Daily Editorial Analysis for 20th March 2020

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Protecting Secular Ethos of India

Paper: II

For Mains: Comparison of the Indian Constitutional Scheme with that of Other Countries.

Context of News:

  • Ban Ki-moon a South Korean politician and diplomat who served as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nation has recently said that India has the potential to be one of the leading powers of the 21st century. It is the biggest democracy in the world, and is blessed with talented citizens who have made their mark in global business, academia, IT, entertainment and sport.
  • There is so much India can teach the world about its traditions of democracy and ahimsa (non-violence), which is why its friends, were profoundly disappointed and alarmed by the communal violence that disfigured Delhi in recent weeks.

Secular Credentials of India:

  • The developments in Indian politics in recent times has made it imperative for the world to reassess the credentials for which it had backed the country given the fact that the Hindu are at present building new India through Ram Temple in place of steel factories and dams as temples of modern India. There is nothing wrong in building Ram Temple, but this building Ram Temple at a time when Economy is on its declining path is matter of grave concern.
  • Mahatma Gandhi and their generation of leaders were aware of the deep divides that the independent India inherited, the regional, the religious, the rich-poor and worst of all, that out of the caste system that divided the Hindu religion. They were convinced that secularism was the mantra to overcome the divides and keep India united.

Is India truly secular?

  • If we go through the basic feature of secularism as understood in the west, it can be seen that state has nothing to do with religion and there will be no discrimination between citizens on the basis of their religion or form of worship and that everybody will be equal before law. If this is true secularism, India ceases to be secular for it has different sets of laws for different communities. For instance, in the case of Muslims, a separate civil code exists, though Article 44 requires the state to frame a uniform civil code.
  • If we analyze the various legislations, which are in vogue in our country, we would find that some of them are not in consonance with the concept of secularism. For instance, under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, bigamy is an offence and a person, who contracts a second marriage while the first marriage is subsisting, is guilty of the offence. But this provision is in applicable to those people who can have more than one wife as per their religion. The very fact that operation of a penal provision is not alike among all people and that it is dependent on one’s religious faith tantamount to making a mockery of the very concept of secularism.
  • The Indian concept of secularism is full of contradictions and therefore, is unable to provide clear, un-ambiguous guidelines either to the individual or to the state. As a consequence, the religious values continue to dominate the day-to-day affairs and in the process generate tension because of plurality of religious views. In such circumstances, it is imperative that serious attention is paid to revive secularism and curb communalism.

Recent Blunt on Secular Credentials of India:

  • A new report on the “health” of democracies around the world published by Freedom House, America’s oldest organisation monitoring democratic freedom and human rights.
  • The Freedom in the World 2020 report finds democracy on the decline around the world but specifically in India.
  • Partisan Policing:
  • In any democratic system, there are basic institutional mechanisms to ensure police accountability. The police leadership, of course, bears the primary responsibility for the front end of day-to-day functioning. The political executive is meant to be responsible for the back end of policy-making and allocation of adequate resources. The police leadership is guided primarily by loyalty to the party in office and faces an incentive structure that rewards obedience over professional competence and integrity. Regardless of the party in office, this is the political consensus on how the police ought to function.
  • Court not Performing Duty:
  • Coming to the courts, despite the regular output of high-minded judgments, they too have failed miserably in ensuring police accountability. Our courts are prompt in passing sweeping judgements about certain aspects of police functioning such as arrests and encounters. But they are extremely ineffective in doing their basic job of dispensing justice in a time-bound manner, or in ensuring that the police receive proper backing in ensuring the rule of law. One example is the frequent misuse of Section 321 CrPC by all governments to withdraw riot-related cases with the consent of the court.
  • Media paralysis:
  • The media too has not played its role of ensuring police accountability. Like our police leaders, too few editors and owners of media houses have the guts to say no to the party in power. This has disastrous consequences for democratic accountability in general, and police accountability in particular. Unless the media sets its own house in order, we will continue to miss a crucial piece in this puzzle.
  • Can the media escape its responsibility for treating the police as a convenient punching bag from time to time and not taking up the cause of police reforms as aggressively as it should be doing? And, are the people of the country also not to blame for not being vocal enough about police reforms? The Supreme Court would also need to introspect as to why the implementation of its directions has been so ineffective

Way Forward:

  • It is a matter of great concern that secularism is struggling for survival in our country now. The anti thesis of secularism is communalism, which is gaining momentum in our society at an alarming pace. The mixing of religion with politics and the dangerous growth of communal parties pose a major threat of the secular framework of our country. India is a secular state and yet communalism continues to shape its policies. Frequent occurrences of violence in the name of religion give fatal blows to the very.
  • Since independence, India has managed to stay on the democratic path in a way unprecedented among states freed from colonialism during the last century.
  • The makers of our Constitution designed the institutions of our democracy with great care and attention to detail. They were designed to endure and it was expected that these institutions will strengthen the democracy in India.
  • Recently, however, the dominance of the Hindu nationalists and the manner in which they have ruled – has given rise to claims that India’s democracy and its minorities are in grave danger.
  • Freedom of expression has been curtailed; institutions of democracy are weakened and diminished; democratic deliberation has been bypassed; attacks on religious minorities have been carried out.
  • Along with curtailment of freedom of expression what is more concerning is the involvement of Police in biased manner. This leads us to conclusion that some sort of Civil rebellion is making its way up, which is grave danger to the Democracy.
  • At a time when politics almost everywhere is leaning dangerously towards a centralised, authoritarian, national security state with a strong leader committed to the ideology of cultural nationalism, the values and ideas of democracy provided by early leaders becomes important.


Digital Divide amid Corona virus

Paper: II

For Prelims: Digital Divide.

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic may have struck prosperous, consumerist nations disproportionately hard. But the crisis has outlined, more sharply than ever before, the digital divide and differential access, which are pushing the poor to high-risk behaviour.
  • Corona virus has outlined growing Digital divide in the wake of various corporate companies and government offices has asked its employees to work from home.

Digital Divide:

  • A digital divide is any uneven distribution in the access to, use of, or impact of Information and Communication Technologies between any numbers of distinct groups. These groups may be defined based on social, geographical, or geopolitical criteria, or otherwise.
  • Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the Internet.

Reasons for Digital divide:

  • Access to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies)
  • Broadly speaking, the difference is not necessarily determined by the access to the Internet, but by access to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) and to Media that the different segments of society can use. With regards to the Internet, the access is only one aspect, other factors such as the quality of connection and related services should be considered. Today the most discussed issue is the availability of the access at an affordable cost and quality.
  • The idea that some information and communication technologies are vital to quality civic life is not new. Some suggest that the Internet and other ICTs are somehow transforming society, improving our mutual understanding, eliminating power differentials, realizing a truly free and democratic world society, and other benefits.
  • Literacy level:
  • Literacy is arguably another such element, although it is not related to any new technologies or latest technological devices. It is a very widely shared view in many societies that being literate is essential to one’s career, to self-guided learning, to political participation, and to Internet usage.
  • Other barriers:
  • Service delivery – Low penetration of ICT in the demography will not enable digital divide to be lessen.
  • Inclusiveness – Low inclusiveness due to high digital illiteracy.
  • Infrastructural barriers – Lack of robust telecommunication infrastructure with sufficient reliable bandwidth.
  • Skill barrier – Lack of skill in using computer and communication technology.

Benefits of Reducing digital divide:

  • Economic equality:
  • Some think that the access to the Internet is a basic component of civil life that some developed countries aim to guarantee for their citizens. Telephone is often considered important for security reasons. Health, criminal, and other types of emergencies might indeed be handled better if the person in trouble has an access to the telephone. Another important fact seems to be that much vital information for people’s career, civic life, safety, etc. are increasingly provided via the Internet. Even social welfare services are sometimes administered and offered electronically.
  • Social mobility:
  • Some believe that computer and computer networks play an increasingly important role in their learning and career, so that education should include that of computing and use of the Internet. Without such offerings, the existing digital divide works unfairly to the children in the lower socioeconomic status. In order to provide equal opportunities, governments might offer some form of support.
  • Democracy:
  • Some think that the use of the Internet would lead to a healthier democracy in one way or another. Among the most ambitious visions is that of increased public participation in elections and decision making processes.
  • Economic growth:
  • Some think that the development of information infrastructure and active use of it would be a shortcut to economic growth for less developed nations. Information technologies in general tend to be associated with productivity improvements. The exploitation of the latest technologies may give industries of certain countries a competitive advantage.
  • Rural areas access:
  • The accessibility of rural areas to the Internet is a test of the digital divide. But nowadays there are different ways to eliminate the digital divide in rural areas. Use of Power lines (PLT and PLC) and satellite communications offer new possibilities of universal access to the Internet, and lack of telephone lines will not limit access. Lower access prices are required to bridge the ICT divide.

Way Forward:

  • Cutting long story short, digital divide van be seen at extreme level in the backdrop of outbreak of covid-19.In fact, only people working in sectors with completely dematerialised products are able to work from home in a sustained manner. People have no access of digital technologies has been  limited to television, which has a dynamic and compulsions of its own, while the educated can rely upon websites tracking the pandemic, which offer broader and more detailed information.
  • In a digital economy facing a disease against which caution enabled by public information is the only safeguard, the disconnected have-nots are most at risk, both of suffering themselves and of amplifying the footprint of the infection. Indeed, there are divides across geographical borders, too. This will put sensitivities about privacy to the test. But, as in times of war, personal priorities may be set aside in favour of the public interest.
  • For about two decades, public interest groups in several countries have argued that the internet should be regarded as an essential service, and access to it as a fundamental right. Whether it is for working remotely or for accessing information and maintaining communications while in isolation, the case for reliable connectivity looks more convincing than ever. In pandemics of the future, it could make the difference between nations that are able to shield themselves from contagion, and those that are simply inundated by the wave.


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