UPSC 2017-18: PIB Summary and Analysis Aug 06

UPSC 2017-18: PIB Summary and Analysis Aug 06 for IAS Exam Preparation.

Why Pluralism and Secularism are essential for our Democracy: Vice President

Context:

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that ‘Why Pluralism and Secularism are essential for our Democracy’ He was delivering the 25th Annual Convocation Address of National Law School of India University (NLSIU), in Bengaluru, Karnataka today.

Excerpts:

An interest in political philosophy has been a lifelong pursuit. I recall John Locke’s dictum that ‘wherever law ends, tyranny begins.’ Also in my mind is John Rawl’s assertion that ‘justice is the first virtue of social institutions’ and that in ‘a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled and the rights secured by justice and are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interest.’ To Rawls, the first task of political philosophy is its practical role to see, whether despite appearances on deeply disputed questions, some philosophical or moral grounds can be located to further social cooperation on a footing of mutual respect among citizens.

Values enshrined in our Preamble to the Constitution:

The People of India gave themselves a Republic that is Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic and a constitutional system with its focus on Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These have been embodied in a set of institutions and laws, conventions and practices.

Plurality on our society:

Our founding fathers took cognizance of an existential reality. Ours is a plural society and a culture imbued with considerable doses of syncretism. Our population of 1.3 billion comprises of over 4,635 communities, 78 percent of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories. Religious minorities constitute 19.4 percent of the total. The human diversities are both hierarchical and spatial.

It is this plurality that the Constitution endowed with a democratic polity and a secular state structure. Pluralism as a moral value seeks to ‘transpose social plurality to the level of politics, and to suggest arrangements which articulate plurality with a single political order in which all duly constituted groups and all individuals are actors on an equal footing, reflected in the uniformity of legal capacity. Pluralism in this modern sense presupposes citizenship.’

Concept of nation:

Citizenship as the basic unit is conceptualized as “national-civic rather than national-ethnic” ‘even as national identity remained a rather fragile construct, a complex and increasingly fraught ‘national-civic-plural-ethnic’ combinations.’ In the same vein, Indianness came to be defined not as a singular or exhaustive identity but as embodying the idea of layered Indianness, an accretion of identities.

‘Modern democracy offers the prospect of the most inclusive politics of human history. By the same logic, there is a thrust for exclusion that is a byproduct of the need for cohesion in democratic societies; hence the resultant need for dealing with exclusion ‘creatively’ through sharing of identity space by ‘negotiating a commonly acceptable political identity between the different personal and group identities which want to/have to live in the polity.’ Democracy ‘has to be judged not just by the institutions that formally exist but by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people can actually be heard.’ Its ‘raison d’etre is the recognition of the other.’

A debate on Secularism:

Secularism as a concept and as a political instrumentality has been debated extensively. A definitive pronouncement pertaining to it for a purpose of statecraft in India was made by the Supreme Court in the Bommai case and bears reiteration:

‘Secularism has both positive and negative contents. The Constitution struck a balance between temporal parts confining it to the person professing a particular religious faith or belief and allows him to practice profess and propagate his religion, subject to public order, morality and health. The positive part of secularism has been entrusted to the State to regulate by law or by an executive order. The State is prohibited to patronise any particular religion as State religion and is enjoined to observe neutrality. The State strikes a balance to ensue an atmosphere of full faith and confidence among its people to realise full growth of personality and to make him a rational being on secular lines, to improve individual excellence, regional growth, progress and national integrity… Religious tolerance and fraternity are basic features and postulates of the Constitution as a scheme for national integration and sectional or religious unity. Programmes or principles evolved by political parties based on religion amount to recognizing religion as a part of the political governance which the Constitution expressly prohibits. It violates the basic features of the Constitution. Positive secularism negates such a policy and any action in furtherance thereof would be violative of the basic features of the Constitution.’

Experience of almost seven decades sheds light on the extent of our success, and of limitations, on the actualizations of these values and objectives. The optimistic narrative is of deepening; the grim narrative of decline or crisis.

Three questions thus come to mind:

How has the inherent plurality of our polity reflected itself in the functioning of Indian democracy?

How has democracy contributed to the various dimensions of Indian pluralism?

How consistent are we in adherence to secularism?

Our democratic polity is pluralist because it recognizes and endorses this plurality in (a) its federal structure, (b) linguistic and religious rights to minorities, and (c) a set of individual rights. The first has sought to contain, with varying degrees of success, regional pressures, the second has ensured space for religious and linguistic minorities, and the third protects freedom of opinion and the right to dissent.

Inequalities and social diversities

Given the pervasive inequalities and social diversities, the choice of a system committed to political inclusiveness was itself ‘a leap of faith.’ The Constitution instituted universal adult suffrage and a system of representation on the First-Past-The-Post (Westminster) model. An underlying premise was the Rule of Law that is reflective of the desire of people ‘to make power accountable, governance just, and state ethical.’

Much earlier, Gandhi ji had predicted that democracy would be safeguarded if people ‘have a keen sense of independence, self respect and their oneness and should insist upon choosing as their representatives only persons as are good and true.’ This, when read alongside Ambedkar’s apprehension that absence of equality and fraternity could bring forth ‘a life of contradictions’ if the ideal of ‘one person, one vote, one value’ was not achieved, framed the challenge posed by democracy.

Assessment of the functioning of our democracy :

Any assessment of the functioning of our democracy has to be both procedural and substantive. On procedural count the system has developed roots with regularity of elections, efficacy of the electoral machinery, an ever increasing percentage of voter participation in the electoral process and the formal functioning of legislatures thus elected. The record gives cause for much satisfaction.

The score is less emphatic on the substantive aspects. Five of these bear closer scrutiny – (a) the gap between ‘equality before the law’ and ‘equal protection of the law’, (b) representativeness of the elected representative, (c) functioning of legislatures, (d) gender and diversity imbalance and (e) secularism in practice.

President’s Greetings on The Eve of Raksha Bandhan

Significance of Raksha Bandhan in our culture:

  • Unique festival celebrates the sacred bond of commitment between sisters and brothers.
  • Raksha Bandhan symbolises the virtues of love, affection and mutual trust, bring happiness and prosperity to all people of our country.
  • The day is an occasion for all of us to renew the spirit of fraternity among the citizens of India.
  • The festival also upholds the high place traditionally accorded to women in our society.

 

Inauguration of National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute – Center of 
Innovative and Applied Bioprocessing (NABI-CIAB) Campus by Dr. Harsh Vardhan

Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the new Administrative and Research Buildings of two national institutes under the administrative control of Department of Biotechnology, namely National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) and Center of Innovative and Applied Bioprocessing (CIAB).

The need for quality research work and output with optimal utilization of state-of-art equipment and infrastructure that can reach common man in a form that can be easily perceived in proper perspective.

He encouraged scientists/students to exploit the biotechnological tools to address the problems related to quality of food and malnutrition with full enthusiasm and zeal getting inspiration from the legacy and contributions of champions in the field of science and technology.

He urged both the institutes to address the problems of hunger & malnutrition and to bring nutritional revolution in the country through biotechnology research and innovation for Food and Nutrition Security.

Young researchers and students should aim big and work hard to achieve their goals with sustained efforts.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan emphasized the need for doing new innovations that have an immediate societal impact with the common man as the target. He counseled researchers to shift from routine to out of the box thinking and to dream big to translate their efforts to greater innovations.

NABI is the first Agri-Food and Nutritional based Biotechnology Institute, which has been set up by the Dept. of Biotechnology.

The institutes apart from providing quality research in the field of agricultural biotechnology and bio processing also provide innovative technologies in the field of food processing. Under reach to community program NABI is playing an important role in conducting motivational course to the students of local schools to increase their awareness in life sciences. Their products of nutritionally rich crops and processing of crop residues in useful products will be provided to the local farming communities to increase their income.

 

Weavers to be provided wide array of Government services through Weavers' 
Service Centres: Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani

The Union Textiles Minister Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani has announced that weavers will henceforth be able to avail a wide array of Government services from Weavers’ Service Centres (WSCs).

The Minister said that besides providing technical assistance, the WSCs will serve as a one-stop centre for weavers, providing various services, including banking, passport, insurance, PAN card, voter ID and AADHAAR. The Minister added that weavers will also be able to pay their electricity bills and undertake online courses at WSCs.

Prelims Fact:

Bunkar Mitra

“Bunkar Mitra”, the Government of India’s Helpline for Handloom Weavers, went live today.

The helpline was launched by the Union Textiles Minister Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani on December 25, 2016 on the occasion of “Good Governance Day”.

The following services are available through this helpline:

Assistance on technical issues.

Guidance for:

  • Raw material supply.
  • Availing credit facility.
  • Quality control.
  • Access to marketing linkages.
  • Information about various schemes and procedure to avail benefits.
UPSC Mains Practice Questions:

GS Paper 1

  1. How do the Indian debates on secularism differ from the debates in the West?

GS Paper 2

  1. How has the inherent plurality of our polity reflected itself in the functioning of Indian democracy? How has democracy contributed to the various dimensions of Indian pluralism?
  2. How consistent are we in adherence to secularism?
  3. Any assessment of the functioning of our democracy has to be both procedural and substantive. Comment.

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