News & Events
in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition.
1.incorporating limits: On IPC and hate speech
Proposed hate speech provisions should be clear and free of vagueness
Speech is free, but it is a freedom that comes with responsibility. And responsible speech is not just something that does not contain abuse, defamation or incitement to violence. It is increasingly seen as expression that tends not to discriminate against or incite hatred towards groups based on race, gender, caste, religious belief, sexual orientation, nationality or immigration status. The world has moved away from a free speech doctrine based on a formal equality among different viewpoints to one that discourages the targeting of any vulnerable section. The term ‘hate speech’ and calls for laws that specifically seek to punish it arise from this inclusive understanding of the basis on which speech is restricted in modern democracies. In this backdrop, the proposal to incorporate provisions against hate speech in the penal law is quite welcome. A committee appointed by the Union Home Ministry, tasked with recommending changes in criminal law, is now seeking to formulate new provisions that will make hate speech a separate offence. The term ‘hate speech’ may not be used, but the panel is examining recommendations made by the Law Commission and the Expert Committee headed by T.K. Viswanathan, on adding Sections 153C and 505A to the IPC. The proposed Section 153C would target speech that gravely threatens any person or group with intention to cause fear or alarm, or incite violence towards them, and prescribe a sentence of two years in prison and a fine. Section 505A, on the other hand, proposes to punish speech or writing that causes fear or alarm among a group, or provokes violence against it, on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth or disability.
The Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws attracted criticism when it was formed last year, as many feared a hurried process without adequate and wide consultation. Some lawyers and activists said it was not inclusive and questioned its ability to gather a wide range of opinion in the midst of a pandemic. While such points of criticism remain, it appears that the panel would go ahead and make its recommendations soon. In the context of the hate speech provisions, it must direct its efforts to define narrowly the sections it proposes to formulate and avoid the pitfall of using vague and overbroad terms that would fall foul of the Constitution. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, it may be recalled, was struck down by the Supreme Court because it failed to define some terms that sought to criminalise offensive and annoying messages. Ever since this 2015 decision, some governments see a lacuna in the law concerning offensive messaging over the Internet. If at all new sections are to be introduced, it should be clear that what is sought to be punished is incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred, posing an imminent threat to public order or a targeted group. Only then will it be a valid curb on free speech.
2. Weathering storms: On disaster response
Cyclones are inevitable, but communities need fiscal rehabilitation for recovery
India’s capacity to withstand multiple, near-simultaneous shocks is being tested, with a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm, Yaas, striking Odisha, just a week after an even stronger Cyclone Tauktae wreaked havoc along the west coast. Yaas, which put up an unnerving display of tornadoes and rain, smothered the north Odisha coast as it made landfall, but the preparatory mass evacuation from habitations appears to have limited the loss of life. Yet, thousands have lost houses and property. West Bengal and Jharkhand also bore the brunt of the weather system’s force, as it punched its way inland from May 26, weakening into a deep depression. All coastal States facing the Bay of Bengal have always been in the path of severe cyclones, the majority following the withdrawal of the monsoon, but their vulnerability may be growing as pre-monsoon and post-monsoon storms increase in frequency and strength. Moreover, for the second year running, States have been hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 season comes as another reminder that India will have to improve its resilience to cyclones. Governments are, no doubt, more sensitive to loss of life today and are raising the capacity of the disaster response forces, but much work needs to be done when it comes to protecting assets and creating fiscal instruments to help people rebuild their lives.
While the full extent of displacement and losses from Cyclone Yaas is yet unknown, past experience points to a growing threat to overall well-being from such catastrophes. The World Meteorological Organization in its State of the Global Climate 2020 report described Cyclone Amphan that hit Bengal in May last year as the costliest cyclone on record for the North Indian Ocean, with economic losses to India of the order of $14 billion. In human terms the extreme event displaced 2.4 million people. What stood out in its aftermath was corruption in the distribution of relief, putting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a spot. The Amphan experience should convince Chief Ministers that they must insure people against losses from catastrophes using a system of documentation that makes relief and rehabilitation funds non-discretionary. Half a century of economic wisdom postulates that governments are best placed to compensate people, since they can spread the cost of the risk of disasters across the population. But the challenge is to address the risk of cyclones and other extreme weather events using specific funds, making citizens members in a social insurance model. Moreover, considering the negative climate change impact on tropical cyclones, rebuilding should use a green, build back better approach. Cyclones will otherwise take the shine off economic progress.
3.Today’s GST Council meet will influence the economic trajectory
The GST Council will meet shortly, for the first time since October. It is India’s most important constitutionally mandated federal body to work out details of indirect tax and thereby influence fiscal policy.
There are two contexts to this meeting. In the near future, India’s economic recovery will depend on fiscal policy and therefore proposed changes in tax rates will matter. Taking a longer term view, India’s economic recovery will also be influenced by the political maturity with which the Council handles a structural constraint.
The 15th Finance Commission observed that the Centre raises about 63% of the aggregate government resources but incurs only 37% of expenditure. Therefore, states do the heavy lifting from the fiscal standpoint. The patchwork of lockdowns will adversely impact GST collections and subsequent economic momentum. This can add to the friction between the Centre and states. If the Council can display the maturity to collectively take a long-term view of India’s situation, the bounce-back will be quicker.
4. We must know: Did Covid-19 come out of a lab? China must share all the relevant data and evidence
Over the last 17 months Covid-19 has relentlessly invaded every part of the world and killed at least 3.5 million human beings. Yet we still don’t know how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, came to be among us. At core there really is only one reason for this: China’s inflexible obfuscation of the pandemic’s origin story. Scientists have still managed to put together evidence that both weakens the theory of natural emergence in Wuhan, and strengthens the possibility that the virus originated in a lab there. The entire global community must back the Biden administration as it now ramps up efforts towards “a definitive conclusion”. Because if we cannot even find out what set off this catastrophe, we are sitting ducks for the next one.
Around this time last year it was widely accepted that the virus had transmitted to humans at a live animal market. But as science journalist Nicholas Wade summarises, all the interim months and supposedly super-efficient Chinese authorities simply haven’t turned up the “evidence of the virus making multiple independent jumps from its intermediate host to people, as both the SARS 1 and MERS viruses did”.
Attention has now shifted to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, from whose portals celebrated “bat lady” Shi Zhengli didn’t shy from demanding an apology from President Trump for being open to “the theory from the lab”. Since then her claims of “zero infection” at WIV have been hollowed by counterclaims of several researchers becoming sick before the official Covid-19 outbreak. This may have been the first cluster. Equally, other proximate labs merit closer investigation.
There is a grim warning here about all “gain of function” research, which goads pathogens into more dangerous avatars. Scientists must stop such Frankensteinian work. But more immediately, a concerted global effort is needed to get the truth out of Wuhan. India has seen a devastating wreckage of lives and livelihoods from Covid. It too must join the global effort and drum up the courage to call for accountability. After all, Beijing has done it no favours. The way in which WHO investigators have been stymied shows Beijing resisting “full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation”. However China, like the international community at large, has a stake in discovering the origin of the pandemic, or disclosing it if it already knows. It must stop playing games.
5.In Chhattisgarh, lessons for the State
The Bhupesh Baghel-led government lost an opportunity to bridge the trust deficit with tribals. But it must ensure an independent investigation and justice if it wants to heal the wounds of Silger
Since May 7, residents of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma and Biijapur districts have been protesting against a security camp that was set up at Silger, a “core Maoist area”. The camp was set up without taking the village councils into confidence, even though both districts are Fifth Schedule areas (listed separately in the Constitution in terms of administration on account of the primary population being Scheduled Tribes). On May 17, the police opened fire when over “3,000 tribals” approached the camp and attacked them, according to a police statement; three villagers died. The Sukma district collector ordered a magisterial inquiry on May 23. The next day, protesters filed a formal complaint against the security forces. While the police have declared the deceased to be affiliated with Maoists, their families have denied the charge. No security personnel were injured in the incident.
While expanding State presence through security camps appears logical and right, there is a local context which explains the opposition. For one, large tracts of rich forests are cleared to build camps. Two, tribals are wary of harassment (searches, beatings, sexual assaults, fabricated cases, and fake encounters) that comes with an enhanced security presence. When such incidents take place, the response of the State, in most cases, is insensitive. Without any proper investigation, protesters are declared Maoist sympathisers. And this ends up helping the Maoists in their propaganda.