Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
Protecting the Rohingyas in India
The statement by Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju that the government is making plans to “deport” the Rohingya who already live in this country, makes India and Indians seem small-minded and insecure, rather than a nation with a long and confident record of compassion towards people seeking safe haven from persecution in their own countries. A UN report has called them victims of “crimes against humanity”, while Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has referred to the violence as “ethnic cleansing”.
The army’s antagonism towards Rohingyas dates back at least to World War II, when the Burmese army under General Aung San had initially sided with the Japanese (before switching to the British towards the end of the war), while many Muslims supported the British. The Japanese had expelled Rohingyas to northern Arakan (as Rakhine was known then), which was under British control. At Burma’s independence from the British in 1948, Arakanese Muslims wanted to join East Pakistan, but Mohammed Ali Jinnah refused. When Bangladesh became independent in 1971, Burma asked Bangladesh to take the Rohingya Muslims, but Bangladesh declined. Since the late 1970s, Myanmar’s army has frequently attacked Rohingyas, forcing many to make a hazardous journey through the narrow Naf river and reach south-eastern Bangladesh, where they settle in ramshackle tents in sprawling camps like Kutupalong. Many others are trafficked to South-East Asia.
State of Rohingyas:
The Rohingya have been fleeing, mostly on rickety boats, for years now. Their exodus has picked up pace recently. Violence has targeted them in phases, most notably beginning in 2012 when inter-religious conflict forced them out in the thousands.
The Rohingya, about 1 million in all, are the world’s most persecuted ethnic Muslim community. Though they have lived in the Rakhine province of Myanmar, that country has deprived them of citizenship, and restricted their freedom of movement to limit their access to economic opportunities. The Rohingya have been the ultimate nowhere people since 1982, when a Burmese law rendered them stateless, with the government arguing that they are Bengali. In 2014, the Burmese census refused to enumerate the Rohingya, giving them only the option to identify themselves as Bengali.
The UN estimates that about 270,000 people, more than a quarter of the entire Muslim Rohingya population in Rakhine, have fled since then, mostly to Bangladesh.
Over the last year, the Myanmar Army has used attacks by a group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army to launch ever widening crackdowns on the Rohingya. In the last three weeks, tens of thousands have fled Rakhine and crossed the border into Bangladesh.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s changed stand:
It is an irony that the period of Myanmar’s transition to democracy, that too on Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s watch, has coincided with the most heartless alienation of the Rohingya.
Aung San Suu Kyi was once among the world’s most well-known prisoners of conscience. She led a non-violent struggle for democracy against military might, earning global respect and many honours, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1993 when she was under house arrest. But since her release in late 2010, the world has discovered a different Suu Kyi.
She appears to hold the majoritarian view that Rohingya Muslims are not citizens of Myanmar. In private conversations, she has blamed Myanmar’s poor immigration controls for the crisis, reinforcing the idea that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants, even though they have lived in western Myanmar for centuries.
Explaining her reticence, in 2012 Suu Kyi had said that she wanted to work towards reconciliation between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, which would be difficult were she to take sides. Since then, the violence has worsened, with the overwhelming blame falling on the army.
Rakhine forms the frontier between Muslim and Buddhist Asia, so violence there has wider implication-
There have been protests near the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Indonesia’s second largest Muslim group, Muhammadiya, has called for Myanmar’s expulsion from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Other Asean countries—including southern Thailand and parts of the Philippines—have long-running insurgencies involving Muslim groups, and continued oppression of Rohingya Muslims can ignite the region.
On his first bilateral visit to the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he shared the Myanmar government’s concerns about “extremist violence” in Rakhine state, which has seen unprecedented violence over the past fortnight.
At the World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan abstained from the Bali Declaration because of a reference to “violence in Rakhine state”.
New Delhi has traditionally been wary of internationalising the internal affairs of its neighbours; on Myanmar, it has concerns about keeping the country from spinning back into the Chinese orbit.
Recently, when the matter of Rohingya refugees in India came up for hearing in the Supreme Court, government counsel refused to guarantee they would not be deported. This was in line with the government’s indication to Parliament that all illegal immigrants, including the Rohingya, who number around 40,000, will be deported.
What’s wrong with India’s stand?
Delhi’s official stance is casting it on the wrong side of the humane position.
Aso the deportation plans are perceived as being drawn by the sectarian pulls of domestic politics.
Not being a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees or its 1967 protocol that lays down the obligations of a host country to those who seek refuge in its territory, India would not be in breach of any international law in turning away the Rohingya people. Nor does it have a domestic law for refugees. Still, India has big power aspirations, and to that end at least, it must act like one.
There may be radicalised Rohingya, and the ARSA is said to have links with the Lashkar-e-Toiba. But it is the job of the intelligence and security apparatus to weed out the bad, so that there is no tarring of an entire community.
The National Human Rights Commission has cautioned the government, saying that even if the refugees are not citizens, the government should consider that they might face persecution if they are pushed back.
India has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, but it has abided by its spirit, and generously hosted refugees from Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan over the years.
In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that refugees have certain rights, including the right to life and liberty, and in 2015, asked the Centre to extend citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees from Bangladesh.
Indian law, India’s practice of abiding by international expectations, long tradition of compassion, and humanitarian impulse, all suggest that India should let the Rohingyas remain, and join the collective global outrage which seeks to remind Aung San Suu Kyi of who she used to be, or was believed to be, so that she lives up to the image she once had. And as a regional power, India must answer the question: if it is driving out a stateless people, where does it hope to send them?
Connecting the dots:
What is the stand Indian government has taken against Rohingya Muslims in India. How far such a stand is justifiable. Discuss.
TOPIC: General Studies 3
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Setting priorities for achieving ‘24×7 Power for All’ by 2022
India has four crore unelectrified rural households. This is more than the total number of households in Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, and more than double the households in Canada and South Korea. The year 2022, the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, has been earmarked for achieving ‘24×7 Power for All’. Achieving this target would mean electrifying more than 7 lakh households every month!
Steady progress made by the government:
Data from the power ministry’s GARV-2 portal suggest that the Government has electrified more than three-fourths of the remaining 18,000-plus unelectrified villages since it came to power in 2014.
Recently, the Government has also shifted focus from village electrification, which required only 10 per cent of the households in a village to be electrified, to electrifying every household.
In 2015, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), in association with Columbia University, conducted ACCESS, the largest-of-its-kind energy access survey covering almost 8,600 rural households in the six most energy-deprived States of India. Survey findings from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha highlighted that while most of the villages and more than two-thirds of the households had electricity connections, less than 40 per cent had meaningful access to electricity. Many rural consumers were displeased with the poor power supply and cited reliability, quality, duration, and affordability as key concerns. Providing an electricity connection to every household does not guarantee electricity access.
Legalise existing connections: In Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha, the higher electrification rate could partly be due to the presence of illegal connections, and legalising these would help the Government move closer to its target.
Improve uptake of connections: By addressing cashflow hurdles, awareness barriers, and supply challenges. High upfront cost is the major reason behind consumer disinterest in taking up an electricity connection. While BPL households already receive a free connection under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), APL families could be given a low-cost EMI based connection. Empowering and encouraging local authorities to organise awareness campaigns and enrolment camps in habitations exhibiting limited awareness are also essential for increasing uptake of connections. Bihar is a fine example of improving consumer uptake, providing low-cost EMI-based connections to APL families, and conducting awareness campaigns.
Improve the supply situation for electrified households: In Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, more than one-third of electrified households received less than four hours of supply during the day. Also, more than one-third households experienced at least four days of voltage fluctuations in a month. DISCOMs need to better plan for their infrastructure, factoring in near-term increase in demand, strengthening maintenance, and improving supply.
Explore innovative business models: Managing rural customers, particularly in remote areas, is a challenge. Maintenance and operations such as reading meters, generating bills, and collecting revenues, are key concerns. To better manage their services, discoms could explore a franchisee model by collaborating with local mini-grid operators. A potential business model involves mini-grids importing grid electricity and supplementing with their own generation during times of peak demand. This kind of tail-end generation model would ensure improved electricity supply for the household, and enable DISCOMs to collect payments from a single entity.
Cater to people’s aspirations: This will create a willingness to pay for the service. In a favourable political atmosphere, if rural households were to be provided quality supply via prepaid metering, it could potentially nudge them to make timely payments.
Distributed generation: It could complement centralised grid electricity to resolve both, and ensure sustained use of electricity not just for rural households, but also for the entire rural economy including farms, schools, hospitals, and small businesses. It would lead to improved consumer satisfaction, as electricity truly becomes an enabler of prosperity in rural India.
Achieving the target of electricity for all by 2022 is an ambitious but achievable target. The steps proposed above must be taken up on priority basis.
Connecting the dots:
The year 2022 has been earmarked for achieving ‘24×7 Power for All’. Achieving this target would mean electrifying more than 7 lakh households every month. Discuss.
The Government has rightly shifted focus from village electrification, which required only 10 per cent of the households in a village to be electrified, to electrifying every household. However, there are many other steps required to achieve the goal of electrification for all. Outline these steps.
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