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- As pressure mounts on India to take a re-look at its energy ties with Iran, the debate has taken a predictable turn, one which assesses India-Iran relations through the prism of the US.
- India has been steadfast in its opposition to the collapse of the JCPOA and is working with Europe and China to salvage the deal.
- At the same time, India continues to look at the possibility of being exempted from the US sanctions. The US has indicated that waivers could be given if there was significant reduction in oil imports from Iran.
India’s stakes in Iran are quite limited
- Iran is indeed India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but if push comes to shove, it can be replaced by other sources as the volume is manageable.
- The larger economic relationship is nothing much to write about, especially when compared to burgeoning trade ties with the Arab Gulf states.
- The suggestions by Iranian officials that India could lose “privileges” and revert back to dollar-denominated trade could have been avoided.
- Though it was later clarified that Iran will do its best to ensure security of oil supply to India through offering various flexibility measures, which facilitates our bilateral trade in particular Indian export to Iran.
- India should not bother much about Iranian oil if Tehran continues to threaten New Delhi about certain nominal “privileges”.
Chabahar Port makes India bother
- New Delhi certainly remains keen on the Chabahar Port and has spent significant diplomatic and political capital on the project.
- The port is expected to be operational by the end of 2018, with New Delhi committed to developing a free trade area around the port, and finally completing the loop with a $1.6 billion railway line to Zahedan.
- As underlined by former foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, it was Iran which was responsible for causing delays in the execution of the Chabahar project.
Bringing threats onboard to Chabahar
- Iran has not only suggested that China would be part of the Chabahar project, but has also dangled the possibility of Pakistan joining the project at some future date.
- In theory, Sino-Indian cooperation or a wider regional cooperative framework would be an excellent idea.
- But to talk of India’s two main adversaries, while asking India to continue to invest in the project certainly won’t make it very enticing to New Delhi.
Regional Security at stake
- On Afghanistan and regional security, there are growing divergences between India and Iran. Much like the Taliban, Iran wants to see foreign forces leave.
- Tehran has been providing military support to the Taliban in Afghanistan for some time now, but this engagement has reached new heights more recently.
- Recent reports suggest that hundreds of Taliban fighters are being trained by Special Forces at Iran’s military academies as part of a significant escalation of support for the insurgents.
- Iran has also reportedly sent Afghans to fight for its ally, Assad, in Syria. US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal further incentivises Iran to enhance its support to the Taliban.
- Emboldened by their experience in Syria, Iran and Russia are also working closely in Afghanistan to challenge the US and, this primarily means, supporting the Taliban with greater vigour.
- The Indian strategic community should resist the temptation of making this debate about India resisting or buckling under American pressure.
- As a self-confident rising power, this debate should essentially be about Indian strategic priorities.
- If India has to move beyond symbolism in its ties with Iran, Iran has to do the same.
- Challenging Indian vital interests even as it asks for New Delhi’s help is surely not the best way forward.
This month marks the 100th year of the publication of the ‘Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms’, commonly known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Report (MCR).
- Edwin Montagu, then Secretary of State for India, had advocated for increased participation of Indians in the British Indian administration and had begun consultations nearly a year earlier.
- After many meetings with Indian representatives, Montagu and the then Governor-General, Lord Chelmsford, published the MCR on July 8, 1918.
- It drew up a report, with the help of Bhupendra Nath Bose, Lord Donoghmore, William Duke and Charles Roberts.
Created background for Government of India Act 1919
- The important features of this act were as follows:
- The Central Legislative Council was now to consist of two houses- The Imperial Legislative and The Council of States.
- The provinces were to follow the Dual Government System or
- Accordingly, the Rights of the Central and Provincial Governments were divided in clear-cut terms.
- The central list included rights over defence, foreign affairs, telegraphs, railways, postal, foreign trade etc.
- The provincial list dealt with the affairs like health, sanitation, education, public work, irrigation, jail, police, justice etc.
- The powers which were not included in the state list vested in the hands of the Centre.
- In case of any conflict between the ‘reserved’ and ‘unreserved’ powers of the State (the former included finance, police, revenue, publication of books, etc. and the latter included health, sanitation, local-self government etc.), the Governor had its final say.
- In 1921, the “Diarchy” was installed in Bengal, Madras, Bombay, United Provinces, M.P., Punjab, Bihar, Orissa and Assam and in 1932; it was extended to the North-West Frontier Province.
- The MCR stands out for proposing some of the most radical administrative changes for giving provincial legislatures the mantle of self-governance.
- The report recommended that the Provinces are the domain in which the earlier steps towards the progressive realisation of responsible government should be taken.
- Another one of the most far-reaching objectives of the report was to elucidate the principle of accountable governance by directing that the “Government of India must remain wholly responsible to Parliament.
Reception in India
- Many Indians had fought with the British in First World War and they expected much greater concessions. Congress and the league had recently come together demanding for self-rule.
- The 1919 reforms did not satisfy political demands in India. The British repressed opposition, and restrictions on the press and on movement were re-enacted through the Rowlatt Acts introduced in 1919.
- The act allowed certain political cases to be tried without juries and permitted internment of suspects without trial.
- These measures were rammed through the Legislative Council with the unanimous opposition of the Indian members. Several members of the council including Jinnah resigned in protest.
- These measures were widely seen throughout India of the betrayal of strong support given by the population for the British war effort.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
- Gandhi launched a nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Acts with the strongest level of protest in the Punjab.
- The situation worsened in Amritsar in April 1919, when General Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on demonstrators hemmed into a tight square, resulting in the deaths of 379 civilians.
- Montagu ordered an inquiry into the events at Amritsar by Lord Hunter.
- The Hunter Inquiry recommended that General Dyer, who commanded the troops, be dismissed, leading to Dyer’s sacking.
- The Amritsar massacre further inflamed Indian nationalist sentiment ending the initial response of reluctant co-operation.
- At the Indian National Congress annual session in September 1920, delegates supported Gandhi’s proposal of swaraj or self-rule – preferably within the British Empire or out of it if necessary.
- The proposal was to be implemented through a policy of non-cooperation with British rule meaning that Congress did not field candidates in the first elections held under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms in 1921.
Paving way for the 1935 Act
- The Montagu-Chelmsford report stated that there should be a review after 10 years.
- Sir John Simon headed the committee (Simon Commission) responsible for the review which recommended further constitutional change.
- Three round table conferences were held in London in 1930, 1931 and 1932 with representation of the major interests. Mahatma Gandhi attended the 1931 round table after negotiations with the British Government.
- The major disagreement between the Indian National Congress and the British was separate electorates for each community which Congress opposed but which were retained in Ramsay MacDonald’s Communal Award.
- A new Government of India Act 1935 was passed continuing the move towards self-government first made in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report
Magna Carta of Modern India
- The MCR went on to become the basis for the Government of India Act, 1919 and 1935, and, ultimately, the Constitution.
- The key principles of responsible government, self-governance and federal structure grew out of these reforms.
- The MCR on Indian constitutional reforms along with the Montagu Declaration are, thus, worthy claimants of the title of the Magna Carta of Modern India.
Aim: Ensuring adequate and sustained availability of domestic feedstock for biofuel production, increasing Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation and Waste to Wealth Creation,
Provisions of the Policy
- The policy categorizes biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” such as bio ethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” such as Second Generation (2G) ethanol, bio-CNG, Third Generation Biofuels, etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
- It also includes promotion of advanced biofuels through various incentives, off-take assurance and viability gap funding.
Damaged and Surplus foodgrains to be utilised
- With an objective of increasing production of ethanol, this Policy allows production of ethanol from damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice etc. which are unfit for human consumption.
- Additionally, during an agriculture crop year, when there is projected over supply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the policy allows conversion of surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
- Use of damaged food grains and surplus food grains for production of ethanol will increase its availability for Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme.
- This will result in increasing the blending percentage, increasing farmer’s income, saving of foreign exchange and addressing environmental issues.
- The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments in Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala
- In this case, rules that bar the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala have been called into question
Contradictions in the case
- To prohibit women from entering a public space, from worshipping in a shrine of their choice, one would think, ought to be anathema to the tenets of a constitutional democracy
- But the religious freedom clauses in the Constitution are possessed of a special complexity, which the court’s own past jurisprudence has turned into a quagmire of contradictions
Freedom of religion
- Generally, the right to freedom of religion of both individuals and groups is recognised as an intrinsic facet of a liberal democracy
- The Constitution memorialises these guarantees in Articles 25 and 26
- The former recognises a right to freedom of conscience and a right to freely profess, practise, and propagate religion, subject to common community exceptions of public order, morality, and health, and also, crucially, to the guarantee of other fundamental rights
- Article 25(2)(b) creates a further exception to the right. It accords to the state a power to make legislation, in the interests of social welfare and reform, throwing open Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus
- Article 26, on the other hand, which is also subject to limitations imposed on grounds of public order, morality, and health, accords to every religious denomination the right, among other things, to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes and to manage their own affairs in matters of religion
Different clauses under consideration
- Until now, most cases involving a bar of entry into temples have involved a testing of laws made in furtherance of Article 25(2)(b)
- The court upheld the law on the ground that statutes made under clause 2(b) to Article 25 served as broad exceptions to the freedom of religion guaranteed by both Articles 25 and 26
- In Indian Young Lawyers Association case, the attack is to the converse
- It is to Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which states, “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship”
- It is by placing reliance on these rules that the Sabarimala temple prohibits women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine
Clash of conflicting claims
- At play, therefore, in the case is a clash between a series of apparently conflicting claims:
- involving the temple’s right to decide for itself how its religious affairs ought to be managed,
- the rights of a community of devotees who believe that a bar on women’s entry is an essential religious practice, and
- the rights of those women seeking to assert not only their freedom to unreservedly enter and pray at the shrine but also their rights to be recognised as equals under the Constitution
Essential religious practice doctrine
- Traditionally, to resolve tensions of this kind, the Supreme Court has relied on a very particular jurisprudence that it has carved for itself to determine what manners of rituals and beliefs deserve special constitutional protection
- This doctrine requires the court to define what constitutes, in its own words, an “essential religious practice”
- The petitioners have argued that the ban enforced on menstruating women from entering the Sabarimala shrine does not constitute a core foundation of the assumed religious denomination
- On the other hand, the Devaswom Board contends that established customs deserve respect, that this particular Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala is a celibate, and that women of menstruating age are, therefore, forbidden from entering the temple
What needs to be done?
- Once the court finds that the Sabarimala temple does not represent a separate denomination, the court must ask itself whether it should yield to the temple’s view on an assumption that there does exist a time-honoured custom prohibiting any women aged between 10 and 50 years from praying at the shrine
- On such a study, the court will undoubtedly notice that most policies of exclusion in India’s history have been defended as being extensions of a prescription of faith, of being rooted in culture and tradition
- The court should see this as an opportunity not to rationalise religious practices, but to overturn its existing passé ideas on the subject
- If the court can look beyond the essential practices doctrine and see this case for what it really is — a denial to women not only of their individual rights to freedom of religion but also of equal access to public space — it can help set the tone for a radical re-reading of the Constitution
- A law favouring the autonomy of the group over the autonomy of the individual tends to have the harmful effect of favouring the view of the association proffered by the powerful over the views proffered by less powerful members of the group that is, traditionally subordinate members such as women, children, and sexual minorities
- The Constitution must be seen as representing not a hoary conception of boundaries between the state and the individual, but as a transcendental tool for social revolution
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