ISSUE: CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2019
WHAT DOES BILL PROPOSE?
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
The purpose of the Bill says that it will enable acquisition of Indian citizenship by persons who were forced to seek shelter in India due to persecution or fear of it on grounds of religion and will extend the facility to the class of persons presently facing hardships and difficulties in acquiring citizenship.
The Bill says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.
The Bill shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).
Citizens of other States require ILP to visit the three States as per the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
CRITICISM OF THE BILL
The Narendra Modi government has bulldozed a poisonous bill through Parliament which effects a majoritarian recasting of the very idea of Indian citizenship, makes religion a criterion.
India is to be redefined as the natural home of Hindus, it says to India’s Muslims. And that they must, therefore, be content with a less natural citizenship.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill uses a legal instrument to send an insidious political message: Religious identity will play a dominant role in assessing claims to citizenship. Muslims will be increasingly marginalised from our conceptions of citizenship.
With this Bill India had abandoned the territorial idea of citizenship in favour of ethno-religious notions.
The GoI argues that Muslims cannot be oppressed in countries where Islam is an official religion, but Ahmaddiyas and Shias are in Pakistan, like Hazaras (also Shias) in Afghanistan. The CAB also ignores other neighbouring countries, including Sri Lanka and Myanmar, where Tamils and Rohingya are at the receiving end of the state.
This worldview is well in tune with the vision of V D Savarkar, the architect of the Hindutva ideology, who wrote: “The Hindus are not merely the citizens of the Indian state because they are united not only by the bonds of the love they bear to a common motherland, but also by the bonds of a common blood. They are not only a nation but a race-jati.”
Now, the judiciary must rise again to the Constitution’s defence, as it has done at several turning points before, and protect the spirit of the Republic, its very soul.
ISSUE: REASONS FOR THE ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN
EVIDENCE OF SLOWDOWN
With the economy tumbling for six straight quarters and GDP growth at 4.5 per cent (July-September quarter), we are in trouble. Tax receipts in Q2 (April-October) at Rs 6.83 lakh crore, with an expenditure of Rs16.55 lakh crore are worrying.
The output of eight core industries in October contracted by 5.8 per cent compared to October 2018 with six of the eight sectors witnessing negative growth. Coal production fell by 17.6 per cent, crude output by 5.1 per cent, steel production by 1.6 per cent, natural gas by 5.7 per cent, cement by 7.7 per cent and electricity consumption by 12.4 per cent.
Various international agencies have cut down their GDP predictions for the current financial year by 1.5 per cent on an average. The RBI, too, on December 6 lowered the growth estimate to 5 per cent in 2019-20 from 6.1 per cent.
REASONS FOR THE SLOWDOWN
First, the wheels of economic growth are undergoing qualitative changes. Automation and artificial intelligence are replacing manpower. Consequently, Indian industry is bound to suffer. While the adoption of both AI and automation by domestic industry is inevitable, it will also lead to a substantial loss of jobs. In recent years, we have seen job losses in IT and other labour-intensive sectors, which have in the past fueled growth.
Second, it is imperative for our labour force to acquire skills to meet the needs of the fourth industrial revolution. To do that, we need to affect structural changes in our education system as children move from school to higher education.
Instead, the Ministry of Human Resource Development is more concerned with changing the way we look at our past than reflecting upon the needs of the future.
Third, the contribution of both the Opposition during the UPA years as well as judgments of the Supreme Court to the economic mess that we find ourselves in. The C&AG’s preposterous theory of presumptive loss in telecom latched on to by the then Opposition, resulted in a judgment cancelling telecom licences, which killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. Subsequent auctions of spectrum resulted in high bids. The revenue earnings of telecom operators were insufficient to discharge the debt to banks for loans taken to buy spectrum.
Fourth, is the crisis in agriculture as we promise to double farmers’ income — a daunting task with agricultural growth at 2 per cent per annum. We need innovative policies in agriculture. Use of technology to increase productivity per acre, rational policies to reduce the mindless exploitation of groundwater and remunerative returns for the farmer are imperatives. The plight of indebted marginal farmers too must be addressed.
Finally, government must recognise that fear and enterprise don’t go together. Keep the ED and the CBI at bay and ensure that income tax authorities act within the law. Enterprise alone can help fuel our economy. Otherwise the Ides of March are not far away.
ISSUE: NANAVATI PANEL REPORT
WHY IN NEWS?
On Wednesday, the Gujarat government tabled in the Assembly the report of the Nanavati Commission, which it had appointed to probe the burning of the Sabarmati Express in 2002 and the subsequent riots in the state. It gave a clean chit to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as well as to police, the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal.
What is the Nanavati Commission?
It was set up in 2002 following the burning of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra station on February 27, 2002, in which 59 died. Initially a one-judge Commission headed by Justice K G Shah, it was later expanded to be headed by retired Justice G T Nanavati. Following Shah’s death in 2008, Justice Akshay Mehta was appointed in his place. Justice Mehta was the presiding judge when Babu Bajrangi, prime accused in the cases of violence in Naroda in Ahmedabad, got bail.
Why did it take five years to table it?
The final report was submitted in 2014 to then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, months after Modi became Prime Minister. Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja, explaining why it took the government five years to table the report, said it was “voluminous and we needed to study every aspect before putting it out in public”
What does the final report cover?
The final report, which is of nine volumes across 2,500 pages, again gave Modi and his council of ministers a clean chit. The commission trashed evidence provided by former IPS officers retired DGP Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt, that alleged complicity on the part of the government and its functionaries. It has also cleared former ministers the late Haren Pandya and Ashok Bhatt, and Bharat Barot.
What are the key findings?
The Commission found that there was no conspiracy involved in the riots and they were largely the outcome of the anger over the Godhra train burning incident. The Commission considered testimonies provided to counter the evidence and testimonies provided by NGOs and rights groups like Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace, and Jan Sangharsh Manch led by the late Mukul Sinha, who is credited with leading the cross-examinations of government officials and political functionaries.
What are the key recommendations?
One is that “reasonable restriction be placed upon the media in matter of publication of reports about the incidents (during communal riots)”. The Commission cited testimonies accusing media of giving “wide publicity to the Godhra incident and the incidents that happened thereafter people got excited and indulged in communal violence”. It also found “deep rooted hatred between some sections of Hindu and Muslim communities” as one of the causes of communal riots and recommends government to take steps for removing this “weakness” from society. It cited instances to show that Hindus, in fact, were either assaulted for helping Muslims or alerted Muslims about possible attacks.
ISSUE: WI-FI CALLING
WHY IN NEWS?
Bharti Airtel, which recently removed its FUP (Fair Usage Policy) on calls to other networks, has introduced Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), a first for India. Airtel Wi-Fi calling claims to enhance indoor voice calling experience for smartphone customers.
WHAT IT MEANS: Wi-Fi Calling is aimed especially for areas where cellular networks are not strong. It uses high speed Internet connection, available via broadband, to make and receive high definition (HD) voice calls. Users don’t have to pay extra for these calls as it is using a Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi Calling can be configured on compatible smartphones by upgrading operating systems to the version that supports Wi-Fi Calling, and enabling this in Settings. Keeping VoLTE switched on will help in seamless voice calling, but this is not essential.
HOW THE SERVICE WILL WORK: At the moment the service is limited to Delhi-NCR users with compatible devices. This will not be charged extra as it will use Wi-Fi and not Airtel’s networks. The catch: for now, it will work only for users who have Wi-Fi on Airtel Xstream Fiber home broadband.
WHY IN NEWS?
On Tuesday, engineer-scientist George Laurer died in Wendell, North Carolina, at age 94. He was the co-developer of the Universal Product Code (UPC), or barcode, in 1973. It is an invention that changed the way businesses work.
How the idea took shape
Barcode was the brainchild of Woodland; Laurer is credited with bringing the idea to fruition.
It was in the 1950s that Woodland thought about developing a system based on barcode symbology, called Bulls-Eye Barcode, which would describe a product and its price in a code readable by a machine. Initially, Woodland took inspiration from the Morse Code, the well-known character-encoding scheme in telecommunications defined by dots and dashes.
What it is today
Over the years, the barcode has transformed the way the retail industry functions globally. Barcodes can be found in hundreds and thousands of products for identification and scanning, and allow retailers to identify prices instantly. They also allow for easy check-outs and fewer pricing errors, and let retailers keep better account of their inventory.
The barcode also changed the balance of power in the retail industry.