payments on borrowings, is also disturbing. Infrastructural development has come to a standstill — in the last seven years, not even a single new metro station was added, while during 2005-2014, four towns were linked to metro services through new lines. The fiscal situation is equally concerning. As per the Budget Estimate for 2021-22, the debt liability of the State is likely to go up to Rs. 2.30 lakh crore as of March 2022. It was Rs. 70,369 crore in 2013-14.
Haryana is suffering on all counts due to the misplaced priorities of the current government. The State used to be one of the top performers in areas like per capita income, investment and agricultural productivity, but it has now slipped to the 14th position on the SDG index. The indicators suggest that governance has gone for a toss.
The author is a Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress
The Supreme Court on June 29 pronounced its judgment in the migrant labourers case. The case was initiated last year after the national lockdown was announced on March 24. Thousands of landless labourers had started walking towards their home States due to the loss of employment and income. The Supreme Court took cognisance of the matter on May 26 that year and acknowledged the plight of the workers in light of the strict lockdown.
The court has laid down numerous guidelines to provide relief to workers and efficiently tackle the problem till the threat of COVID-19 subsides. Two of the most important components to protect the migrants during this time were the food and travel arrangements insisted on by the court. In the orders pronounced in May this year, it laid down that dry ration be provided to migrants who want to return to their homes. Further, the court said that identity proof should not be insisted upon by the governments since the labourers might not be able to furnish it. Secondly, the court called upon the State governments to arrange transportation for workers who need to return to their homes. These guidelines by the court are crucial to ensure the safety of workers.
The Supreme Court fixed July 31 as the deadline for the States to implement the ‘One nation One Ration Card’ scheme. Under this scheme, the States are to complete the registration of migrant workers in order to provide dry ration to them. But it is unlikely that a standardised system can be developed within the deadline prescribed by the court.
Apart from dry ration, the top court also directed the State governments to run community kitchens for migrant workers. However, there arise administrative problems in implementing these measures. First, migrant workers keep moving in search of employment and it is difficult to cover them all under the scheme. Second, many States do not have the necessary infrastructure to run and maintain community kitchens on such a large scale.
Under the National Food Security Act, migrant workers are issued ration cards and they are entitled to dry ration under various government programmes, such as the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, during the pandemic. In the order passed on June 29, the court affirmed the Right to Food under Article 21 of the Constitution. In furtherance of this, the court asked the States to formulate their own schemes and issue food grains to migrants. This is an indispensable step to keep more than a fourth of the population of the country safe and healthy during the pandemic.
However, there are no normative data that would allow the States to identify eligible migrants. The court took cognisance of the issue and directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to ensure that the National Database for Unorganised Workers is updated by July 31.
Finally, the top court recognised the need for direct cash benefit transfer to workers in the unorganised sector. But it did not issue any guidelines for the same as the workers need to be covered by the States themselves.
The Supreme Court has given a purposive declaration in the case but the bulk of the judgment seems declaratory rather than mandatory. In order to efficaciously implement the orders of the court, the State governments need to work with the Centre closely. With the third wave of COVID-19 infections looming, it is imperative to ensure that government machinery works to its full potential and robust systems are developed to withstand the challenges.
Aagam Jain is a II-year student at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru
Preparing for an uncertain academic year ahead during the pandemic, the Central Board of Secondary Education has decided on an assessment scheme for Classes 10 and 12 for 2021-22 under various scenarios, including the possibility that Board examinations can be conducted, should circumstances improve. The year gone by was extremely challenging for all Boards, and the CBSE had to hastily come up with a scheme to assess candidates in Class 12. It became clear that even with its high emphasis of academics, there was considerable deprivation for some students, and not all got the opportunity to complete their syllabus or attend online classes even in the national capital. The wide coverage of the Board, as of 2019, includes 1,138 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 2,727 government schools, 17,553 independent schools, 598 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and 14 Central Tibetan schools, and schools abroad. The diversity of students and their varied backgrounds was apparently reckoned to some degree while drafting the scheme for the coming year, which includes a mix of internal assessments for Classes 9-10 and 11-12, and term examinations in November-December and in March-April 2022. There will be a rationalised, compartmentalised syllabus split into two halves for each term. The scheme, which has the benefit of advance planning unlike the past year, must be responsive to the issues faced by all institutions in remote locations and the deprivation faced by less privileged students.
The CBSE’s special scheme relies on syllabus rationalisation done through expert evaluation of interconnectivity of subjects, and a centralised protocol of question papers and marking scheme for the term examinations. In the case of term I, it will be a multiple-choice question (MCQ) type test stretching over 90 minutes, with machine-readable optical marking, and for term II, a short-and-long-answers model, if circumstances permit. Efficient as it may sound, the multiple-choice model is critiqued by some as inferior, with sometimes irrelevant and meaningless questions that add up to little in terms of assessment, helping only the marking process. An adjunct to the MCQ pattern could be a decentralised process, empowering regional CBSE units and external experts to consider the state of particular districts and come up with assessments tailored to specific situations. At the same time, the Board has done well to plan for different scenarios that could be imposed by the pandemic, where either of the term examinations or both cannot be held, or the second term has to be converted into the MCQ type. The fallback option in the worst-case scenario is a combination of internal assessments, practical and project work and theory examinations taken at home. The extreme uncertainty underscores the need to take online lessons to all classes of students, and factor in schools with special needs.
The Taliban’s strategy is still not clear. Their political office in Doha, which started peace talks with Afghan government representatives in September 2020, continues to say they are committed to the dialogue. But on the battlefield in Afghanistan, they continue a relentless campaign aimed at capturing more territories. Part of the problem was the total abdication of leadership and responsibility by the U.S., which invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago. When direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban began, the U.S.’s focus was not on finding a peaceful settlement to the crisis that it partly created, but on exiting the war. Therefore, instead of putting pressure on the Taliban to extract concessions, the U.S. struck a deal with them, completely ignoring the concerns of Kabul. Now, the Taliban are much more powerful on the ground and even if the peace process is revived after American pullout, they would negotiate from a position of strength. But that should not stop Kabul and regional powers China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and India from seeking a political settlement. A violent takeover of the country by the Taliban, like in 1996, would not serve anybody’s interests. The Taliban would also not find international legitimacy if they capture Kabul through bloodshed. Afghan’s past experiences suggest that one-party regimes — the communist regime, Mujahideen or the Taliban — failed to stabilise the country or sustain themselves in the long term. Now that the invading troops are exiting Afghanistan, the warring parties’ focus should shift towards settlement and building lasting structures of power. Else, Afghanistan would fall into another cycle of violence.
[NEW DELHI, JULY 7] A major outcome of discussions, which Dr. Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s Adviser on National Security Affairs, had to-day with the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, was stated to be a clear recognition by the visiting diplomat that a “political solution” was necessary to solve the Bangla Desh problem and to ensure the return of refugees to East Pakistan.
Dr. Kissinger did not spell out the ideas of the U.S. administration but he gave enough indication during the talks with the Prime Minister that the plan of President Yahya Khan for breaking the present constitutional and political deadlock in East Pakistan would not serve the purpose.
The Prime Minister had 15-minute discussions with Dr. Kissinger before the advisers on both sides joined the talks.
Earlier, Dr. Kissinger had held talks with Mr. Swaran Singh, External Affairs Minister, on the Bangla Desh situation for nearly two hours ... After analysing the Bangla Desh problem in depth, the Prime Minister was stated to have emphasised that there was no question of the refugees being turned back to their country to be butchered by the Pakistan Army which had received reinforcements from the U.S.