Daily Current Affairs : 3rd September 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. National Language
  2. Quad
  3. NHRC
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . National Language


Context: The Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea to make Sanskrit the national language. A Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and Krishna Murari declined to issue notice on the petition for the “sake of publicity”.

Recent developments

  • The Court said the issue was in the realm of policy, requiring constitutional amendments which entailed detailed discussion in Parliament and not in the courtroom.
  • The petitioner’s lawyer invoked Sanskrit as a “mother language” from which other languages took inspiration.
  • He repeatedly invoked oriental scholar Sir William Jones and his study of the ancient language.
  • The Bench asked the petitioner to speak a paragraph in Sanskrit when the latter talked about the need to make it the national language at least through an executive order. The court finally dismissed the case.

What is a national language?

  • The national language is the term that is commonly used when talking about a language which is spoken in a specific country. Almost all the countries in the world have a national language barring Australia and India.
  • It may be noted that a national language acts as a symbol or an identity for any country and more than 150 countries in the world have included national languages in their constitutions.
  • A country can have a national language that can also be an official language of that particular country: for example, Bengali in Bangladesh.
  • A language gets the status of a national language as that particular language is used by the country’s majority as their first language of written and verbal communication.

What is the official language?

  • The official language is a term used to refer to a language that is given specific legal standing in a country and can apply to the whole country or a specific area. It is used by a region’s government for official purposes and has more to do with day-to-day bureaucracy.
  • The official language is mostly used by the government of a country in the courts and its administrative works and is often expressly mentioned in constitutions and serves a symbolic purpose. This language is important as it allows people to communicate with each other and is important for things such as business and government.

Difference between National and Official Language

  • The national language of any country relates to that country’s socio-political and cultural functions. On the contrary, an official language is connected to government affairs which include the functioning of the parliament or the national court.

National Language of India

  • India being a union of states with 28 states and 8 Union Territories has a variety of languages that changes every km.
  • Since the beginning of the Constitution, there have been several debates on the issue of the national language. However, India does not have a national language

Official languages of India

  • India has no National Language as per the Constitution but has Hindi and English as the official languages as per Article 343 of the Indian Constitution
  • The Official Languages Act, 1963, allowed for the continuation of English alongside Hindi in the Indian Government indefinitely until legislation is passed to change it. English was initially provided for 15 years as per Article 343
    • It is an Act to provide for the languages which may be used for the official purpose of the Union of India, for the transaction of business in Parliament, for Central and State Acts and for a certain purpose in High Courts.
  • Various states of India have the liberty and powers to specify their own official language(s) through legislation. So Indian states/union territories have various official languages at their respective levels.
  • While Hindi is the language used by the Central Government as per Article 343 when communicating with the states of the Hindi Belt and English is the Associate official language and the language to be used when communicating with the states.

Scheduled Languages of India

  • As per the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution, 22 languages have been granted the status of scheduled languages of India.
    • These are– Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
    • Of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Indian Constitution. The Sindhi language was added in 1967.
    • Thereafter, three more languages– Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were included in 1992. Subsequently, Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali were added in 2004.


2 . Quad


Context: India will host an official-level meeting of the Quad grouping with the U.S., Japan and Australia next week, the first such “senior officers meeting” (SOM) to be held since the recent escalation of tensions over the Taiwan Strait.

Key Highlights

  • The Quad SOM meeting is one of several meetings with India’s Indo-Pacific partners in the week, seen as part of the government’s “balancing” moves ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan in mid-September.
  • Indian Prime Minister will attend the SCO summit along with leaders of Russia, China, Pakistan, Central Asia and Iran, the first such in-person summit since the COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of the Ukraine war.
  •  Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials will follow the Quad meeting with an India-U.S. 2+2 “inter-sessional” meeting, with U.S. Assistant Secretary of States for South and Central Asia to discuss bilateral issues.
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will also travel to Tokyo later in the week for an India-Japan “2+2” Ministerial meeting. In addition, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal will travel to the U.S. for bilateral trade talks from September 5-10, as well as to attend the third Indo-Pacific Economic Forum ministerial meeting (IPEF) in Los Angeles, which is being held in person for the first time since its launch by U.S. President Joseph Biden in May.
  • In the meeting, the officials will take stock of progress on Quad initiatives including the six “leader-level” working groups — on COVID-19 Response and Global Health Security, Climate, Critical and Emerging Technologies, Cyber, Space, and Infrastructure.
  • Significantly, the intensified engagement with India’s Quad partners will come a week ahead of India’s engagement with the Russia-China led SCO as well.

About Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

  • Known as the ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ (QSD), the Quad is an informal strategic forum comprising four nations, namely — United States of America (USA), India, Australia and Japan.
  • One of the primary objectives of the Quad is to work for a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
  • The group met for the first time in 2007 on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
  • It is considered an alliance of maritime democracies, and the forum is maintained by meetings, semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills of all the member countries.

Formation of QUAD

  • Since its establishment in 2007, the representatives for the four-member nations have met periodically.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first to pitch the idea for the formation of Quad in 2007.
  •  In fact, its origins can be traced back to the evolution of Exercise Malabar and the 2004 Tsunami when India conducted relief and rescue operations for itself and neighbouring countries and was later joined by the US, Japan and Australia.
  • Therefore, China issued formal diplomatic protests to the members of the Quad.
  • However, Australia withdrew from the forum due to the political pressure from the Chinese government and in the wake of the growing conflict between the US and China in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • In 2010, enhanced military cooperation between the US and Australia was resumed, leading to Australia’s comeback to the Quad’s naval exercises.
  • In 2012, the Japanese PM emphasised the idea of Asia’s ‘Democratic Security Diamond’ comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia.
  • It was in 2017 when the first official talks under the Quad took place in the Philippines.

 Principles of Quad

  • The motive behind the Quad is to keep the strategic sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any military or political influence. It is basically seen as a strategic grouping to reduce Chinese domination.
  • The core objective of the Quad is to secure a rules-based global order, freedom of navigation and a liberal trading system. The coalition also aims to offer alternative debt financing for nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
  •  The Quad leaders exchange views on contemporary global issues such as critical and emerging technologies, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, climate change, pandemic and education.

Significance of Quad for India

  • It is believed that the forum strategically counters China’s economic and military rise. Interestingly, if Chinese hostilities rise on the borders, India can take the support of the other Quad nations to counter the communist nation.
  • In addition, India can even take the help of its naval front and conduct strategic explorations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Is it an ‘Asian Nato’?

  • China has complained that the group represents an attempt to form an “Asian Nato”, though unlike that alliance there is no mutual-defence pact in effect.
  • Quad members say the group is meant to deepen economic, diplomatic and military ties among the four countries. And while they don’t often explicitly say it, those partnerships are meant to be a bulwark against Chinese aggression.
  • In a March 2021 declaration laying out the “spirit of the Quad”, the leaders said: “We bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific. We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion.”


3 . National Human Rights Commission


Context: The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has assured the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that it would not evict any exploration project-affected people in Arunachal Pradesh without paying compensation to them.

Recent developments

  • The Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) filed a complaint against the attempted eviction of Chakma and Deori communities from Mudukka Nallah and Sompoi-II villages of Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district, for an onshore oil and gas exploration and drilling project.
  • The CDFI had slammed the State government for planning the eviction “in connivance with” Oil India Limited without paying the affected people fair compensation under the provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, by claiming that the people were staying on forestland.
  • The foundation said the Chakmas and Deoris living in the two villages for six decades are project-affected families according to Section 3(c) of the LARR Act.
    • This Section pertains to a family whose land or other immovable property has been acquired, or whose members are dependent on forests or water bodies among others.

About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India was established on 12 October 1993.
  • The statute under which it is established is the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 as amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  •  It is in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights held in Paris in October 1991, and endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations by its Regulations 48/134 of 20 December 1993.
  •  The NHRC is an embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights.
  •  Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.

Vision & Mission

  • The NHRC was set up for the protection and promotion of human rights.
  • The functions of the Commission as stated in Section 12 of the Act and apart from enquiry into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, the Commission also studies treaties and international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation to the Government.
  • It is responsible for spreading human rights awareness amongst the masses and encouraging the efforts of all stake holders in the field of human rights literacy not only at the national level but at international level too.
  • The world looks at NHRC of India as a role model in promoting and monitoring effective implementation of promotion and protection of human rights.
  • The NHRC, India plays an active role in coordinating with other NHRIs of the world to enhance awareness from the perspective of human rights. It has also hosted delegations from UN Bodies and other National Human Rights Commissions as well as members of civil society, lawyers and political and social activists from many countries.

Composition of NHRC

  • The President appoints the chairperson and the members of National Human Rights Commission, for which a committee nominates the names.
    • This committee consists of Chairperson, the Prime Minister and the members including Home Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Speaker and the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman
  • The NHRC consists of: The chairperson and five members (excluding the ex-officio members).
    • A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court.
    • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India and one member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court.
    • Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
    • In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions viz., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities serve as ex officio members.
  • The sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of any High Court can be appointed only after the consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

Removal of a Member of the Commission:

  • Section 5 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, lays down the procedures and grounds for the removal of any member of the Commission.
  • Further, the President can remove the Chairperson or any other member if he:
    • Is adjudged insolvent; or
    • Engages during his term of office in any other paid employment outside the duties of his office;
    • Is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
    • Is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or
    • Is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence, which in the opinion of the President involves moral turpitude.
  • Additionally, the Chairperson or any other member of the Commission can only be removed from his office by the order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity.
  • However, in these cases, the President is supposed to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for conducting an inquiry.
    • And if the Supreme Court, after the inquiry, upholds the cause of removal and advises so, then the President can remove the Chairperson or a member of NHRC.

Functions of NHRC

  • Proactively or reactively inquire into violations of human rights by government of India or negligence of such violation by a public servant
  • The protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation
  • Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures
  • To study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation
  • Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights
  • To visit jails and study the condition of inmates
  • Engage in human rights education among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means
  • Encourage the efforts of NGOs and institutions that work in the field of human rights volunteerly.
  • Considering the necessity for the protection of human rights.
  • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

Powers of Commission relating to inquiries:

  • While inquiring into complaints under the Act, the Commission shall have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in particular the following, namely:
    • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;
    • discovery and production of any document;
    • receiving evidence on affidavits;
    • requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
    • issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
    • any other matter which may be prescribed.

Conclusion

  • If human rights commissions are to truly protect the human rights in India, it needs a revamp. The efficacy and authority of the commissions will be greatly enhanced if their decisions are made enforceable by the government as well. Misuse of laws by the law enforcing agencies themselves is often considered as the root cause of human right violations.
  •  Therefore, in order to make the efforts of the commission more impactful, then the weakness of laws is supposed to be removed and the laws that run contrary to the human rights should be amended or repealed.
  • As Chairman Justice K G Balakrishnan has rightly pointed out, that in order to improve and strengthen the human rights situation in India, the Human Right defenders, state and non-state actors need to work in tandem.


4 . Facts for Prelims


Nord stream

Context: Russian energy giant Gazprom said that it can ‘t resume the supply of natural gas through a key pipeline to Germany for now because of urgent maintenance work, just hours before it was due to recommence deliveries. The Russian state-run energy company had shut down the  for three days of work.

About the Nord Stream 1 pipeline

  • Nord Stream 1 is a 1,224 km underwater gas pipeline that runs from Vyborg in northwest Russia to Lubmin in northeastern Germany via the Baltic Sea.
  • Majority owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, the pipeline is the primary route through which its gas enters Germany, as reported by Reuters.
  •  It transports 55 billion cubic metres of gas a year, of which most goes directly to Germany, while the rest travels west and southwards through onshore links to other countries and into storage caverns.
  • During its inauguration in November 2011, the former German chancellor Angela Merkel said the pipeline, which cost 7.4 billion euros, paved the way for a “safe, sustainable partnership with Russia in the future”.
  • Germany is Russia’s biggest European gas consumer, and most of it comes through the Nord Stream Pipeline. Its share of Russian gas supplies was 55% in 2021, and currently lies at 35%, according to Deutsche Welle.

Maternity leave

Context: The Centre has decided to grant a 60-day special maternity leave for women Central government employees in case of stillbirth or death of an infant within a few days of birth according to an order by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). The special maternity leave shall be given only to a woman Central government servant with less than two surviving children.

Maternity Leave in India

  • Maternity leave in India is a paid leave of absence from work that allows women employees the benefit of taking care of their newly born, retaining their jobs, and avail paid leaves.
  •  India is a developing country, and our first Maternity leave Act was established back in 1961 called, The Maternity leave Benefit Act 1961.
  • This Act ensured women employees get a paid leave of 12 weeks post-delivery for taking care of the new-born. This Act applied to establishments with ten plus employees.
  • The Act applies to every women employee on a contract, permanent basis, or engaged with agencies.
  •  The current employment scenario has changed, and we have a significant chunk of female employees taking jobs. The maternity act was subject to change due to social & economic changes. In 2017, The Maternity leave Act was revised as The Maternity leave (Amendment) Bill 2017.
  • Some important changes under the new law:
    • The paid maternity leave in India is increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for working women.
    • This law is eligible for only those who work in an organization with a minimum of 10 employees.
    • Prenatal leave is also increased from 6 to 8 weeks.
    • A woman who is already a mother of 2 children is eligible for 12 weeks of maternity leave from the 3rd child.
    • If a woman adopts a child under the age of 3 months, then she is eligible for a leave of 12 weeks.
    • A commissioning mother is also eligible for a leave period of 12-weeks starting from the day when the child is handed over.
      • A commissioning mother is a “biological” mother who uses her egg to make an embryo which is implanted in another woman, and the mother who gives birth to this child is known as the surrogate mother.
  • For a woman employee to be eligible under this Act, she should have completed working for 80 days in the current establishment in the last 12 months.

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