TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Central guidelines for crèches at workplaces SOCIAL JUSTICE 1. Odisha NGO’s shelter homes to be closed INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. G20 urged to act on fugitive offenders C. GS3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Rotavirus infection in babies D. GS4 Related 1. Heroin seizures rise in Mizoram after ban on opioid painkillers E. Editorials INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. India-Pakistan ties beyond Kartarpur (India- Pakistan Relations) HUMAN GEOGRAPHY 1. In Andamans, tribals and no-go areas (The Sentinelese) F. Tidbits 1. Unitech to pay ₹1 cr. to homebuyers G. Prelims Fact 1. New frigates to get BrahMos 2. Ramaphosa to be Republic Day guest 3. Cyclonic storm ‘Gaja’ brings back avians to Pulicat lake H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- The Centre has prepared guidelines for setting up of crèches at workplaces, which prescribe trained personnel to man the facility as well as infrastructure requirements and safety norms.
- In March this year, Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, enhancing paid maternity leave from a period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The law is applicable to all institutions with 10 or more employees. It also makes it mandatory for every organisation with 50 or more employees to have a crèche.
Details of the Safety Norms
- A crèche be either at the workplace or within 500 metres of it. Alternatively, it could also be in the beneficiaries’ neighbourhood.
- The facility should be open for eight to 10 hours and if the employees have a shift system, then the crèche should also be run accordingly. A crèche must have a minimum space of 10 to 12 square feet per child to ensure that she or he can play, rest and learn. There should be no unsafe places such as open drains, pits, garbage bins near the centre.
- The crèches should have at least one guard, who should have undergone police verification. There should also be at least one supervisor per crèche and a trained worker for every 10 children under three years of age or for every 20 children above the age of three, along with a helper.
- The government has also recommended that no outsiders such as plumbers, drivers, electricians be allowed inside the crèche when children are present.
- A crèche monitoring committee with representations from among crèche workers, parents and administration should be formed. There should also be a grievance redressal committee for inquiring into instances of sexual abuse. The guidelines are not mandatory but are a yardstick for NGOs and organisations for setting up of creches.
The Maternity Benefit Act
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in factories, mines, plantation, shops & establishments and other entities.
- The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child birth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits. The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.
The amendment has brought in major changes to the law relating to maternity benefits.
- It extends the period of maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of which not more than eight weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery. This exceeds the International Labour Organisation’s minimum standard of 14 weeks and is a positive development. However, a woman who has two or more surviving children will be entitled to 12 weeks of which not more than six weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery.
- Women who legally adopt a child below the age of three months or a “commissioning mother” will be entitled to maternity benefit for 12 weeks from the date on which the child is handed over to her. A commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman.
- It gives discretion to employers to allow women to work from home after the period of maternity benefit on mutually agreeable conditions. This would apply if the nature of work assigned to the woman permits her to work from home
- It requires establishments having 50 or more employees to have a crèche facility, either separately or along with common facilities. Further, employers should allow the woman to visit the crèche four times a day, which “shall also include the interval for rest allowed to her.”
- It introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her. Such communication must be in writing and electronically.
- The Odisha government on Saturday ordered the closure of all shelter homes run by NGO Good News India after inmates of its Dhenkanal home complained of sexual harassment on the premises.
Details of the issue
- Simanchal Nayak, the in-charge of the GNI shelter home at Beltikiri in Dhenkanal district, was taken into custody. He has been accused of sexually abusing minor girl inmates of the shelter home.
- The Dhenkanal police are also looking for Faiz Rahman, the founder and chairman of GNI, after some shelter home staff referred to his questionable conduct. They told media persons on Saturday that Mr. Rahman and even foreign nationals used to visit the home at different times and behave inappropriately with the girls.
- Prafulla Samal, the State’s Women and Child Development Minister, said no permission was granted to GNI to establish shelter homes in Odisha. “The GNI had not contacted any administrative wing of the government. The official in charge of the shelter home has been arrested. We will ensure stringent action is taken against officials of GNI,” he said.
- The Minister said orders have been issued to shift children from all GNI shelter homes to the nearest childcare institutions. “There are 22 to 26 GNI-run organisations in different districts [of Odisha]. The District Collectors have already been told to investigate and shut down its shelter homes,” he said.
- As many as 81 inmates, including boys and girls, have been staying at the Dhenkanal shelter home. The district administration has been directed to shift 62 minor inmates of the shelter home to nearby childcare institutions or hand them over to their guardians immediately.
Basics of NGOs
- Non-Government Organisations are legally constituted organizations, operate independently from the government and are generally considered to be “non-state, non-profit oriented groups who pursue purposes of public interest”.
- The primary objective of NGOs is to provide social justice, development and human rights. NGOs are generally funded totally or partly by governments and they maintain their non-governmental status by excluding government representatives from membership in the organization.
- In a democratic society, it is the state that has the ultimate responsibility for ushering development to its citizens. In India, through the progressive interpretation of the Constitution and its laws and policies, the scope of development has been significantly broadened to include not just economic progress for citizens, but also promotion of social justice, gender equity, inclusion, citizen’s awareness, empowerment and improved quality of life.
- To achieve this holistic vision of development, the state requires the constructive and collaborative engagement of the civil society in its various developmental activities and programs. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the operational arm of the civil society therefore have an important role in the development processes.
Some facts about NGOs
- India has possibly the largest number of active non-government, non-profit organizations in the world. There has been a sharp increase in the number of new NGOs in the past decade in India.
- According to a government study, there were only 1.44 lakh registered societies till 1970. The maximum increase in the number of registrations happened after 2000. A recent study commissioned by the government showed that there are about 3.3 million NGOs in India by the end of 2009 i.e., one NGO for less than an average of 400 Indians. Even this staggering number may be less than the actual number of NGOs active in the country.
- This is because the study, commissioned in 2008, took into consideration only those entities which were registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the Mumbai Public Trust Act and its variants in other states.
- It can be noted that a great majority of the NGOs are small and about three-fourths of all NGOs are run entirely by volunteers. About 13 percent of the NGOs have between 2 to 5 employees; about 5 percent have between 6 to 10 employees and only about 8.5 percent NGOs employ more than 10 people.
- According to a survey conducted by society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), 73.4 percent of NGOs have one or no paid staff, although across the country, more than 19 million persons work as volunteers or paid staff at an NGO.
- More often NGOs are registered as trusts, societies, or as private limited non-profit companies, under Section- 25 of Indian Companies Act, 1956. They also enjoy income tax exemption. Foreign contributions to non-profits are governed by Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 1976.
- India on Friday presented a nine-point agenda before G20 countries, calling for “strong and active cooperation” to deal with fugitive economic offenders comprehensively.
Details of the Agenda
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented the agenda in the second session of the G20 Summit on international trade, international financial and tax systems here.
- “Cooperation in legal processes, such as effective freezing of the proceeds of crime, early return of the offenders, and efficient repatriation of the proceeds of crime should be enhanced and streamlined,” the agenda read.
- India called for joint efforts by G20 countries to form a mechanism that denied entry and safe havens to fugitive economic offenders.
- India suggested that the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) be called upon to establish international cooperation that led to timely and comprehensive exchange of information between the authorities and financial intelligence units.
- “FATF should be tasked with formulating a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders. FATF should also develop a set of commonly agreed and standardised procedures related to identification, extradition and judicial proceedings for dealing with fugitive economic offenders,” it said.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.
- It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
- The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
- The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
- The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.
- In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
- Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
- Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade.
- To tackle the problems or the address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits. In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.
- The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.
- The first G20 Summit was held in Berlin in December 1999 and was hosted by the finance ministers of Germany and Canada.
- 2018 Summit will be the 13th meeting of Group of Twenty (G20) and the first G20 summit to be hosted in South America.
- The members of the G20 consist of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).
- The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
- The European Union is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.
- The Group was formed with an aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
- The forum aims to pre-empt balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
- The forum seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organisation.
C. GS3 Related
- By studying the complex interplay between the sugars and microbes in mother’s milk and the baby’s gut microbes, an international team of researchers has tried to understand neonatal rotavirus infection.
- Rotavirus infection is one of the leading causes of gastroenteritis in children under five years worldwide. Babies in 10 Indian states are immunised against rotavirus.
- Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea and death among children less than five years of age. It is responsible for around 10% of total child mortality every year. In 2014, nearly 80,000 children died due to to rotavirus, whereas about 9 lakh were hospitalised due to episodes of severe diarrhoea.
- Kids with a rotavirus infection have fever, nausea, and vomiting, often followed by abdominal cramps and frequent, watery diarrhea. Kids may also have a cough and runny nose.
- Sometimes the diarrhea that accompanies a rotavirus infection is so severe that it can quickly lead to dehydration.
- As with all viruses, though, some rotavirus infections cause few or no symptoms, especially in adults.
- Rotavirus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route, via contact with contaminated hands, surfaces and objects, and possibly by the respiratory route. Viral diarrhea is highly contagious.
- The human body carries diverse communities of microorganisms, which are mainly bacterial. These are referred to as “human microbiome”.
- These organisms play a key role in many aspects of host physiology, ranging from metabolism of otherwise complex indigestible carbohydrates and fats to producing essential vitamins, maintaining immune systems and acting as a first line of defense against pathogens.
- Research on the human microbiome has thrown light on various aspects — how different parts of the human body are occupied by characteristic microbial communities, and how various factors contribute in shaping the composition of the microbiome, including the genetics, dietary habits, age, geographic location and ethnicity. These studies laid a strong foundation to decipher the microbiome’s implications on health and a wide range of diseases.
D. GS4 Related
- The quantity of heroin seized in Mizoram has increased steadily since 2014 when the State government replaced total prohibition with controlled prohibition.
Details of the issue
- In 2014 the year Lal Thanhawla’s Congress government enacted the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act to end 18 years of a church-enforced ban on liquor consumption.
- While enforcement officials attribute this trend to the 2013 countrywide ban on the sale of painkiller capsules containing the opioid Dextropropoxyphene, the Church — influential in Christian-dominated Mizoram — is sceptical about this “theory”.
- The heroin seizures, the Church argues, have undermined the government’s contention that liquor helps wean people off drugs.
- Excise officials said there is no scientific evidence yet to link the seizure of drugs with the government’s alcohol policy.
- But the church, which had in the run up to the November 28 Assembly election in the State urged the political parties to push for prohibition, is convinced that availability of liquor does not necessarily check drug abuse.
- “We engaged university teachers for a study on the effect of controlled prohibition,” said Reverend B. Sangthanga, executive secretary of the Mizoram Synod of the Presbyterian Church. “The finding was that liquor really damaged the Mizo society in terms of depleting finances, domestic violence, increase in drug abuse and HIV/AIDS cases,” he observed.
- The government, for its part, commissioned a study by a 27-member review and evaluation committee, which examined the advantages and disadvantages of opening wine shops in the State. The study, tabled in July, found that for every ₹1 of revenue earned from alcohol, an estimated ₹85 was being spent on social costs.
General Facts about Alcohol Abuse
- According to NCRB data, 15 people die every day – or one every 96 minutes – from the effects of drinking alcohol.
- Per capita consumption of alcohol in India increased 38 percent, from 1.6 litres in 2003-05 to 2.2 litres in 2010-12.
- More than 11 percent of Indians were binge drinkers, against the global average of 16 percent.
- Maharashtra reported the most alcohol-related deaths, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
- Major crimes and accidents are fuelled by alcohol, which also leads to sexual harassment of women and robberies.
- Alcohol abuse is said to be the major reason behind that Tamil Nadu has the largest number of widows under 30 years of age.
- According to the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, quarter of all hospital admissions and 69 percent of all crimes in Kerala are due in part to intoxication.
Effectiveness of Prohibition
- There are many examples in place which proves that previous bans in many states have not worked according to the expectations.
- Prohibition of substances which give pleasure to people does not work.
- Prohibition is rejected by most public health scientists who know this field, even the World Health Organisation does not recommend it.
- Both law and religion have not been successful in preventing the spread of alcoholism in their countries.
- In Muslim countries, where the injunction against drinking is often the strongest, there has been a steady rise in alcohol sales and consumption.
- According to a survey by Euromonitor, a research firm based in London, alcohol consumption rose by 25 percent in West Asia and Africa between 2005 and 2010.
- Ban deprives States of an important source of revenue.
- For instance, in Tamil Nadu nearly Rs.30,000 crore, or 1/4th of its revenue in 2015-16, came from taxes on the sale of alcohol and excise on manufacturing spirits.
- Gujarat has had a total alcohol ban since 1960, but this hasn’t stopped the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state.
- It has been reported that its easier to get alcohol than food in Gujarat, with home-delivered bottles.
- Haryana and Andhra Pradesh have also tried the failed experiment, only to roll back the prohibition within few years.
- The history and facts clearly shows that liquor ban has not provided the governments with the intended results, thus government must come up with measures that can change the attitude and behavior of the citizens of India towards liquor consumption.
- This goal can be achieved only through better information and education about the evils of alcohol consumption to the young generation.
- Recently, India and Pakistan announced plans of operationalizing a visa-free corridor between Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab.
- This has been a longstanding plea of Sikh pilgrims.
- For a historical perspective, it is important to note that this demand had gathered pace in 1995, when Pakistan renovated the Kartarpur gurdwara, situated on the site on the bank of the Ravi where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, spent his last 18 years.
- As a matter of fact, leaders from both sides, including Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Benazir Bhutto, had pushed for it. In their effort to facilitate travel by Sikhs to important shrines on both sides of the border, they were also alert to the potential of such a move to heal ties amongst their people, and promote dialogue between the two governments.
A role this corridor can play:
- Given its easy logistics, the 4-km-long Kartarpur corridor is a low-hanging fruit as a meaningful confidence-building measure.
- Experts believe that this announcement is particularly timely, with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak falling in November 2019.
- The initiative can also become a template for cross-border exchanges based on faith, which could provide a balm for many communities such as:
- Kashmiri Pandits, who have long asked for access to visit the Sharda Peeth in the Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir;
- Sufis in Pakistan who wish to visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan; and
- Sikhs in India and Pakistan wanting to visit important shrines on both sides of the border.
A Closer Look:
- Experts believe that much will depend on how quickly India and Pakistan act on their commitment, once President Ram Nath Kovind lays the foundation stone at the corridor’s India end on November 26, 2018 and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan does so at the other end on November 28.
- Further, even more will depend on how the two governments manage their relationship in a way that avoids making pilgrims a pawn in bilateral tensions.
- Recently, there was an ugly and unnecessary controversy when Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa revived the Kartarpur proposal in a conversation with Navjot Singh Sidhu, a Minister in the Congress government in Punjab, at Mr. Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony in August 2018. This had set back bilateral ties, threatening progress on the project proposal.
- Going forward however, it is important that issues related to the corridor are managed in a non-political manner and details left to diplomats and officials to sort out — for instance, the issue of Indian consular access to pilgrims, which had recently flared up.
- Lastly, experts believe that given the bilateral freeze, the Kartarpur project will compel India and Pakistan to engage in a positive and purposeful manner, at a time when few other avenues for engagement exist. It is a reminder that dialogue and search for areas of concord are the only way forward for both countries.
- The Kartarpur shrine is located in Pakistani Punjab’s Narowal province.
- Some experts expect that ever since India and Pakistan announced plans of operationalizing a visa-free corridor between Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab, the region would be transformed into a bustling network of tourists and pilgrims.
- In the last 70 years, several Indian governments and countless delegations from the Sikh community have appealed to the Pakistani government to open access for them directly over the border from Dera Baba Nanak, by building a “pilgrim corridor.”
- However, it wasn’t until August 2018, when Pakistan’s Army chief General Bajwa went up to the Congress leader and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu at the swearing-in of Prime Minister Imran Khan and told him that the proposal was being considered, that India received the first official assurance on the issue.
- Further, India has also committed to building its end of a two-kilometre four-lane highway corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the border. The plan is to complete the project by November 23, 2019, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Uniqueness of the Project:
- The project is unique for several reasons. The reasons are as below:
- Human corridors of this sort are normally used for emergency situations: refugees fleeing violence or humanitarian disasters.
- Secondly, the corridor will come up at a time when few avenues for India-Pakistan relations exist. It is important to note that in the past few years, not only has all official dialogue ceased but other exchanges by actors, artists, authors, academics, media and musicians have all but ended.
- Further, religious pilgrimages by Sikhs and Hindus to shrines in Pakistan and by Muslims to Sufi shrines in India see a reduced number of visas, and the corridor will be an exception where large numbers will be able to travel visa-free, according to the current plan.
However, many logistics will have to be finalised once officials on both sides meet.
- In conclusion, it is important to note that Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary is the most obvious reason for fast-tracking the project.
- However, other questions are legitimately being raised about Pakistan’s decision, which was first conveyed by its military leadership, not the political one, to accept the request from India for the corridor.
- Security officials have pointed to an uptick in Sikh separatist violence fuelled by terror groups in Punjab, and the appearance of organisations and posters in Gurdwaras in Pakistan that call for a “referendum” in 2020 on a separate state of Khalistan to question whether the move has a hidden motive to radicalise pilgrims.
- Further, on the Indian side, the Central government’s desire to cater to a major domestic constituency, and its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, has added to its alacrity in responding to Pakistan.
- Critics however point out that despite India vowing not to engage with Islamabad until “terror ends,” it sent two senior Ministers to attend the ground-breaking ceremony by Mr. Khan at Kartarpur this week.
- Finally, it is important to note that in a relationship where ties have always progressed at a glacial pace, and often face reverses, the Kartarpur corridor initiative has moved rapidly since August 2018.
- On the Pakistan side, a full proposal has already been made, including an expressway that will take pilgrims by bus from the border to the shrine.
- Finally, the corridor of peace, as it has been termed by leaders on both sides, stands apart for its potential to further other such exchanges, as well as in promoting dialogue between the two neighbours.
- For the moment at least, the Kartarpur initiative itself will be a major marker for both governments to accomplish in the next year, and the realisation of a dream for so many, for so many decades.
- The Sentinelese are the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island.
- The area is about 60 Sq. Kilometers.
- They are probably the world’s only Paleolithic people surviving today without contact with any other group or community.
- They are considered as an off-shoot to the Onge Jarawa tribes which have acquired a different identity due to their habitation in an isolated and have lost contact with the main tribes.
- The Sentinelese are very hostile and never leave their Island. Very little is known about these hostile tribes.
- There are four ancient Negrito tribal communities in the Andaman Islands (the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese) and two Mongoloid tribal communities in the Nicobar Islands (the Shompen and Nicobarese). Except the Nicobarese, the populations of the other tribes have reduced drastically over the decades.
A Closer Look:
- The recent death of a young American, John Chau at the hands of the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has led to dangerous lines of debate.
- Some have called for the Sentinelese to be convicted and punished and others have urged that they be integrated into modern society.
- Experts suggest that both these demands are misguided, and can only result in the extinction of a people.
- It is important to note that John Chau’s killing was a tragedy but his attempt to make contact with the Sentinelese, who he seemed to know something about, was dangerous, not only to himself but to them.
- There is a reason why no one — whether missionary, scholar, adventurer, U.S. citizen or Indian — is allowed to venture near North Sentinel Island without permission, which is given only in the rarest of circumstances and with meticulous precautions in place to ensure that the Sentinelese are not disturbed.
- As one of the last remaining ‘uncontacted’ island dwelling groups, the Sentinelese have inspired awe and scientific curiosity as to how they continue to live as hunter-gatherers.
- The Sentinelese have lived in isolation in an island in the Bay of Bengal for thousands of years. The Sentinelese have no immunity or resistance to even the commonest of infections.
- Various degrees of protection are in place for the indigenous people of A&N Islands, but it is complete in the case of the Sentinelese. The administration enforces “an ‘eyes-on and hands-off’ policy to ensure that no poachers enter the island”.
- A protocol of circumnavigation of the island is in place, and the buffer maintained around the island is enforced under various laws.
- The Sentinelese are perhaps the most reclusive community in the world today.
- Their language is so far understood by no other group and they have traditionally guarded their island fiercely, attacking most intruders with spears and arrows. Arrows were fired even at a government aircraft that flew over the island after the 2004 Tsunami.
- Chau knowingly broke the law, as did those who took him to the waters off North Sentinel Island.
- As a matter of fact, seven persons, including five fishermen, have been arrested for facilitating this misadventure.
- Further, to call for an investigation on the island, however, is to fail to see its historical and administrative uniqueness.
- At the heart of the issue is the survival of the Sentinelese.
- According to the 2011 Census, their population was just 15 — though anthropologists like T.N. Pandit, who made contact with them in the 1960s, put the figure at 80-90.
- Finally, Chau’s death is a cautionary incident — for the danger of adventurism, and for the administration to step up oversight. But it is also an occasion for the country to embrace its human heritage in all its diversity, and to empathetically try to see the world from the eyes of its most vulnerable inhabitants.
- Having said the above, much of the debates on the alleged killing of John Allen Chau by “hostile” islanders remains focused on the intent, circumstances and tragic upshot of his misadventure.
- Other experts raise larger and more disturbing questions about the North Sentinel tribal community at large and the efficacy of the Indian government’s tribal welfare policies.
Differing Narratives: The Question of Isolation
- Experts point out that what is of greater significance surrounding the issue is the commentary on the “hostility” of the Sentinel islanders and the many experiences of heroic “contact” by visiting anthropologists and government officials.
- The broader media interest is in the peculiar and almost brutal hostility displayed by the Sentinel islanders towards the outsider.
- Some observers see it as signs of a pathological “primitivity” and the result of “complete isolation” from “civilisation” while others interpret it as an effect of the historical memory of colonial brutality.
- It has also been pointed out that given the fact that we do not know the language of the Sentinelese, nor have we had any opportunity to understand their varied gestures of hostility, it’s hard to come to any definitive answer.
Grounds for questioning their isolation:
- Importantly, experts point out that it is the question of “isolation” that demands more critical attention. Currently, we are not entirely sure if it can be established that the Sentinelese, or the “Sentinel Jarawas” as they were classified in colonial records, were or are completely isolated.
- Both colonial records and Census reports up to 1931 reveal that officials did set foot on the islands and were able to walk through it to collect information.
- Further, the Government of India’s own official “contact” photographs from the 1970s onwards reveal interesting signs that question the “complete isolation” thesis.
- If we carefully analyse this visual record, we can see how the shape of Sentinelese outrigger canoes has changed and how they continue to use large quantities of iron to make adze blades and arrowheads. We also notice small glass bead necklaces around their necks. Where are these glass beads, trinkets, large tarpaulin sheets and ready supplies of iron coming from?
- Further, out of the Anthropological Survey of India’s recorded 26 visits to the islands, it is stated that seven were met with overt hostility.
- Thus, stemming from this argument, the point put forward that the hostility of the Sentinelese is chronic or pathological needs to be seen in perspective.
- Experts point out that the Sentinel Islanders decide on what kind of visitations pose a threat to their survival or dignity and what are “safe” or “useful”. Further, their hostility towards the outsider is then to be regarded as “strategic” and deliberate and therefore key to their survival.
- Some experts have asked why the Indian state cannot devise a method by which the Sentinelese could be “pacified” and brought under the welfare net.
A Perspective on the Policies of Protection:
- Experts point out that the Policies of “protection” demand strong surveillance infrastructures, empowered staff, coordination among police, forest and welfare agencies and, more importantly, investment in projects of sensitisation.
- They further add that the settler population on the islands clearly remains conflicted. There is an understanding that the islands’ indigenous communities are sources of tourist interest and potential revenue churners, yet the fact that public monies are invested to sustain them in their habitats remain a source of discomfort.
- Further, apart from a small segment of progressive citizens, there are clear marks of stress in settler-indigene relations on the islands. Experts point out that it is tensions like these that allow collusive breaches of the law and the undermining of the protective cover for the Sentinelese and other Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) like the Jarawas. Experts further add that what may aggravate such tensions are the skewed developmental priorities that mainland India may impose on these islands.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have historically been treated as terra nullius, or empty space, wherein mainland governments could inscribe their authority and initiate projects of control.
- The British initiated these projects treating the islands first as a strategic outpost and then a penal colony.
- The Indian government gave it a free society but used it as a space to settle its “excess” population. Hence the refugee rehabilitation schemes in the post-Partition years.
- It is this resettlement of the islands in independent India that demanded a renegotiation of its relations with the Islands’ indigenous communities. They had to be protected and cared for but moved out of their original forest habitats into newly designated “tribal reserves”.
- Further, as a result of continuous settlement and often ill-conceived developmental projects on the islands over the past six decades, these reserves have become increasingly vulnerable to the intrusions of poachers, encroachers and tourists.
A Note on Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
There are 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) notified as on date in the country. The criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under:
- A pre-agriculture level of technology;
- A stagnant or declining population;
iii. Extremely low literacy; and
- A subsistence level of economy.
- The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is implementing a scheme namely “Development of PVTGs” which covers the 75 identified PVTGs among Scheduled Tribes in 18 States/ UT of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
- It is a flexible scheme and covers funding for activities like housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, installation of non-conventional sources of energy for lighting purpose, social security including Janshree Beema Yojana or any other innovative activity meant for the comprehensive socio-economic development of PVTGs.
- Priority is also assigned to PVTGs under the schemes of Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Tribal Sub-Scheme(TSS), Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution, Grants-in-aid to Voluntary Organisations working for the welfare of Schedule Tribes and Strengthening of Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts.
India’s Policy Towards Tribals:
- Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tribal Panchsheel were the guiding principles after Independence to formulate policies for the indigenous communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Based on them, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation (ANPATR), 1956 was promulgated by the President.
- This Regulation protected the tribals from outside interference, specified the limits of reserved areas and said no land in a reserved area shall be allotted for agricultural purposes or sold or mortgaged to outsiders.
- Those violating the land rights of the tribals were to be imprisoned for one year, fined Rs. 1,000, or both.
- Despite this, there continued to be constant interactions between the tribals and settlers/ outsiders.
- A policy of non-intervention was also proposed by an expert committee on the directions of the Supreme Court. The committee submitted its report in July 2003.
- The trigger for this was a 1999 petition that sought to bring the Jarawas into the mainstream. The committee recommended protecting the Jarawas from harmful contact with outsiders, preserving their cultural and social identity, conserving their land and advocated sensitising settlers about the Jarawas.
- In 2005, nearly 50 years after it was promulgated, the ANPATR was amended.
- The term of imprisonment as well as the fine were increased. However, in the years in between, the Andaman Trunk Road had already ensured increased interaction with the tribals.
- In the case of the Jarawas, this had led to the spread of diseases, sexual exploitation, and begging. Similarly, a policy for protecting the Shompen tribes was released only in 2015. However, in spite of the 2005 amendment, videos of commercial exploitation of the Jarawas in the name of “human safaris” were widely reported in the media.
- Following this, the government amended the ANPATR yet again in 2012, creating a buffer zone contiguous to the Jarawa tribal reserve where commercial establishments were prohibited, and regulating tourist operators.
- Despite all these amendments and provisions, there continues to be numerous reports of civilian intrusion into the Jarawa tribal reserve.
A Note on International Conventions:
- It is important to note that International policy has changed over the decades.
- While the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957, of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) insisted on an integrationist approach towards tribal communities, the 1989 convention insisted on a policy of non-intervention, “recognising the aspirations of these peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development.”
There are important questions surrounding this issue which when answered lends greater perspective.
How many Sentinelese are there?
- In July 2017, the Secretary, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Government of India who visited the Andaman and Nicobar islands — but not North Sentinel — reported that the estimated population of Sentinelese was 50 individuals.
- No accurate census has been made.
- It is important to note that North Sentinel Island lies west of Port Blair, part of the archipelago made up of about 200 islands. After the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, many feared for the population on the island, but an aerial survey showed that the islanders had survived.
When did they reach the islands?
- Research scholars have, on the basis of genetic pointers, suggested that the earliest settlers in the Andamans came about 35,000 years ago, while others say it could have been much earlier.
- They are thus believed to be descendants of the earliest humans to migrate out of the African continent.
How did they arrive across seas?
- Scholars theorise that during the ice ages, when sea levels were considerably lower, it should have been possible to walk across land bridges or cross shallow waters in crude canoes from the Sumatra, Malay and Burma coasts which are not far from the southern and northern extremes of the present day islands.
- Further, according to some researchers, there were 13 linguistically defined groups among the original inhabitants, before the British set up a penal colony in Port Blair in 1858.
- Exposure to diseases and the social disruption that followed decimated the populations. Only the Jarawa, the Onge and the Sentinelese survived that phase, while the Great Andamanese were decimated in conflicts with the British.
- A small number of Andamanese survive in a reservation with government help.
Do Sentinelese exist in isolation?
- The inhabitants of North Sentinel Island are considered fiercely hostile. They are unique survivors on a small forested land for thousands of years and have continued their existence without making attempts to reach out to the modern world.
- However, the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) conducted several ‘expeditions’ to make contact with the group beginning in the 1970s, some of them led by anthropologist T.N. Pandit. On some trips, members of the Onge tribe joined the visitors. The programme to gain the friendship of the Sentinelese went on, says anthropologist A. Justin, until April 2003.
- While there was initial hostility and a threat to shoot arrows, the Sentinelese often accepted gifts such as coconuts, red linen, ribbons, plastic buckets and even hogs.
- They showed “no sign of unfriendliness” by the time the contact attempts were abandoned. During one visit, the members took the gifts from “the visitors’ hands,” according to an AnSI report.
What threats do they face?
- The continued existence of ancient people in North Sentinel Island with no real contact with modernity is enough evidence of their ability to persist without outside help.
- When other groups, such as the Andamanese, the Onge and later the Jarawa made contact with outsiders, there was a destructive impact on them.
- It is important to note that the Sentinelese have so far escaped the disease and disruption that overtook the others.
- Yet, they face the threat of poaching off North Sentinel. Intruders often fish in the waters around the island, and 11 of them were caught in 2012 alone. Two years after the 2004 tsunami, during which coral reefs around the island had become visible, two poachers from Port Blair drifted to the island and were killed.
- In August 2018, the Centre relaxed the Restricted Area Permit system to boost tourism and enable foreigners to visit 29 islands in Andaman and Nicobar, including North Sentinel. However, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has called for a review of the decision.
- It goes to the credit of the Indian government that unlike its colonial predecessors it has completely abjured all kinds of coercion against the indigenous communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Further, colonial punitive expeditions, kidnappings, forced confinements that devastated the Andamanese populations at large are a thing of the past. Tribal welfare policy in the islands remains committed to protection and clearly “pacification” via coercion is no option. The policy today is to ensure “protection” but also to accept their right to self-determination.
- Further, India ratified the 1957 convention but has not ratified the 1989 convention. However, despite not signing it, India tried to tread the path of non-interference.
- Stemming from this, some experts have pointed out that it is puzzling that in August, 2018 the government relaxed the restricted area permit (RAP) for 29 islands in the Andaman and Nicobar, including North Sentinel Island.
- Also, if the government has decided to ease the restrictions in a phased manner, this could adversely affect the indigenous population in the long run.
- It is important to note that such commercialisation of tribal spaces could lead to encroachment of land, as we see in other parts of the country.
- Considering the significance of the indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the government needs to reorient its priorities towards protecting them from outside influence. India needs to sign the 1989 convention of the ILO, and implement its various policies to protect the rights of the indigenous population. It should also make efforts to sensitise settlers and outsiders about them. That Chau was helped in his journey shows a lack of understanding about the Sentinelese. Only concrete efforts can prevent such an incident from happening again.
- In conclusion, one hopes that we can draw a few lessons from the unfortunate death of John Allen Chau and question the ways in which mainland India views the islands from its distant perch in New Delhi.
- One can only hope that the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the announcement of new projects for “holistic” development take a context-sensitive “island view” of development and recognise settlers and PVTGs as equal stakeholders in a common sustainable future.
- The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has directed Unitech Ltd. to compensate two flat buyers by paying a compensation over ₹1 crore, after the developers failed to deliver possession of the flats booked by the complainants, within the stipulated period.
- Holding the developers deficient in services, the NCDRC has asked Unitech to refund the amount paid by the complainants, that amounted to over ₹30 lakh each, while booking the respective properties in a Gurugram project.
- “The affidavits and documents [submitted by the complainants] prove the payment made by the complainants to [Unitech]. Since the possession to the complainants was not offered within three years of execution of the agreement with them, they are entitled to seek refund of the amount paid by them to the opposite party, along with appropriate compensation” the panel said.
G. Prelims Fact
- The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Saturday approved procurements estimated at ₹3,000 crore. These include BrahMos cruise missiles for two stealth frigates to be bought directly from Russia and armoured recovery vehicles for the Arjun tanks.
- “As a follow-up to the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security in October 2018 for procurement of four P1135.6 follow-on ships, the DAC granted approval for procurement of the indigenous BrahMos missiles for two Navy ships to be built in Russia,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The BrahMos missiles will be the primary weapon on these ships.
- In October 2016, India and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement for four Krivak, or Talwar, stealth frigates. Two of them will be procured directly from Russia and two will be built by Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL). The commercial agreement was signed recently.
- The DAC also approved the procurement of armoured recovery vehicles for Arjun, the Army’s main battle tank. They have been designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and will be made by Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML). The vehicles will ensure efficient and speedy repair and recovery of tanks in combat.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the G20 summit here and invited him to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations next year.
- Ramaphosa has accepted the invitation.
- “Glad to have met President @CyrilRamaphosa. At a time when India is marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, it is our honour to welcome President Ramaphosa as the Chief Guest for the 2019 Republic Day celebrations. Bapu’s close link with South Africa is well known,” Mr. Modi tweeted. He said Mr. Ramaphosa’s visit would further cement ties between the two countries.
- The cyclonic storm, ‘Gaja’ has turned out to be a blessing for the migratory birds, which have made it to the Pulicat lake, the second largest brackish water lagoon in the country.
- Thanks to the prolonged dry spell, the lake had not been attracting many winged visitors till last month, disappointing avid bird watchers.
- But the cyclone-induced rain in the district, including in the catchment areas of the Kalangi, the Swarnamukhi and the Arani, has brought inflows to the lake near Sullurupeta.
- As a result, the migratory birds are back in the water body, which is on the A.P.- Tamil Nadu border.
- There has been a decline in the arrival of migratory birds at the lake of late due to climate change.
- The last time the migratory birds arrived in good strength was when Vardah cyclone struck the coast in 2016.
- Meanwhile, the Forest Department has roped in Coimbatore-based Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) for a detailed study to protect the brackish water ecosystem in the wake of the demands for opening the sea mouth into the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’ has been launched for
- Providing housing loan to poor people at cheaper interest rates
- Promoting women’s self-help groups in backward areas
- Promoting financial inclusion in the country
- None of the above
Question 2. In the ‘Index of Eight Core Industries’, which one of the following is given the highest weight?
- Electricity generation
- Coal production
- Fertilizer production
- Steel Production
Question 3. Which of the following is/are correct regarding the Global Economic Prospects Report?
- It is published by the World Bank Group.
- It examines global economic developments and prospects, with a special focus on emerging market and developing countries, on a semiannual basis.
Choose the correct option:
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both are correct
- Both are incorrect
I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam
- The quantity of heroin seized in Mizoram has increased steadily since 2014 when the State government replaced total prohibition with controlled prohibition. In this context, analyse the relation between alcohol and drugs. Write a note on India’s Experiment with the Alcohol ban. (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
Rotavirus infection is one of the leading causes of gastroenteritis in children under five years worldwide. What do know about Rotavirus? Critically analyse the efforts of Indian government to address the rotavirus infection. (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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