THE INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
MINORITY STATUS IN INDIA IS STATE-DEPENDENT, SAYS SC
THE CONTEXT: Recently, the apex court said , every person in India can be a minority in one State or the other. Minority status of religious and linguistic communities is “State-dependent”.
- The court was hearing a petition filed by a Mathura resident, complaining that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice because of non-identification of ‘minority’ at the State level.
- But the court indicated that a religious or linguistic community which is a minority in a particular State can inherently claim protection and the right to administer and run its own educational institutions under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution. The court asked whether a specific notification was required.
- This question from the Bench came in response to submissions made by a senior advocates that Hindus residing in certain States were unable to exercise their rights under Articles 29 and 30 in the absence of a specific notification declaring them a minority.
- The petition has argued that the recognition of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis nationally by the Centre as ‘minorities’ ignored the fact that religious communities such as Hindus were “socially, economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior” in several States.
Minorities in India
- They are not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.
- Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jain and Zoroastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
- Jains were added to the list in 2014.
- As per the Census 2011, the percentage of minorities in the country is about 3% of the total population of the country.
- The population of Muslims are 14.2%; Christians 2.3%; Sikhs 1.7%, Buddhists 0.7%, Jain 0.4% and Parsis 0.006%.
- Article 29 deals with the “protection of interest of minorities”, and says that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.
- Article 30, which deals with the “right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions”, says that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- Minority for the purpose of Article 30 cannot have a different meaning depending upon who is legislating. Language being the basis for the establishment of different states for the purposes of Article 30, linguistic Minority will have to be determined in relation to the state in which the educational institution is sought to be established.
- The position with regard to the religious minorities is similar since both religious and linguistic minorities have been put in power in article 30.
- Article 350 A says there shall be a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to be appointed by the President. “It shall be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under this constitution and report to the President upon those matters.”
Who are the minorities who have been notified by the Indian government?
- Currently, only communities notified by the central government under section 2(c) of the NCM Act, 1992, are recognized as minority communities.
- With the enactment of the NCM Act, 1992, the MC was given the status of a statutory body and renamed the NCM.
- The first Statutory National Commission was established in 1993, and five religious communities, namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Parsis), were notified as minority communities.
- Jains were also notified as a minority community in 2014.
EXPLAINED: HOW CHIEF MINISTERS’ FOREIGN TRIPS ARE CLEARED, AND BY WHOM
THE CONTEXT: Delhi Chief Minister has questioned why the Centre has delayed the clearance of his trip to Singapore, where he has been invited to attend a World Cities Summit scheduled from July 31- August 3.
In October 2019, the Centre had not given him the approval to attend another conference abroad, which he eventually addressed through videoconferencing.
What clearance do Chief Ministers require to travel abroad?
They have to inform the Cabinet Secretariat, which stated in a circular on May 6, 2015: “The Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of External Affairs should be kept informed of the proposed foreign visit, either official or private, of Chief Ministers and Ministers of State Governments/Union Territories. However, prior political clearance and FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) clearance are mandatory.” In case of Chief Ministers and Ministers of state governments, a copy of the application must also be sent to the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).
What is political clearance?
This comes from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). This is required not only for public servants but any government servant for a foreign trip. The MEA gets hundreds of requests for political clearance every month from ministries, secretaries, bureaucrats and other officials.
THE HEALTH ISSUES
WHAT IS THE MARBURG VIRUS, THE EBOLA-LIKE OUTBREAK NOW CONFIRMED IN GHANA?
THE CONTEXT: The first two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious Ebola-like disease, have been confirmed officially by Ghana after test results were verified by a Senegal laboratory.
- According to the World Health Organisation, the first case was a 26-year-old male who checked into a hospital on June 26 and died a day later. The second case was a 51-year-old male who went to the hospital on June 28 and died the same day.
- This outbreak is only the second time that the disease has been detected in West Africa.
What is the Marburg virus disease?
- Marburg virus disease (MVD), earlier known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO.
- Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus; and both diseases are clinically similar.
- Rousettus fruit bats are considered the natural hosts for the Marburg virus. However, African green monkeys imported from Uganda were the source of the first human infection, the WHO points out.
- It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.
- The disease has an average fatality rate of around 50%. However, it can be as low as 24% or as high as 88% depending on virus strain and case management, says the WHO.
What are the symptoms of Marburg virus disease?
- After the onset of symptoms, which can begin anytime between 2 to 21 days, MVD can manifest itself in the form of high fever, muscle aches and severe headache. Around the third day, patients report abdominal pain, vomiting, severe watery diarrhoea and cramping.
- In this phase, the WHO says, the appearance of patients has been often described as “ghost-like” with deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.
- Between days 5 and 7, patients report bleeding from the nose, gums and blood appearing in vomits and faeces. Severe blood loss leads to death, often between 8 to 9 days after symptoms begin.
How can Marburg virus disease be diagnosed and treated?
It is difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. However, it is confirmed by lab testing of samples, which like Coronavirus and Ebola are extreme biohazard risks.
THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
THE SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANISATION AND ITS STATURE IN THE MODERN WORLD
THE CONTEXT: Iran and Belarus could soon become the newest members of the China and Russia-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). “In the Samarkand summit [in September], we expect the leadership to adopt a document on the obligations Iran must fulfil to gain membership.
- The legal procedures of Belarus’s accession are about to start. We need to build consensus on the acceptance of Belarus,” Chinese diplomat and incumbent Secretary-General of SCO, Zhang Ming, stated last week. According to him, the suggested expansion would exhibit the collective’s rising international influence and its principles being widely accepted.
What is the SCO?
- Founded in June 2001, it was built on the ‘Shanghai Five’, the grouping which consisted of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. They came together in the post-Soviet era in 1996, in order to work on regional security, reduction of border troops and terrorism. They endowed particular focus on ‘conflict resolution, given its early success between China and Russia, and then within the Central Asian Republics.
- In 2001, the ‘Shanghai Five’ inducted Uzbekistan into its fold and named it the SCO, outlining its principles in a charter that promoted what was called the “Shanghai spirit” of cooperation. The charter, adopted in St. Petersburg in 2002, enlists its main goals as strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research and technology, and culture. Its focus areas include education, energy, transport, tourism and environmental protection.
- It also calls for joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order. The precise assertion, combined with some of the member states’ profiles, of building a “new international political and economic order” has often led to it being placed as a counter to treaties and groupings of the West, particularly the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
- The grouping comprises eight member states — India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO also has four observer states — Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia — of which Iran and Belarus are now moving towards full membership.
How is this relevant to India?
- India acquired the observer status in the grouping in 2005 and was admitted as a full member in 2017. Through the years, the SCO hosts have encouraged members to use the platform to discuss differences with other members on the sidelines. It was on such an occasion that Prime Minister held a bilateral meeting with former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2015 in Ufa, and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar negotiated a five-point agreement with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Moscow conference in 2020.
- India is also a part of the ‘Quadrilateral’ grouping with the U.S., Japan and Australia. Its association with the grouping of a rather different nature is part of its foreign policy that emphasises on principles of “strategic autonomy and multi-alignment”.
What is the organisational structure?
- The SCO Secretariat has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent. Other than this, the grouping consists of the Heads of State Council (HSC), the Heads of Government Council (HGC) and the Foreign Ministers Council.
- The HSC is the supreme decision-making body of the organisation. It meets annually to adopt decisions and guidelines on all important matters relevant to the organisation. The HGC (mainly including Prime Ministers) also meets annually to zero in on the organisation’s priority areas and multilateral cooperation strategy. It also endeavours to resolve present economic and cooperation issues alongside approving the organisation’s annual budget.
- The Foreign Ministers Council considers issues pertaining to the day-to-day activities of the organisation, charting HSC meetings and consultations on international problems within the organisation and if required, makes statements on behalf of the SCO.
Is it about countering the West?
- The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) noted in 2015 that decades of rapid economic growth had propelled China onto the world’s stage, whereas Russia found itself beset with economic turmoil following the Crimean annexation in 2014 and ejection from the G8 grouping.
- Most recently, Russia’s action in Ukraine caused it to be subjected to sanctions on multiple fronts by the West. China, in what could be referred to as ‘distance diplomacy’, had held that security of one country should not be at the expense of another country — blaming the West (specifically referring to NATO) for the entire episode. Thus, the organisation spearheaded by both Russia and China does not find its supporters in the West.
- The Iranian leadership has often stressed that the country must “look to the East”. This is essential not only to resist its economic isolation (by addressing the banking and trade problems on account of U.S. sanctions) from the West, but also find strategic allies that would help it to reach a new agreement on the nuclear program. In other words, using its ties with China and Russia as a leverage against the West. Additionally, it would help it strengthen its involvement in Asia.
THE PAKISTAN AND IMF TALKS: WHAT LIES AHEAD?
THE CONTEXT: Recently, the staff-level talks between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded for the seventh and eighth review under Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The talks were originally aimed at releasing a tranche of $900 million.
Finally, the IMF team reached an understanding with Pakistan to release $1.17 billion, subject to the board’s approval. This brings the total disbursement under the current EFF to $4.2 billion so far, to support policy actions under FY 2023 budget, power sector reforms, and monetary policy to restrain inflation. The latest IMF press release maintains it would consider an extension of the current EFF to end June 2023 and augment the fund amount to $7 billion.
What was the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), and why did the talks take longer to conclude?
- The 39-month EFF between the two was signed in July 2019 to provide funds amounting to Self-Drawing Rights (SDR) — $4,268 million. The EFF was signed by Pakistan to address the medium-term balance of payment problem, work on structural impediments and increase per capita income.
- The IMF placed demands including fiscal consolidation to reduce debt and build resilience, the market-determined exchange rate to restore competitiveness, eliminate ‘quasi-fiscal’ losses in the energy sector and strengthened institutions with transparency.
How important is the IMF support to Pakistan?
- Pakistan’s economic situation is dire. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2022, the fiscal deficit in FY 22 was $18.6 billion, and the net public debt at $252 billion, which is 66.3% of the GDP. The power sector’s circular debt is $14 billion.
- According to the State Bank of Pakistan’s latest report, the current account deficit has peaked to $48.3 billion. The budgeted expenditure outlay for FY 23 states that 41% ($19 billion) of total expenditure will be used in debt servicing.
- The IMF’s support in addressing the above numbers is crucial. According to the latest quarterly report of the Economic Affairs Division, during the financial year 2021-22, the IMF’s contribution to the total external debt (of $9.4 billion), is only $834 million. However, the IMF’s support is not limited to fixing the balance sheet but validates and provides economic confidence to other multilateral institutions.
Why have the Pakistan-IMF relations remained complicated? Will the new government be able to improve the trust deficit?
- Structural reforms require long-term commitment, which has been sacrificed due to Pakistan’s short-sighted political goals; hence the urge to go to the IMF for financial stability has been repeated over time.
- Pakistan has signed various lending instruments with the IMF and sought support from IMF around 22 times. However, only once has a programme been completed. Since the 1990s, the IMF has placed specific demands but were addressed by Pakistan in bits and pieces.
- For example, during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) rule in 2008, Pakistan was to implement economic reforms, including improvements in tax administration, removal of tax exemptions as well structural reforms. However, successive governments kept domestic political calculations a priority, then economic reforms.
- The latest EFF was on the verge of collapse, but the ruling coalition government continued its efforts to revive the discussions. To address the structural benchmarks of the IMF, the authorities have worked on specific legislation, for example, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) amendment act, and the Finance Bill 2022.
What lies ahead for Pakistan and the IMF?
- Despite the latest agreement, the road ahead for the IMF and Pakistan is not an easy one. Political calculations and the elections ahead will play a role in Pakistan’s economic decision-making.
- In 2019, the Director-General Debt Office of the Ministry of Finance revealed that Pakistan has to pay $31 billion by 2026. Total public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to increase further.
- There is also a narrative that Pakistan has the fifth largest population with nuclear weapons that cannot be allowed to fail. A section within Pakistan also places the geo-strategic location of the country would provide an edge for cooperation, rather than coercion. Hence, this section believes, the IMF would continue to support.
- Given the IMF’s increased assertion, Pakistan’s political calculations and the elections ahead, the relationship between the two is likely to remain complicated.
THE PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Q. Consider the following statements in respect of Bharat Ratna and Padma Awards
- Bharat Ratna and Padma Awards are titled under Article 18(1) of the Constitution of India.
- Padma awards, which were instituted in the year 1954, were suspended only once.
- The number of Bharat Ratna Awards is restricted to a maximum of five in a particular year.
Which of the above statements are not correct?
a) 1 and 2 only
b) 2 and 3 only
c) 1 and 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
ANSWER FOR 18TH JULY 2022
- All the elected members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament participate in the election
- A vote cast by each MP or MLA is not calculated as one vote. There is a larger vote value attached to it.