20 Oct 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Govt. mulling over changes in RTE admission process
2. Political parties should form complaints panel: Maneka
3. ‘Centre to weigh all options before NRC nod for Tripura’
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Turkey to host four-nation summit on Syria crisis
C. GS3 Related
ENVIRONMENT
1. Fines fail to deter stubble burning
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. 61 dead as train mows down Dasara crowd in Amritsar
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. L'affaire Khashoggi (Issue surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance)
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. No show: on J&K local polls (Local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir)
F. Tidbits
G. Prelims Fact
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Govt. mulling over changes in RTE admission process

 

  • The State government is again planning to change the criteria for admission under the RTE Act by giving priority to government schools over private ones.
  • While the Act says 25% of seats should be reserved for students of weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in private schools, as per the State’s plan, a child must be admitted to government or aided schools.

Right to Education (RTE) Act

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Article 21A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010.
  • This act is an embodiment of Article 21A, which says that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
  • It is seen as the most historic development in universalisation of elementary education in the country.
  • It implies that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years has Right to elementary education. They are entitled for free and compulsory education.
  • The RTE Act provides for the right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
  • It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
  • It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
  • It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
  • It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.
  • It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
  • It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
  • The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the main vehicle for implementation of the RTE Act. It is one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world. It is primarily funded from central budget and it covers the whole country.
  • Under SSA, special attention has been given to urban deprived children, children affected by periodic migration and children living in remote and scattered habitations. Attempts have also been made to reach out to children suffering from autism. It involves their identification, preparation of individualized Education Plan, teacher training on Autism and therapeutic support.

2. Political parties should form complaints panel: Maneka

 

  • Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has urged political parties to set up internal complaints committees, which is mandatory under law for all workplaces.
  • “I have requested the presidents/ in-charge of all recognised National and State political parties to constitute the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as mandated under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013. This is in view of the fact that political parties employ a large number of personnel, including women, in their offices. It is our prerogative to ensure that women enjoy a safe working environment,” Ms. Gandhi said in a tweet.

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013

  • This act was enacted in April 2013 as India’s first law dealing with the protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

Some important features of this act are as follows

  • This Act aimed to provide every woman, irrespective of her age or employment status, a safe and secure working environment free from all forms of harassment.
  • This Act covered both the organized and unorganized sectors in India. The statute applied to all government bodies, private and public sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, organizations carrying out commercial, vocational, educational, entertainment, industrial, financial activities, hospitals etc.
  • This Act defined ‘sexual harassment’ in line with the Supreme Court’s definition in the Vishaka Judgment.
  • The Act extended the meaning of the word sexual harassment to include “presence or occurrence of circumstances of implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment, threat of detrimental treatment in employment, threat about present or future employment, interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment, or humiliating treatment likely to affect the lady employee’s health or safety could also amount to sexual harassment”.
  • The Act also introduced the concept of ‘extended workplace’ since sexual harassment is not always confined to the primary place of employment. Therefore, the Act defined ‘workplace’ to include any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment, including transportation provided by the employer for the purpose of commuting to and from the place of employment.
  • The Act provided for the establishment of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each and every office or branches of the organization employing 10 or more employees, in order to provide a forum for filing complaints to facilitate fast redressal of the grievances pertaining to sexual harassment.
  • It also provided for the establishment of local complaints committee (LCC) at the district level by the Government to investigate and redress complaints of sexual harassment of the unorganized sector or from those establishments where the ICC has not been constituted for the reason being, it having less than 10 employees.

3. ‘Centre to weigh all options before NRC nod for Tripura’

 

  • The Centre said it was weighing all options to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Tripura but any decision would be taken only after considering the ramifications in other parts of the country.
  • A senior government official said other provisions like the Citizenship Act, Foreigners Act and the Passport Act existed to detect and deport illegal immigrants in the country.
  • The official said the importance of these Acts could not be ignored before taking a final view. On October 8, a petition was filed by the Tripura People’s Front and others in the Supreme Court to update the NRC in Tripura as is being done in Assam, in order to detect and deport “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh.
  • The SC issued a notice to the Centre and the State government on the petition. The petition asked the SC to direct the authorities to update the NRC with respect to Tripura in terms of Rules 3 and 4 of The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, by taking July 19, 1948, as the cut-off date.
  • A State government official said, “The 1948 cut-off date mentioned in the petition for Tripura can have legal implications as many people from Bangladesh came to the State in wake of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. This can open a plethora of problems.”

What is National Register of Citizens?

  • It is a register containing the list of bona fide (genuine/real) Indian citizens. Those failing to enlist their names in the register would be deemed, illegal migrants.
  • The first list was made in 1951, covering the whole of India, as per the census of that year.
  • Currently, the list has been updated for the first time, and only in Assam.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Turkey to host four-nation summit on Syria crisis

 

Context

  • A summit between the leaders of Turkey, France, Germany and Russia will be held in Istanbul this month to discuss the conflict in Syria and efforts for a lasting solution to the war in the Arab country, a Turkish official said on Friday.

Background to the Syrian Crisis

  • The trouble began in 2011 in the Syrian city of Daraa. Locals took to the streets to protest after 15 schoolchildren were arrested – and reportedly tortured – for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall.
  • The protests were peaceful to begin with, calling for the release of the children, democracy and greater freedom for people in the country.
  • The government responded angrily, and on 18 March 2011, the army opened fire on protesters, killing four people.
  • The following day, they shot at mourners at the victims’ funerals, killing another person. People were shocked and angry at what had happened and soon the unrest spread to other parts of the country.
  • At first the protesters just wanted democracy and greater freedom. But once government forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrations, people demanded that the President, Bashar al-Assad, resign.
  • President Assad refused to step down. As the violence worsened he offered to change some things about the way the country was run, but the protesters didn’t believe him.
  • President Assad also has quite a lot of people in Syria that still support him and his government. The opposition, who all want the president to step down, is split between groups of rebel fighters, political parties and people living in exile, who cannot return to the country.
  • It’s thought there could have been as many as 1,000 groups opposing the government since the conflict began, with an estimated 100,000 fighters.
  • In August 2013, a chemical attack just outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, caused a strong reaction from many countries including America, Britain and France. After the effects of these weapons were seen, there were long discussions over what the rest of the world should do.
  • In September 2013, United Nations inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but the report did not say who was responsible.
  • The war is now more than just a battle between those for or against President Assad. In early 2014, in neighbouring Iraq, an extremist group called Islamic State (IS) began to take over large areas of the country.
  • IS is a radical militant group which has used violence against anyone who doesn’t agree with their extremist views. They have also persecuted other groups, including Christians and Yazidis.
  • IS later moved into eastern Syria and in the chaos of war they were able to gain land and power there too. To try and stop IS, in September 2014 the US, UK and other countries joined forces, using planes to attack their fighters on the ground in Iraq.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ENVIRONMENT

1. Fines fail to deter stubble burning

 

  • Between September 27 and October 14, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) imposed Rs. 8,92,500 as fines — or “environmental compensation cess” as it is officially called — on farmers burning paddy stubble. However, they collected only Rs. 3,05,000, according to figures from the organisation.
  • “The fines are collected over time … frequently the farmers don’t have money to immediately pay them,” Gulshan Rai, Chief Environmental Engineer, PPCB, told The Hindu . “However our experience from previous years is that this is not a substantial amount.”
  • To discourage farmers in Punjab and Haryana — who are responsible for the bulk of such fires — the government has also disbursed Rs. 591 crore to these States to sell subsidised farm implements that can do away with stubble without having to burn them.
  • Officials said satellite images alert them to fields set afire by farmers but actually confronting a guilty farmer is a complex process.
  • “We get in touch with the patwari (who keeps land-ownership records) to ascertain the farmer in question. Sometimes, farmers protest, sometimes they plead innocence and sometimes poverty. We are helpless at times,” said an officer tasked with following up on stubble burning fires in Punjab.
  • Despite a vigorous focus by governments on making mechanised farm implements — combine harvesters-cum-straw management system, seed drillers, rotary harvesters — available to farmers, it’s still inaccessible to many farmers with landholdings less than 5 acres or those not rich enough to invest in such machines.

Crop Residue Burning

  • Stubble burning refers to the use of a controlled fire to clear the crop residue that remains in the paddock after harvest and could more accurately be called ‘crop residue burning.
  • It is mainly carried out in Haryana and Punjab.
  • Open burning of husk produces harmful smoke that causes pollution. Open burning of husk is of incomplete combustion in nature. Hence large amount of toxic pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere. Pollutants contain harmful gases like Methane, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

What is combine harvesting?

  • Combines are machines that harvest, thresh i.e separate the grain, and also clean the separated grain, all at once.
  • The problem, however, is that the machine doesn’t cut close enough to the ground, leaving stubble behind that the farmer has no use for.
  • There is pressure on the farmer to sow the next crop in time for it to achieve a full yield. The quickest and cheapest solution, therefore, is to clear the field by burning the stubble.

Why do Farmers Burn?

  • Cost Factor: The straw management equipment is costly and process is time consuming. Also, the cost of stubble management is not taken into account while determining the minimum support price (MSP).
  • Increasing mechanization of agriculture: Stubble problem was not as severe when paddy was harvested manually because the farmers use to cut it as close to the ground as possible. Due to mechanization the crop residue that remains in the field is of larger quantity. Labour costs are very high now
  • Those who want fodder have to get the stubble removed manually or use specialised machines to do the job. But that is costly.
  • Time Factor: Delay in sowing means yield decline, this leaves very little time to clear the farm for sowing.
  • Unlike wheat stalks that are used as animal fodder, the paddy straw has high silica content that animals can’t digest.
  • Since farmers need to sow wheat within a fortnight of harvesting paddy, they burn the straw to save time, labour and money.

Category: DISASTER MANAGEMENT

1. 61 dead as train mows down Dasara crowd in Amritsar

Context

  • At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured on Friday evening at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, when a train mowed down a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled on to the railway track while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy.
  • Over 500 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground near the track.
  • As the effigy was set on fire amid bursting of firecrackers, people reportedly could not hear the sound of the oncoming train.
  • There was a stampede as people rushed towards the track when crackers were burst in large numbers during the burning of the effigy.
  • Two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time, giving little opportunity for the people to escape, officials said.

Related Concept – NDMA’s guidelines on Crowd Management

NDMA had released an elaborate document at this link for integrated crowd management. As per this document, the integrated crowd management is based on several pillars such as capacity planning, risk assessment, improved preparedness planning, incidence response, capacity building etc.

The planning and management is subjective based on several parameters such as –

  • Type of event (such as religious, schools/ university, sports event, music event, political event, product promotion etc.)
  • Expected Crowd (age, gender, economic strata etc. such as farmers, shopkeepers)
  • Crowd Motives (such as social, academic, religious, entertainment, economic etc.)
  • Venue (location, topography of area, temporal or permanent, open or closed, public or private)
  • Role of other stake holders (such as NGOs, neighbours of event venue, local administrators etc)

Some salient points from the NDMA guidelines are as follows:

  • Crowd Queues – Initial focus should be on traffic regulations around the mass gathering venues. There should be a route map for venues along with emergency exits route maps. Also, there should be Barricade facility to control the movement of crowd queues. In case of large crowd gathering, there should be snake line approach, along with constant monitoring of crowds for developing hazard points.
  • VIPs – There should be specific plans to handle VIPs and if VIPs add the security concerns then authorities should refuse entry to VIPs.
  • Communications – There should be CCTV surveillance, along with another public address system, such as loudspeakers should be installed at all crowded points, in order to communicate with the crowds.
  • Medical facilities – Ambulance and health care professionals should be available on venues. NDMA has recommended the medical first-aid rooms and emergency operations in order to handle post-disaster emergencies.
  • Basic facilities – The venue organisers should ensure authorised use of electricity, fire safety extinguishers and other arrangements as per the safety guidelines.
  • Event organizers – Event organizers and venue managers should prepare and review the disaster management plan by coordinating with local administration and police. This will ensure that all the necessary facilities such as transport, medical and emergency facilities are as per safety standards.
  • Civil society – Police authorities should access the preparedness. Also, Event/venue managers should involve NGOs and civil society in traffic control, medical assistance and mobilization of local resources in case of disaster.
  • Capacity building – In order to be proactive, there is need to focus on the capacity building. Also, the training manual should be periodically in order to usher in new crowd management technique. Apart from that if there is issue of insufficient Security personnel, students, NGOs and civil society should be roped in. Also, the media should be trained to manage communications during crowd disasters.

Way forward

  • In most of the cases, the crowd disasters are man-made disasters and such tragedies can be prevented with proactive planning and execution by the authorities involved. Apart from that lessons should be learnt from past mistakes. Every member of society is the stakeholder in such disaster prevention. NDMA should also focus on a central repository of incidences so that lessons can be learnt from past.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. L’affaire Khashoggi (Issue surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance)

Larger Background:

Who was Jamal Khashoggi?

  • Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent journalist who has covered major stories, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden, for various Saudi news organisations.
  • For many years, Mr Khashoggi had been close to the Saudi royal family and he also served as an adviser to the government.
  • Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after visiting a Saudi consulate on 2nd October, 2018.
  • Jamal Khashoggi’s grandfather was the doctor to King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia in the 1930s.
  • Turkish officials believe he was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence. Turkish officials say Mr Khashoggi was tortured and killed on the premises by a team of Saudi agents and that his body was then removed. It is believed that they have audio and video evidence to support this claim.
  • Saudi Arabia denies this claim, and initially insisted that Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate shortly after he arrived.
  • However, in a statement broadcast on state television, the country for the first time admitted the journalist had died.
  • Recently, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate – ending with his death.

Editorial Analysis

  • It is important to note that Khashoggi, was after all, just one person. He was at one time even close to the ruling circles in Riyadh.
  • He welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform moves in the country such as permitting women to drive cars unaccompanied by male members of the family.
  • However, the regime felt so threatened by Khashoggi’s dissident and heretical views that it felt compelled to liquidate him physically.

The Stand taken by Saudi Arabia:

  • Saudi Arabia continues to remain defiant on the issue.
  • It has warned all those who may be thinking of isolating or even moving sanctions against the regime with dire consequences.
  • Some token action is being taken by some western governments such as demanding a thorough, impartial inquiry into the incident.
  • We observe that the chief of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has cancelled her participation at the ‘Davos in the Desert’ Conference, in Riyadh.
  • Significantly, the U.S. Treasury Secretary has joined the boycott.
  • We observe that the outrage is universal in the developed world, though the developing countries seem to have decided their own counsel. However, it is important to note that the Bretton Woods institutions will still need Saudi funding.

The US Dimension

  • Some experts believe that foreign policy is all about promoting national interest and that sentiment should have no place in it. We observe that current US foreign policy  is based on this belief as well. For example, U.S. President Donald Trump follows this principle quite ruthlessly. He is open about it, and not at all hypocritical.
  • He is unabashed in proclaiming that hundreds of billions worth of arms sales are on the line and that he is not prepared to put them in jeopardy.

The Indian Context:

  • It is important to note that it is this same principle of national interest that has inhibited India from confronting the Saudis as well as the Iranians about their open, unchecked support, financial and otherwise, by funding radical Sunni and Shia mosques in India.
  • Further, it is important to note that this has been reported to have been going on for decades, perhaps before Independence.
  • However, critics believe that in spite of this, successive governments in India have not found it possible to protest such behaviour. They assert that this behaviour amounts to direct interference in India’s internal affairs and in radicalising sections of the Muslim community.
  • Experts believe that India’s national interest, India’s dependence on West Asian energy sources and anxiety not to upset them too much lest they voted against her in meetings of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, or side with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, is what made India cautious.

Concluding Remarks:

    • It is important to note that Saudi Arabia needs to sell as much oil as they can to continue with their disastrous misadventure in Yemen.
    • Currently, the high level of crude price enables them to prosecute the war with comparably less cost. Further, it is important to note that the Crown Prince’s ambitious reform plan will need more money than the kingdom can produce.
  • Thus, it is important to note that if India needs oil from Saudi Arabia, they also need to sell it.

In conclusion, it is important to note that if India is forced to reduce the import of Iranian oil to zero in the next few weeks, India does not have to worry about alternate sources of which there are plenty, as the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas has assured everyone in India.

Experts believe that Saudi Arabia has no choice but to continue to make up the shortfall. This is felt because of the following reasons:

  1. it needs to sell its oil, but
  2. second and more important, it must do all in its power to weaken and destroy its mortal enemy, the leader of the Shias of the world.

As King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told the U.S. a few years ago, “the head of the snake needs to be cut off”.

Experts believe that if it becomes useful to befriend India in its relentless campaign against Iran, it will be a small price to pay.

There is one more weapon that India can selectively use.
1. Next to the Saudis, India is the largest buyer of weapons in the world.

  1. Further, the U.S., France, Russia all have only one interest in India — to sell their extremely expensive war material. They not only earn money, they even earn our gratitude.

Some experts believe that for Mr. Trump, who advocates, for his country as well as for others, to follow the principle of ‘my country first’ would be the last to impose penalties on India in case we do something that might not fit in with his agenda, either vis-à-vis Iran or Russia. The government seems to be conscious of this advantage that India has.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. No show: on J&K local polls (Local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir)

Note to Students:

This editorial coverage takes into account the recent issue of local body elections in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Students are advised to go through this article as it has a relevance from the perspective of the GS-2 Paper (Polity and Governance).

  • Here we have suitably signposted the Editorial Analysis into multiple headings.
  • “Larger Background”: This particular section talks about the broader background of the issue, taking into consideration specific points that may have been featured in previous editions of The Hindu. The thought process behind including this section is to give a ‘storyline’ approach to an aspirant when he/she goes through this topic.

  • “Editorial Analysis”: This particular section gives an insight towards the specific points covered in the specific editorial that is the subject of our study.

  • “The Way Forward/Concluding Remarks”: This sections gives aspirants concluding points that are taken from the article in question as well as some forwarding looking points taken from other articles, as and when required.

The important aspect to note here is that the issue being discussed in the news assumes priority over just the article.

Larger Background:

    • The two main regional parties, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party had given the call for a boycott to the local body elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Their immediate protest was over the legal challenge in the Supreme Court to Article 35(A) of the Constitution that accords special powers to the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to decide who are the “permanent residents” of the State and on whom special rights and privileges can be conferred.
  • Thus, it is important for students to have a background on what Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is about.  

A Note on Article 35A

  • The Article 35A was inserted in the Indian Constitution by the Presidential Order of 1954. The Article 35A yields special rights and immunities to the permanent residents of the Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of Indian citizen.
  • In the light of this article a non-permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir cannot enjoy any Government facilities.
  • Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature complete freedom to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.
  • The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.

How was Article 35A incorporated?

  • Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet. The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Thus, Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special consideration the Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.

A Look at the Elections:

There has been a poor turnout in the Kashmir valley for local polls.

    • Just over a third of the electorate (35.1% provisionally) turned out to vote in the four-phase urban local body elections
    • Experts believe that this is a wake-up call to the Union government.
    • It is important to note that the turnout was not expected to be high.
    • The two main regional parties, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party had given the call for a boycott.  
  • Their immediate protest was over the legal challenge in the Supreme Court to Article 35(A) of the Constitution that accords special powers to the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to decide who are the “permanent residents” of the State and on whom special rights and privileges can be conferred.
    • Given the boycott by these two parties and others, there was little political mobilisation in the Valley.
  • However, in Jammu, where both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have a strong base and where issues such as Article 35(A) don’t have as much resonance, there was greater participation.
  • It is important to note that the absence of any viable political competition in the local body polls in the Valley will only undermine the institutions and the victors.
  • Unfortunately, with the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government in June this year, the absence of Kashmiri parties from the fray could heighten alienation at the street level.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Despite being local body polls, the negligible public participation in them is significant, especially since only four years ago, the State had witnessed the highest voter turnout in 27 years.
  • Last week saw only 35.1% turnout for the entire State, with Kashmiri participation dropping to a low single-digit percentage.
  • Some experts have blamed this result on pressure from militants.
  • However, it is worth noting that although militants often try to violently disrupt State elections, the boycott has rarely been as successful as this time.
  • Certain experts have maintained that we must recognise that this boycott was essentially a democratic expression of the people who are frustrated not just by the government but by the entire system. They further assert that to ignore their voice is almost certainly going to lead to disastrous consequences for the State’s already-deteriorating security situation.

Delaying the Election?

  • Further, it is important to note that many experts have argued that the solution would have been to delay the elections.
  • However, this would have also meant denying the people of Jammu their democratic rights as they did want the elections and have participated in them enthusiastically.
  • Some experts believe that instead of solely focussing on stabilising the situation, the administration at the Centre also tried to derive maximum political gains from the situation.

The Dilemma the Centre Faces:

    • The dilemma that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing has been experienced by his predecessors as well.
    • Critics believe that as the head of the government, they felt it necessary to maintain stability in the State. However, as leaders of large national parties, they also saw Jammu and Kashmir as a fertile political ground which could be used to expand the bases of their parties, even if it was at the cost of stability in the State. They further assert that the trade-off between these two impulses has been always difficult to negotiate.
    • It is important to point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with any national party pursuing political gains within Jammu and Kashmir as they do in any other State.
  • Some people even argue that it is actually preferable if a sensitive State such as Jammu and Kashmir is ruled by a reliable national party than by regional actors.

Tracing the Roots of the Issue:

  • Experts believe that even the initial birth of the Kashmir insurgency in the late 1980s can be traced back to Indira Gandhi’s decision to adopt a maximalist approach.
  • For example: In 1975, Mrs. Gandhi had established a historic accord with Sheikh Abdullah, making Kashmir’s accession to India final.
    Then in a statesman-like move, Indira Gandhi had asked the Congress Chief Minister in the State to step down for Abdullah to assume the position in a gesture of solidarity.
  • However, within two years, this desire to put national interest first had evaporated. Defeated in the 1977 general election, Mrs. Gandhi became desperate to regain political ground wherever she could find, which included Jammu and Kashmir.

Situation Post 1970’s:

  • The situation changed from the late 1970s. From the late 1970s, the Congress in the State began a steady campaign against the Abdullah government, accusing it of maladministration and corruption.
  • This long-running feud weakened the legitimacy of both parties and as a consequence, created the space for extremism to grow.
  • Inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution, Kashmiri fundamentalists had begun mobilising and the Abdullah-Congress fight allowed them to gain political traction.

Situation in the 1980’s:

  • By the early 1980s, extremists in State politics were becoming prominent enough that even the Central Intelligence Agency took notice.
  • Cognisant of this fact, experts believe that Mrs. Gandhi should have taken a conciliatory approach with Abdullah.
  • Instead, she decided that emerging security risks made it all the more important to politically replace him with a Congress government.
  • For the next few years, the Congress continued to attack the Abdullah government, including in 1984, engineering a coup against Farooq Abdullah, Sheikh’s successor.
  • However, by the mid-1980s, both sides had been discredited. The Congress was seen as abusing its power for political gains; Abdullah was seen as a weak leader because of his failed attempt to walk the tight-rope between fighting the government of India and still remaining pro-India.
  • The vacuum thus created was filled by extremist groups.
  • The Muslim United Front, an alliance of Islamic right-wing parties, expanded its vote share from a mere 6.4% in 1983 to 32% in 1987, in the Valley. Finally recognising this reality, in 1986 Rajiv Gandhi reached another accord with Abdullah which made both parties allies. However, by now it was too late. From a security standpoint it was necessary for the alliance to retain hold of the State; but in its weakened state, neither Abdullah nor the Congress could be sure that they would win the elections.

The Infamous 1987 State Elections:

  • The infamous 1987 State elections, were mired in allegations of widespread poll-rigging. Those who felt that the Abdullah-Congress alliance had “robbed” the elections became the first recruits of the incipient insurgency.
  • In an effort towards trying to reach for maximum goals, which was security gains and political mileage, the Congress ended up losing both.
  • Currently, the ruling party at the Centre, the BJP, finds itself in a similar position, where its political strategy is eroding the long-term security of the State.
  • Critics believe that, what compounds matters is that, unlike the Congress in the 1980s, the BJP is actually making political gains. They point out that they must desist from this temptation.
  • Sacrificing its short-term political gains, the BJP should look towards the long-term stability of the State by moderating its own political appetite.

Concluding Remarks:

  • The reversal is discouraging as voter turnouts had increased significantly in this decade, growing ever since the mid-1990s.
  • It is important to note that even between periods of intense protests, Assembly and parliamentary elections saw increased turnouts despite boycott calls by separatist groups.
  • This indicated a willing acceptance of the need to engage in electoral democracy to address civic concerns even if there were substantive differences and anger with the State and Central governments over issues such as security, human rights violations and the status of J&K.
  • However, the inability of the PDP-BJP government to come up with a coherent response to the unrest and protests that raged in 2016-17, and the subsequent imposition of Governor’s Rule have only heightened matters.
  • Further, experts believe that the work of the Centre’s interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, to carry forward a dialogue with various groups and individuals in the State has also not been enough to arrest misgivings in the Valley.
  • Finally, it has been suggested that the Centre must see the lack of participation in the polls in the Valley as a serious sign of alienation among the people and double down on ways to forge greater engagement.

F. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about High Speed Railway (HSR):
  1. The HSR will run on Broad Guage so as to make it interoperable with existing railway lines.
  2. At present, only Gatiman express can be classified as HSR according to International Standards.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 2. According to UNEP, ‘Green Economy’ includes which of the following?
 

  1. Resource efficiency
  2. Low carbon growth
  3. Social inclusion

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

See

Answer
  

 

 

 

 

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Defining blue revolution, explain the problems and strategies for pisciculture development in India. (250 words)
  2. What is the significance of Industrial Corridors in India? Identifying industrial corridors, explain their main characteristics. (250 words)

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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