கடந்த பிப்ரவரி 25-ல் அறிவிக்கப்பட்டு, மே 26 முதல் நடைமுறைக்கு வந்துள்ள ‘தகவல் தொழில்நுட்பம் (இடைநிலை வழிகாட்டுதல்கள் மற்றும் டிஜிட்டல் மீடியா நெறிமுறைகள் சட்டம்) விதிகள்-2021’, இந்திய அரசமைப்பால் அடிப்படை உரிமைகளில் ஒன்றாக உறுதிப்படுத்தப்பட்டுள்ள கருத்துச் சுதந்திரத்துக்குக் கடுமையான நெருக்கடிகளைத் தோற்றுவித்துள்ளது. சமூக ஊடகங்கள், இணைய வழி ஒளிபரப்புகள் ஆகியவற்றுடன் இணையவழியிலான செய்தி உள்ளடக்கங்களையும் கட்டுப்படுத்துவதாக இந்த விதிகள் அமைந்துள்ளன. சமூக ஊடகங்கள் தேவையெனில், தங்களது பயனர்களைப் பற்றிய விவரங்களை அரசுக்குத் தெரிவிக்க வேண்டியது கட்டாயமாக்கப்பட்டுள்ள நிலையில், அது தனிமனிதச் சுதந்திரத்துக்கு எதிரானது என்று வாட்ஸ்அப், ட்விட்டர் ஆகிய நிறுவனங்கள் எதிர்ப்புத் தெரிவித்தன. எனினும், சில நாட்களுக்கு முந்தைய டெல்லி உயர் நீதிமன்ற உத்தரவால், புதிய விதிமுறைகளை ட்விட்டர் நிறுவனம் ஏற்றுக்கொண்டுவிட்டது. நெட்ஃப்ளிக்ஸ், ஹாட்ஸ்டார் போன்ற பிரபல ‘ஓவர்-த-டாப்’ (ஓடிடி) ஒளிபரப்பு நிறுவனங்கள் ஏற்கெனவே இந்தப் புதிய விதிமுறைகளுக்கு இணங்க தகவல்களைப் பகிர்ந்துகொண்டுள்ளன.
டெல்லி உயர் நீதிமன்றத்தில் பிரஸ் டிரஸ்ட் ஆஃப் இந்தியா (பிடிஐ) தொடர்ந்துள்ள வழக்கில், நடைமுறைக்கு வந்திருக்கும் புதிய விதிகளை இணையவழிச் செய்திகளின் உள்ளடக்கத்தை அரசும் நிர்வாகமும் தீர்மானிப்பதற்கான கருவி என்று கூறி அதற்கு இடைக்காலத் தடை விதிக்க வேண்டும் என்று கோரியுள்ளது. அச்சிதழ்கள் மற்றும் இணையவழிச் செய்திகள் இரண்டுக்கும் இடையில் வேறுபாடுகளை உருவாக்கும் இவ்விதிகள், அரசமைப்பின் கூறு 14-க்கு எதிரானதாகவும் வாதிடப்பட்டுள்ளது. தவறான செய்தி வெளியிடப்பட்டால் உரிமையியல், குற்றவியல் சட்டங்களின் கீழ் தண்டிப்பதற்கு ஏற்கெனவே வகைசெய்யப்பட்டுள்ள நிலையில், மேலும் ஒரு விதியின் அவசியம் என்னவென்ற கேள்வி முக்கியமானது. இவ்வழக்கில் பதிலளிக்குமாறு ஒன்றிய அரசின் தகவல் தொழில்நுட்பத் துறை அமைச்சகத்துக்கும் செய்தி மற்றும் ஒலிபரப்புத் துறை அமைச்சகத்துக்கும் டெல்லி உயர் நீதிமன்றம் உத்தரவிட்டுள்ளது.--Source: hindutamil.in
மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை விவகாரம் குறித்து விவாதிப்பதற்காக தமிழக முதல்வா் மு.க. ஸ்டாலின் தலைமையில் அனைத்துக் கட்சிக் கூட்டம் இன்று நடைபெற இருக்கிறது. முந்தைய எடப்பாடி பழனிசாமி அரசும், இன்றைய மு.க. ஸ்டாலின் அரசும் முக்கியமான பிரச்னைகளுக்கு அனைத்துக் கட்சிக் கூட்டம் நடத்தி முடிவெடுக்கும் இந்த அணுகுமுறைக்கு முதலில் பாராட்டுகள். தமிழகத்தின் நலன் கருதி இந்த கருத்தொற்றுமை தொடர வேண்டும்.
கா்நாடகத்திலிருந்து தமிழகத்திற்கு வரும் காவிரி நதியில் மேலும் ஒரு அணை கட்டும் திட்டத்தை முன்னெடுக்க முயற்சிப்பது தவறான போக்கு. மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை திட்டத்தை தடைமுறைப்படுத்துவதில் கா்நாடக அரசு முனைப்புடன் செயல்படும் என்று மாநில முதல்வா் பி.எஸ். எடியூரப்பா தெரிவித்திருப்பதன் பின்னணியில் அரசியல் தெரிகிறதே தவிர, நதிநீா்ப் பங்கீடு குறித்த நியாயமான கண்ணோட்டம் தெரியவில்லை.
பெங்களூரில் இருந்து 100 கி.மீ. தூரத்திலும், தமிழக எல்லையில் இருந்து நான்கு கி.மீ. தூரத்திலும் மேக்கேதாட்டு அணையை அமைக்க விழைகிறது கா்நாடக அரசு. இதன் மூலம் பெங்களூரும் அதைச் சுற்றியுள்ள பகுதிகளும் குடிநீா் வசதி பெறும் என்பது கா்நாடக அரசின் வாதம்.
கடந்த 40 ஆண்டு புள்ளிவிவரங்களின் அடிப்படையில் 45,000 பில்லியன் கியூபிக் கனஅடி தண்ணீா் காவிரியில் உபரியாக தன்னிடம் இருப்பதாக கூறுகிறது. அதில் 67 டிஎம்சி தண்ணீரை மட்டும்தான் மேக்கேதாட்டு அணையில் சேமித்துவைக்கப் போவதாகவும், 4.75 டிஎம்சி தண்ணீரை பெங்களூரு நகரம் உள்ளிட்ட பகுதிகளின் குடிநீா் தேவைக்கு பயன்படுத்தப் போவதாகவும் திட்ட அறிக்கை கூறுகிறது. அது மட்டுமல்லாமல், 400 மெகா வாட் மின்சாரம், புனல் மின்நிலையம் மூலம் தயாரிப்பதும் கா்நாடகத்தின் திட்டம்.
2007 பிப்ரவரியில் காவிரி நதிநீா் பங்கீட்டு ஆணையம் வழங்கிய இறுதித் தீா்ப்பின்படி, கா்நாடகம், கேரளம், தமிழகம், புதுச்சேரி ஆகிய மாநிலங்களுக்கு அதனதன் தேவைக்கு ஏற்ப காவிரி நதிநீா் பிரித்துக் கொடுக்கப்பட்டு மாதந்தோறும் வழங்க வேண்டிய நதிநீரின் அளவையும் குறிப்பிட்டிருந்தது. அதை எதிா்த்து செய்யப்பட்ட மேல்முறையீட்டில், 2018 பிப்ரவரியில் உச்சநீதிமன்றம் காவிரி நீா் ஒதுக்கீட்டை மாற்றியமைத்தது. கா்நாடகத்தின் பங்கை அதிகரித்து பெங்களூருக்கும் பெங்களூரைச் சுற்றியுள்ள பகுதிக்குமான குடிநீா் தேவைக்கு 4.75 டிஎம்சி தண்ணீா் வழங்கியது.
உச்சநீதிமன்றத்தின் குடிநீா் தேவைக்கான ஒப்புதலை தனக்குச் சாதகமாகப் பயன்படுத்திக் கொண்டு இப்போது ரூ.9,000 கோடி திட்ட மதிப்பீட்டில் மேக்கேதாட்டில் அணை கட்டும் முனைப்பில் இறங்கியிருக்கிறது கா்நாடக அரசு. தமிழக எல்லையிலிருந்து சுமாா் நான்கு கி.மீ. தூரத்தில் அமைய இருக்கும் மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை, தமிழகத்துக்கு வரும் தண்ணீரை தேக்கி வைத்து உபரிநீரை மட்டுமே வழங்கும் என்பதுதான் எதாா்த்தம்.
காவிரி நதிநீா் பங்கீட்டின்படியான ஒதுக்கீட்டுக்கு மேல் தமிழகத்துக்கு ஆண்டுதோறும் சுமாா் 80 டிஎம்சி தண்ணீா் இப்போது கிடைத்து வருகிறது. இரு மாநில எல்லையில் இருக்கும் பில்லிகுண்டுக்கும் கா்நாடகத்தில் உள்ள கபினி அணை, கிருஷ்ணராஜ சாகா் அணை இரண்டுக்கும் இடையிலான பகுதிகளிலும் ஓடைகள் மூலமாகவும், சிற்றாறுகள் மூலமாகவும் வந்து சேரும் தண்ணீா் கணக்கில் வராது. மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை அதை தடுத்துவிடும்.
67 டிஎம்சி தண்ணீா் தேக்கி வைக்கும் புதிய திட்டம் தமிழக எல்லைக்கு நான்கு கி.மீ. முன்பு கா்நாடகத்தில் அமையுமானால், மேட்டூா் அணைக்கான நீா்வரத்து தடைப்படும் என்பது மட்டுமல்ல, குறுவை சாகுபடி காலத்தில் டெல்டா பகுதிகளுக்கு பாசன நீா் வழங்குவதிலும் பிரச்னை ஏற்படக்கூடும். ஆண்டுதோறும் கா்நாடகம் தனது காவிரி நதிநீா் பங்கீட்டில் மாதத் தவணையை வழங்குவதில்லை என்கிற குற்றச்சாட்டை மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை அகற்றும் என்றும், தொடா்ந்து தனது பங்கு தண்ணீரை கொடுப்பதற்கு வழிகோலும் என்றும் புதியதொரு காரணத்தை முன்வைக்க முற்பட்டிருக்கிறது கா்நாடக அரசு.
கா்நாடகத்தில் ஏற்கெனவே போதுமான பாசன கட்டமைப்பு ஏற்படுத்தப்பட்டிருக்கிறது. பெங்களூரு மாநகரத்திற்கான தண்ணீா் தேவைக்கு 100 கி.மீ. தொலைவிலுள்ள மேக்கேதாட்டு திட்டம் தேவையும் இல்லை. எல்லாவற்றிற்கும் மேலாக மிகப் பெரிய சுற்றுச்சூழல் பாதிப்பை மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை திட்டம் ஏற்படுத்த இருக்கிறது என்பதை கா்நாடக அரசு உணா்ந்தும்கூட ஏன் முனைப்புக்காட்டுகிறது என்பது புரியவில்லை. இதுவரை மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை திட்டத்துக்கு மத்திய சுற்றுச்சூழல் துறையின் அனுமதி வழங்கப்படவில்லை என்பதை குறிப்பிட வேண்டும்.
யானைகள் சரணாலயம் இருக்கும் பகுதியில் எந்தவொரு திட்டத்தையும் முன்னெடுக்கக் கூடாது என்கிற ஆணையை, 2012-இல் சென்னை உயா்நீதிமன்றமும், 2020-இல் உச்சநீதிமன்றமும் பிறப்பித்திருக்கின்றன. மேக்கேதாட்டு திட்டம் முக்கியமான யானைகள் வழித்தடத்தில் அமைகிறது. அதில் அமைய இருக்கும் 440 மெகா வாட் புனல் மின்நிலையத்திற்காக காவிரி வனவிலங்கு சரணாயலத்தின் 5,100 ஹெக்டோ் வனப்பகுதி நீா்ப்பிடிப்பு பகுதியில் மூழ்க இருக்கிறது. 66 மலை கிராமங்களும், 227 ஹெக்டோ் வருவாய் துறை நிலமும் இந்தத் திட்டத்துக்காக கையகப்படுத்தப்பட வேண்டும்.
கா்நாடகத்தில் முன்பு ஆட்சியில் இருந்த காங்கிரஸ் கட்சிக்கும் மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை திட்டத்தை முன்மொழிந்ததில் பங்குண்டு. இப்போதைய பாஜக அரசும் அதற்கு முனைப்பு காட்டுகிறது. மேக்கேதாட்டு அணை திட்டத்தை தமிழகத்திடம் ஒப்படைப்பதாக இருந்தால் நாம் அதை மகிழ்ச்சியுடன் வரவேற்கலாம். பெங்களூருக்கு குடிநீரும் கிடைக்கும்; தமிழக விவசாயிகளுக்கு நியாயமும் கிடைக்கும்.--Source: dinamani.com
A couple turned down for a home they wish to rent, because they are Muslim. A qualified professional rejected for a job because he uses a wheelchair. A pair of students denied facilities on campus because of their caste or ethnicity. An air hostess dismissed for being above the weight deemed desirable, even though male stewards/pursers of that weight continue in their jobs.
Forms of discrimination
Such incidents are all too common in our society.“Silent segregation” on the grounds of marital status, gender, sexual orientation or eating preferences are followed in several housing societies and residents’ associations. The Housing Discrimination Project (https://bit.ly/3wvGQFC) at Jindal Global Law School has shown how extensive housing discrimination is across the country. The recent Pew Research Center Report (https://pewrsr.ch/2TOZF9v) has confirmed that a substantial number of Indians prefer not to have a person from a different religious community as their neighbour. The absence of a proper legal recourse for those who suffer from housing discrimination only makes matters worse.
Even though Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down by the Supreme Court of India to exclude consensual relations between adults of the same sex, social prejudice against members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country remains strong. Article 15(1) of the Constitution of India prohibits the state from discriminating against individuals on basis of certain protected characteristics such as religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth. But it does not bar private individuals or institutions from doing what the state is not permitted to. Nor does it expressly list ethnicity, linguistic identity, nationality, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance and other personal characteristics as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
The understanding of discrimination has also evolved over the years. It does not operate along a single axis; it can take the form of combined discrimination which is a combination of discrimination on two or more grounds. Last April, the Supreme Court, inPatan Jamal Vali vs State of Andhra Pradesh, recognised intersectional discrimination — discrimination on the basis of the intersection of personal characteristics, such as that faced by Dalit women as Dalits, as women and in the unique category of Dalit women. Discriminatory practices may also be indirect in nature, whereby policies that seem neutral and not expressly targeted at a particular group, still cause a disproportional adverse impact on disadvantaged sections of society.
Legal remedies are needed
Since discrimination thus operates on a wide variety of grounds, legal remedies are needed for its victims, whether direct, indirect or intersectional. A comprehensive anti-discrimination legal framework is required to fill the existing legal lacunae. India is one of the few liberal democracies without such a framework. The Sachar Committee, in 2006, recognised the need for an anti-discrimination law. This was further reiterated by the Expert Group on Equal Opportunity Commission headed by Prof. N.R. Madhava Menon. Though the proposal for an anti-discrimination law was approved by the United Progressive Alliance Cabinet, it was put on the back-burner after the government changed in 2014.
When a Bill lapsed
One of us (Tharoor) tried to revive the idea by introducing the Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill, 2016 (https://bit.ly/3k5KoMf) in the Lok Sabha. Perhaps predictably, the Treasury Benches were not interested to take it forward and the Bill lapsed in 2019 with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. It seems clear to us that the only way progressive legislation of this nature can be passed in the present climate would be if the States lead the way, by enacting anti-discrimination laws in their respective jurisdictions. States have a vital role in strengthening our right to equality. A central Bill cannot, at any rate, cover subjects that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of State governments. And if States take the initiative, the demand for a national anti-discrimination law to cover services and institutions under the domain of the Union government will be reignited.
Kerala is one the best placed States to take this proposal forward, especially since both the major political fronts in the State have previously committed themselves to such legislation. The CPI(M) in its 2019 manifesto (https://bit.ly/3hVjEet) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) in its 2021 State Assembly manifesto (https://bit.ly/2UGXFjn) have both promised to enact an anti-discrimination law which covers the private and the public sectors. The State legislature can use its powers under Entry 8 of List III in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution to enact an anti-discrimination law that attracts civil penalties for those who engage in discriminatory practices.
Crafted for Kerala
With the invaluable assistance of Professor Tarunabh Khaitan of Oxford University, we have drafted an anti-discrimination Bill for the Kerala government to consider introducing in the State Legislative Assembly. The Bill prohibits employers, landlords, traders, service providers, private persons performing public functions, and public authorities, from discriminating on grounds of caste, race, ethnicity, descent, sex, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religious identity, tribe, disability, linguistic identity, HIV-status, nationality, marital status, dietary preference, skin tone, physical appearance, place of residence, place of birth, age or analogous characteristics which are beyond the control of an individual or those that constitute a fundamental choice.
At the same time, the Bill balances the anti-discrimination mandate with other rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The anti-discrimination mandate can be restricted in pursuance of a legitimate objective:for instance, a drama company putting up a production of the Ramayana can insist on only male applicants for the role of Ram. That would not be discrimination in the terms covered by the law.
The Bill also introduces affirmative-action provisions whereby public authorities are obliged to progressively realise diversification of their workforces by recruiting members of disadvantaged sections excluded from society, such as transgender persons or persons with disabilities. Given the backlogs in our judicial system, the Bill establishes a ‘Kerala Equality Commission’ to adjudicate complaints and to provide policy recommendations to the State government. Given that the proliferation of post-retirement public offices for judges does not augur well for judicial independence, the proposed commission does not follow the tried and tested model of former judges presiding over statutory bodies. Rather, appointments to the Commission are left to the political process, with substantial weightage given to the largest parties in the State, both in the Treasury and Opposition benches, to ensure bipartisan buy-in to the process.
The Bill has been forwarded both to the Law Minister of Kerala and the Leader of the Opposition with the suggestion that it should be subjected to a pre-legislative consultation process, so that democratic participation in enacting this historic law is encouraged (https://bit.ly/3reY74Z). If this Bill is enacted, it will be the largest expansion of civil rights in the State since the commencement of the Constitution, and it can be a model for other States to follow. We recognise that an anti-discrimination law is not a panacea for the problems of inequality and social prejudice that are deeply rooted in our society. Nevertheless, it is a necessary step — an idea whose time has come.
Shashi Tharoor is Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and an author. Arvind Kurian Abraham is a fellow at the University of Oxford
World Population Day is marked on July 11 every year to focus attention on the importance of population-related issues. It was first observed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1989 and aims to raise the discourse on sustainable ways to safeguard each life that adds up to a population.
As flagged by a UNDP report last year, and subsequently in a global study byThe Lancet, India will stabilise its population 12 years earlier than expected. Therefore, the window India has to leverage its ‘demographic dividend’ is narrower than we had thought. Fears of a ‘population explosion’ are misplaced; instead, it is critical that we focus our attention on safeguarding young people’s well-being because India’s welfare hinges on them.
Impact of the pandemic
At 253 million, India’s adolescent population is among the largest. Over 62% of India is aged between 15 and 59 years, and the median age of the population is less than 30 years. India’s ‘demographic dividend’ represents the potential for economic growth based on the age structure of the population. However, transforming this potential into reality requires adolescents and the youth to be healthy and well-educated.
Even before COVID-19 caused country-wide school closures, India’s underfunded education system was inadequately equipped to provide the skills young people need to take advantage of emerging employment opportunities. According to the World Bank, public expenditure on education constituted 4.4% of GDP in 2019 and only 3.4% of GDP in 2020. Another report revealed that India stands 62nd in terms of public expenditure per student, and fares badly in quality of education measures such as student-teacher ratios. Coupled with the impact of COVID-19, this paints a bleak picture of the state of education today.
In India, more than 32 crore students have been affected by the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19. Of these, about 15.8 crore are female. The number of schoolgirls who are impacted is 158 million and many of those who have dropped out are unlikely to go back to school. Schools have remained closed even in remote areas where the effect of the pandemic has been minimal. Studies show that school closures have a serious impact on the lives and mental well-being of children.
The impact of the pandemic on adolescents has been severe. A survey by the International Labour Organization reveals that 65% of adolescents worldwide reported having learnt less during the pandemic, and 51% felt that their learning would be further delayed. It also highlighted that adolescent mental well-being has taken a big blow, with 17% of young people likely to be suffering from anxiety and depression.
It is important, therefore, for policymakers to balance the risks of transmission through children with the harm of prolonged school closures. By prioritising the vaccination of teachers and school support staff and also allowing a decentralised approach where district-level officials may reopen schools based on local COVID-19 transmission rates, schools could be opened in a safe and phased manner. In Odisha, for example, community schools have re-opened in some areas. Students wear face masks and sit physically distanced from each other outdoors under sheds or tents. With some innovation and creativity, opening schools with a mix of online and offline options could be an important step to addressing the learning needs and mental well-being of adolescents.
Increased poverty levels during the pandemic may well have led to a worrying spurt in early marriages of girls in India. As demographers like Shireen Jejeebhoy note, while child marriage as a strategy to address household poverty has been noted in India in general, it has registered an alarming rise during the pandemic. This is linked with increases in gender-based violence. Adolescent girls are at high risk during times like these, given their vulnerability to abuse and trafficking, especially if primary caregivers fall ill or die. Restricted mobility due to lockdowns puts girls at risk of violence at home at the hands of caregivers or partners. The impact of the crisis on adolescents, especially girls, is of gigantic proportions, but the problem is not irredeemable, provided we display firm commitment to implementing quick and effective strategies to overcome the challenges.
The way forward
We are living through a global crisis and the road ahead is uncertain. This will have long-standing effects on adolescents and youth. Recognising that COVID-19 has affected all dimensions of the lives of youth, collaborative actions by key ministries, government agencies, and civil society will be central to developing a holistic and meaningful solution. It is imperative that we have in place mechanisms for better inter-sectoral collaboration as we move to safeguard the futures of our adolescents. School mid-day meals, for example, exemplify how improved nutrition benefits learning. Not only do they provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school on the assurance of one nutritious meal; they also provide the calorie intake required to stay alert in the classroom. Studies have established strong links between nutrition and cognitive scores among teenagers. Coordination across departments can enable better solutions and greater efficiencies in tackling the crisis that our adolescents face.
Much could be gained if the Ministry of Education took steps to ensure that adolescents, especially girls, continue their education during the pandemic. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare must collaborate with the Education Ministry to disseminate key information to help adolescents safeguard their health and ability to learn.
Given that school closures have impacted access to schemes such as the delivery of menstrual hygiene products to adolescents, teachers can work as volunteers for collaborating with frontline health workers to distribute sanitary napkins to girls. To address the mental health of adolescents, the Health and Education Ministries should strengthen outreach via existing helplines and by enabling conversations on critical issues regarding their reproductive and sexual health.
There is enough academic research to demonstrate how the demographic dividend contributed to growth in other countries, especially during East Asia’s economic miracle of 1965-1990. During that period, East Asia's working age population grew at a faster rate than its dependent population, thereby expanding the per capita productivity of these economies. This occurred because East Asian countries developed social, economic, and political institutions and policies that allowed them to realise the growth potential created by the transition.
Improving the lives of our adolescents in mission mode would lift their lives, but also generate a virtuous cycle with healthier and educated young adults contributing substantially to securing India’s future.
Poonam Muttreja is Executive Director and Dipa Nag Choudhury is Director of Programmes, Population Foundation of India
One of the signs of India’s growing centrality in the Indo-Pacific strategic architecture is its burgeoning engagement with key western nations. Even countries which have been lackadaisical in their regional outreach so far have begun to approach the Indo-Pacific with a new seriousness and have been reaching out to New Delhi.
The growth of India’s weight in Indo-Pacific affairs comes at a time when it is becoming clearer that complex regional geopolitical problems cannot be addressed adequately by rigid and structured traditional alliance frameworks. This aspect is even more evident in the context of the Indo-Pacific, where the geographical vastness of the area and the criticality of the challenges posed by China’s assertive initiatives clash with a region lacking multilateral organisations capable of solving problems effectively.
But as a new pushback against China takes shape and as Indian foreign policy becomes strategically clearer, there is a new momentum to initiatives such as the Quad. Countries that share similar values and face similar challenges are coming together to create purpose-oriented partnerships. In doing so, they are making it possible for participating nations to address specific common challenges, from maritime security to a coordinated pandemic response, including consolidating and further developing strong reciprocal trade relationships, without compromising the political autonomy of each participant.
Recently, Italy has also begun to signal its intention to enter the Indo-Pacific geography. It has done so by seeking to join India and Japan in a trilateral partnership. This initiative comes after years of Rome’s relative absence from the geopolitical affairs of the region as it sought to concentrate more on the Atlantic and European dimensions while maintaining good, albeit well below potential, bilateral relations with India.
The Italian government headed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi has started to pay attention outside its immediate neighbourhood again. At the same time, Italy has become more vocal on the risks emanating from China’s strategic competitive initiatives. Recently, Mr. Draghi described Chinese competitive practices as “unfair” and invited the European Union (EU) to be franker and more courageous in confronting Beijing on its violations of human rights, reiterating that with respect to China “the reciprocal visions of the world are very different”.
On the Indian side, there is great interest in forging new partnerships with like-minded countries interested in preserving peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. During a recent India-Italy-Japan trilateral, organised by the Italian embassies in India and Japan, Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East) of the Ministry of External Affairs, reiterated that the responsibility of keeping the Indo-Pacific free and open, and working for the welfare of its inhabitants falls on like-minded countries within and beyond the region.
Need for a clear strategy
With the expression of interest on the Italian side, the first step towards this trilateral has been taken, yet it needs to evolve into something more significant. The Italian government must formulate a clear Indo-Pacific strategy that must indicate its objectives and, above all, the means and initiatives it is willing to implement on its own and in cooperation with its partners. Italy’s tendency to privilege diplomatic action through the mechanisms of the EU can be a resource for consolidating the EU-India strategic relationship. But Rome must go beyond that in defining and implementing, at the margins of the EU’s common initiatives, its own policy with respect to the Indo-Pacific.
Trilateral cooperation is key
The India, Italy and Japan trilateral initiative can, and should, be a forum to foster and consolidate a strategic relationship between these three countries, and specifically expand India-Italy bilateral relations. As it stands, relations between Rome and Tokyo are historically strong, and those between New Delhi and Tokyo are a strategic pillar of the free and open Indo-Pacific. A trilateral cooperation can be the right forum for India and Italy to learn more from each other’s practices and interests and consolidate a strategic dialogue that should include the economic, the security and the political dimensions. The next G20 leaders’ summit in Rome, in October, before the presidency handover to India in 2023, should be the right opportunity for further trilateral coordination on economic and political issues at an institutional level. To consolidate the trilateral cooperation in this field, the three countries need to define a common economic and strategic agenda.
A strategic trilateral between India, Italy and Japan has, in the medium to long term, a lot of potential. Their compatible economic systems can create a virtuous and mutually beneficial contribution to the reorganisation of the global supply chains that is now being reviewed by many players as a natural result of the Chinese mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the security level, the well-defined India-Japan Indo-Pacific partnership can easily be complemented by Italy, already present in the western Indian Ocean where it is engaged in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. At the multilateral level, the three countries share the same values and the same rules-based world view. Despite these fundamental convergences, the risk inherent in missing this opportunity also exists. For this reason, a clear political will is needed from all sides, and Italy, in particular, should recognise its interests in playing a larger role towards the maintenance of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Robust India-Italy strategic ties can be the first step towards the realisation of this goal.
Harsh V. Pant is Director of Research at the Observer Research Foundation,
New Delhi and Professor of International Relations at King’s College London.
Mauro Bonavita is a PhD candidate at King’s College London
In 2014, when writer Perumal Murugan was forced to go silent for a period due to the excesses of a caste-based vigilante group with the backing of the district administration, there was justifiable outrage among writers and artists. There were protest meetings across Tamil Nadu. In one such meeting, a group of young artists came up with numerous posters that demanded that the freedom of expression be upheld. After the meeting, I was presented with a set of posters which were based on the poems by the modern Tamil poet, Atmanam. These posters adorn my office and constantly remind me not to take free speech for granted.
Right to free speech
In journalism, we talk about two forms of censorship: one imposed by external forces and the other imposed by us on ourselves due to fear. Though Mr. Murugan was granted relief by the High Court, legal scholar Gautam Bhatia, in his article “The fault in our speech” (July 7, 2016), pointed out the limitations in the court’s approach. The judgment was based on three rather restrictive arguments: “First, that the book has won many prizes, and has gained critical acclaim; second, that Indian culture had always celebrated sexuality until the Victorian British suppressed it; and third, that read as a whole, the book is not intended to titillate or eroticise, but instead, to make a broader point about how social pressures can impact individual lives.”
Mr. Bhatia rightly argued that “for speech to be truly free, the judiciary must stop asking literature to justify its aesthetic or its politics before the Bar, whether mediated by an awards jury or not”. Throughout South Asia, writers, poets and journalists often invoke the legendary Faiz Ahmad Faiz to defend our right to express ourselves fully. His poetry ‘Bol(Speak)’ galvanised many for decades to fight for the fundamental right to free speech. He wrote: “Speak, for your lips are free; speak, for your tongue is still yours. Your upright body belongs to you; speak, for your soul still is yours”.
What unites a legal mind like Mr. Bhatia and a cultural icon like Mr. Faiz is their unending quest to secure rights for everyone. Mr. Faiz wrote the Report of the 1968 Standing Committee on Art and Culture, which was forgotten not only in Pakistan but across South Asia. It is important for courts and the governments to listen to Mr. Faiz. He wrote: “Culture is lived and evolved by the whole community… The arts are not a luxury. They are an important factor in a nation’s mental and moral health and productive efficiency.”
There is a body of literature about freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Such works talk about the excesses of governments and the legal recourse. But there are no clues in literature on how to deal with a government which makes its decisions in total secrecy. James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights in the U.S., once said that “a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to farce or a tragedy or perhaps both”. In India, now there is very little credible popular information. Journalists are forced to rely on sources and form an opinion based on conjectures.
On July 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi effected a major reshuffle in his Cabinet. Beyond headline management by the government, citizens know very little about the factors that led to this change. The strap line that accompanied the reshuffle story on the front page of this newspaper read: “Move aimed at bringing in qualified professionals and balancing regional and community aspirations in the run-up to upcoming elections”.
I was intrigued by two sentences in the story. One read: “Government sources termed it an effort by Mr. Modi to strike a balance between political messaging of including MPs from various regional centres as well as from marginalised communities and beefing up the skill set of the ministries with professionally and educationally qualified additions.” And the other said: “Several ministries have been clubbed together, sources say, to increase synergy.” Why should journalists rely on sources for such perfectly legitimate and democratically valid reasons? Why was there no official briefing? Journalists are forced to cite sources because of the official silence. How do we address this important democratic deficit? The government is aware that secrecy is a potent weapon. It is no longer a prologue to farce or tragedy. It is tragedy.
The world is not yet out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to take a high toll on populations and economies. This unprecedented health crisis has also severely impacted the gains made in the education sector over the last few years. In India alone, 1.5 million schools shut down in 2020, affecting 320 million learners and impacting their education, protection and well-being.
Throughout this pandemic, the exceptional effort undertaken by teachers must be highlighted. Using the resources available to them, Indian teachers mobilised as one and have remained on the front-lines of education to ensure continuity of learning, often against formidable odds, even though the pandemic claimed the lives of many of them.
As the country steps up its efforts to tackle the devastating effects of the second wave of COVID-19, the national vaccination campaign has assumed greater importance than ever before, so that we can finally move to a ‘new normal’. There is an urgent need to better recognise teachers as front-line workers and prioritise them in the vaccination campaign.
While this has already been done by many State governments, the model should be replicated nationwide. This will not only speed up the reopening of schools so that students can get back to ‘in person’ learning, but will also provide safety.
Barriers to vaccination
Mass vaccination campaigns do not solely depend on the availability of vaccines. Such efforts are always hindered by a lack of suitable transport facilities, and difficult or prolonged travel time to the vaccination sites.
Teachers, like anyone else, may be worried about travelling long distances to the vaccination centres for fear of contracting the virus on public transport and may not be able to access other means of conveyance.
Keeping these limitations in mind and to support the process of swift vaccination for teachers initiated by the government, the ride-sharing company Uber and UNESCO are coming together to offer a ‘Free rides for teachers’ vaccination’ campaign to provide teachers with the means to travel to the vaccination centres in a safe manner while offsetting the costs of traveling long distances.
The initiative offers 1,00,000 rides to 25,000 teachers to and from vaccination centres to get the two vaccine doses. The offer will be implemented in Chennai, Coimbatore and Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. The rides will be made available via a promotional code communicated to the teachers with a detailed pictorial brochure to help them download the application and use the code.
The impact of the pandemic across the globe necessitates a coordinated response. Last year, UNESCO launched the Global Education Coalition (GEC), a platform for collaboration to protect the right to education during the pandemic and beyond.
The coalition brings together more than 175 members from the UN family, civil society, academia, and the private sector focusing on three key issues, namely connectivity, teachers, and gender to ensure continuous access to education for all.
As we now begin to re-imagine education in a post-COVID-19 world, we must remember that renewed cooperation between governments and the private sector can go a long way in combating this crisis. Through our partnership with Uber, we wish to acknowledge the continued commitment of teachers to their students and their critical role in contributing to the achievement of the 2030 targets under Sustainable Development Goal 4.
In this crisis, teachers have shown great leadership and innovation in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops, and that no learner is left behind. They have also helped in communicating measures that prevent the spread of the virus and providing assistance to ensure the mental well-being of all children. An accelerated vaccination process will enable them to stand fully ready when schools reopen.
Eric Falt is the Director and Representative
of the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka
Alongside the state and the market, cooperatives play a vital role in the country’s development but are seldom the focus of policy planning. The creation of a new Union Ministry to oversee the cooperatives sector will redeem it from negligence, according to the Government. Critics fear that this Ministry is purposed to concentrate even more powers in the hands of the Centre. Cooperatives are dominant in agriculture, credit and marketing, but not limited to those. Some are big — IFFCO has around a third of the market share in fertilizers. In milk, cotton, handlooms, housing, edible oils, sugar and fisheries, they are formidable. As market conditions are evolving, cooperatives in States such as Kerala have got into complex operations: running IT parks and medical colleges. More avenues for expansion, such as insurance, remain untapped and the regulatory regime must evolve in step. The legal architecture of the sector began evolving since 1904 under colonial rule, and in 2002, the Multi State Cooperative Societies Act was passed, taking into account the challenges arising out of liberalisation. Considering the fact that cooperatives fall in the State list of the Constitution, the Centre will have to innovate to provide legal sanctity for the new Ministry. A separate Ministry can marshal the diffused capacity of the sector, however.
That said, this move will turn disastrous if the attempt is to appropriate the political capital of the sector, which is significant. Cooperatives are not meant to operate by the market logic of maximising profits but to share the benefits to all stakeholders equitably. Though not uniform across India, cooperatives have made significant contributions in poverty alleviation, food security, management of natural resources and the environment. True, the sector has become an instrument of patronage and pilferage. Mismanagement and corruption destroyed the sector in some States. The potency of cooperatives as an apparatus of political control is personally known to Minister-in-charge Amit Shah, once president of a district cooperative bank. Besides serving localities and segments that markets might ignore, cooperatives are also effective in mediating politics at the local level, outside of the parliamentary system. Despite regulatory oversight by the RBI and States, there is considerable autonomy for the sector which is often misused. The remedy is not an overarching Ministry and diktats from Delhi. The premise of a cooperative is that decisions are made by those affected by them. The case for transparency and efficiency in the sector is strong; that goal must be pursued not by scaring the very soul of the sector but by advancing the cooperative spirit. The new Ministry could indeed be a catalyst, but it must not fashion itself as a command authority.
Sport is a distillation of micro-tragedies and mega-ecstasies enmeshed with whirring limbs, glistening sweat, unabashed tears and booming laughter. And football presents a wider canvas for all these attributes, which were exhibited at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium late on Saturday night. When the Copa America final that pitted eternal rivals Argentina and Brazil wound to a close, it primarily offered redemption to Lionel Messi, of the phlegmatic smile and magical feet fame. One of the greatest ever footballers and fit to join a pantheon headlined by Pele and Diego Maradona, until now Messi had one missing link — a cup triumph for Argentina. After his 34 summers, that aberration was finally erased once his team defeated Brazil 1-0 in a scrappy contest with the odd streaks of brilliance. Messi, miracle-dispenser with FC Barcelona, was seen by his countrymen as the prodigal son, who never delivered, and they embalmed for posterity their affection towards the late Maradona. Messi and his fellow Argentines constituted a dysfunctional family of unspoken hurts. All that anguish could dissipate thanks to the latest victory which came after a 28-year title drought for theAlbiceleste. Their 15th Copa America trophy put them on a par with toppers Uruguay, well ahead of Brazil with nine. Incidentally, Copa America with its 1916 inception even predates the FIFA World Cup, which commenced in 1930.
Argentina and Brazil have embellished the championship’s storied history and in South America with its seize-the-day spirit, novels infused with magical realism and samba dance, football is seen as an extension of aesthetic joy. The final though did not live up to that esoteric aim. There were sparks marred by some rough tackles. Messi was not in his elements, marked tightly and weighed down by expectations, he even missed scoring his team’s second goal in the closing minutes. But having drawn the Brazilian defenders towards him all through the game, Messi created spaces that his team-mates could exploit. Even in that missed goal-scoring opportunity, Messi seemed keen on doing an assist rather than performing the deed and this is the mark of a man desperate for affection from his squad and country. The match was by then firmly in Argentina’s grip thanks to the 22nd minute goal slotted by Angel Di Maria, who capitalised on a long-pass from Rodrigo De Paul. A stung Brazil, especially Neymar, mounted rapid sorties on either side of half-time. Two attempts were adroitly foisted by Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and when theSelecaoseemingly breached the citadel, it was deemed off-side. Argentina and Messi were destined for their shot at glory in a 10-team intra-continental tournament, which despite other simultaneous global attractions like the Euro and Wimbledon, had its own effervescent charms.
Mr. Jaya Prakash Narayan, Mr. Sadaq Ali, President of the Congress (O), Mr. Krishna Menen and other leading politicians continue to call for the immediate recognition of Bangla Desh. The demand has also been pressed by some members in the Lok Sabha and the Jan Sangh plans to take the issue to the streets next month. Though the Government’s sympathies are fully with the Bangla Desh movement there are good reasons for not according diplomatic recognition at this stage. There would be little point in that recognition unless it can be followed up with massive supply of arms to the freedom fighters. This would be treated as an act of war by Pakistan and provide grist for Pakistan’s propaganda mill which has been trying to tell the world that India promoted a seccessionist movement in East Pakistan and that the Awami League is a pro-Indian party.
Pakistan would probably welcome any sign of Indian intervention in the east, and if black-out exercises are being held in New Delhi and troops put on the alert in Kashmir, it is because India fears that Islamabad may provoke a war at any moment, just to make it appear that India has engineered the Bangla Desh struggle to weaken Pakistan.