Recently, a Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah said acts of charity or good work to help a community or the poor should not cloak an intention to religiously convert them as payback.
GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Policies), GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights), GS-I: Indian Society
Dimensions of the Article:
- Freedom of Religion in our Constitution
- What is Religious Conversion?
- Anti-Conversion laws in Indian States
- Why have the laws been criticised?
- Important Cases Regarding Marriage and Conversion of Religion
Freedom of Religion in our Constitution
- Right to freedom of faith is not a conferred right but a natural entitlement of every human being. In fact, the law does not assign it but it asserts, protect and insurers its entitlement. Indian Society has nourished and nurtured almost all the established religion of the world like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. from its time immemorial.
- Article 25: All persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
- Article 26: gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law. This guarantee is available to only Citizens of India and not to aliens.
- Article 27: This Article mandates that no citizen would be compelled by the state to pay any taxes for promotion or maintenance of particular religion or religious denomination.
- Article 28: This Article mandates that NO religious instruction would be imparted in the state-funded educational institutions.
What is Religious Conversion?
- Religious conversion has always been a very sensitive social issue not only because of the reasons that it has psychological concerns of religious faith but also because it has wider socio-legal and socio-political implications.
- Religious conversion means adopting a new religion, a religion that is different from his previous religion or religion by his birth.
- There are various reasons for which people convert to different religion:
- Conversion by free will or free choice
- Conversion due to change of beliefs
- Conversion for convenience
- Conversion due to marriage
- Conversion by force
Reasons for Religious Conversions
- Religious Conversion is a multifaceted and multi-dimensional phenomenon. Indian society is a pluralist and heterogeneous society with the multiplicity of races, religions, cultures, castes and languages etc. Religious Conversion has always been a problematic issue in India.
- The reasons for religious conversions in India can be–
- Rigid Hindu caste system
- Polygamy prevailing in Islam
- To get rid of matrimonial ties.
- To get reservation benefits.
Anti-Conversion laws in Indian States
- To date, there have been no central legislations restricting or regulating religious conversions.
- Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass an anti-conversion legislation.
- Apart from UP and Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh too, have also enacted similar laws.
- In 1967-68, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh enacted local laws called the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 and the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam 1968. Chhattisgarh inherited the law when it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
- The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978 was enacted to prohibit the conversion from one religious faith to any other by use of force or inducement. As the state has not formulated rules, the law is yet to be implemented in the State.
- The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Ordinance was promulgated by the Governor on October 5, 2002 and subsequently adopted by the State Assembly. However, this law was repealed in 2004.
- The Rajasthan Assembly passed an Act in 2006, however, the Presidential assent is still awaited.
- The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020: The law makes conversion non-bailable with up to 10 years of jail time if undertaken unlawfully and requires that religious conversions for marriage in Uttar Pradesh to be approved by a district magistrate. The proposed law does not include any restriction on interfaith marriage.
- The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 was brought in line with several similar laws enacted in 2020 by BJP-ruled states, starting with Uttar Pradesh, to amend the 2003 Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act.The laws ostensibly seek to end conversion through unlawful means, specifically prohibit any conversion for marriage, even if it is with the consent of the individual except when prior sanction is obtained from the state.
Why have the laws been criticised?
- The new anti-conversion laws shift the burden of proof of a lawful religious conversion from the converted to his/her partner.
- They define “allurement” for religious conversion in vague, over-broad terms; prescribe different jail terms based on gender.
- The new laws legitimise the intrusion of family and the society at large to oppose inter-faith marriages.
- They also give powers to the state to conduct a police inquiry to verify the intentions of the parties to convert for the purposes of marriage.
- Legal experts have pointed out that the laws interfere in an individual’s agency to marry a partner from a different faith and to choose to convert from one’s religion for that purpose.
- Apart from being vague and sweeping, the laws also test the limits to which the state can interfere in the personal affairs of individuals.
- The freedom to propagate one’s religion and the right to choose a partner are fundamental rights that the new anti-conversion laws impinge upon.
Important Cases Regarding Marriage and Conversion of Religion
- Lata Singh Case 1994 – The apex court held that India is going through a “crucial transformational period” and the “Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”. Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.
- Hadiya Judgement 2017 – Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
- Soni Gerry case, 2018 – The SC warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father”.
- Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case (Allahabad HC) 2020 – The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21). It also held that earlier court rulings upholding the idea of religious conversion for marriage as unacceptable are not good in law.
-Source: The Hindu
Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) Act
Recently, The Bill to amend the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) Act, 2002, was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
GS II: Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- What are multi-State cooperatives?
- Importance of Cooperative Banks
- What are the issues with the cooperative sector?
- What does the Bill seek to change?
What are multi-State cooperatives?
- According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), cooperatives are people-centred enterprises jointly owned and democratically controlled by and for their members to realise common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations.
- Multi-State cooperatives are societies that have operations in more than one State — for instance, a farmer-producers organisation which procures grains from farmers from multiple States.
- The board of directors are from all the States these collectives operate in and control all the finances and administration.
- There are close to 1,500 MSCSs registered in India with the highest number being in Maharashtra.
Importance of Cooperative Banks
The cooperative banking system has to play a critical role in promoting rural finance and is especially suited to Indian conditions.
Various advantages of cooperative credit institutions are given below:
- Alternative Credit Source: The main objective of the cooperative credit movement is to provide an effective alternative to the traditional defective credit system of the village moneylender.
- Cheap Rural Credit: Cooperative credit system has cheapened the rural credit by charging comparatively low-interest rates, and has broken the money lender’s monopoly.
- Productive Borrowing: The cultivators used to borrow for consumption and other unproductive purposes. But, now, they mostly borrow for productive purposes.
- Encouragement to Saving and Investment: Instead of hoarding money the rural people tend to deposit their savings in cooperative or other banking institutions.
- Improvement in Farming Methods: Cooperative credit is available for purchasing improved seeds, chemical fertilizers, modern implements, etc.
- Financial Inclusion: They have played a significant role in the financial inclusion of unbanked rural masses. They provide cheap credit to the masses in rural areas
What are the issues with the cooperative sector?
- The independent and autonomous character of cooperative societies was to be crucial in their functioning.
- The inclusion of cooperatives in the planning process as development instruments made the sector an avenue for dispensing patronage to the supporters of ruling political parties.
- Moreover, the policy of State governments to contribute to the share capital of the cooperatives enabled governments, “in the name of public interest” to directly intervene in the working of cooperatives which are legally autonomous.
- Besides, MSCSs were formed to ease the operation of collectives throughout the country. MSCSs are facing issues regarding trust, which is the very basis of cooperation. This has brought MSCSs under multiple controls from the Centre.
- Monitoring is one of the important institutional functions in a collective organisation but if monitored from much above, it takes a top-down approach as opposed to a grassroots one.
What does the Bill seek to change?
To improve governance:
- To plug the “loopholes” in the MSCS Act, the Centre introduced a Bill seeking to amend the 2002 law for more “transparency” and “ease of doing business”.
- The amendments have been introduced to improve governance, reform the electoral process, strengthen monitoring mechanisms and enhance transparency and accountability.
- The Bill also seeks to improve the composition of the board and ensure financial discipline, besides enabling the raising of funds in multi-State cooperative societies.
Central Co-operative Election Authority:
- The Bill provides for the creation of a central Co-operative Election Authority to supervise the electoral functions of the MSCSs.
- The Authority will have a chairperson, vice-chairperson, and up to three members appointed by the Centre.
Co-operative Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development Fund:
- It also envisages the creation of a Co-operative Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development Fund for the revival of sick multi-State co-operatives societies.
- This fund shall be financed by existing profitable multi-State co-operative societies which will have to deposit either ₹1 crore or 1% of the net profit into the Fund.
Cooperative Information Officer and a Cooperative Ombudsman:
- In order to make the governance of multi-State cooperative societies more democratic, the Bill has provisions for appointing a Cooperative Information Officer and a Cooperative Ombudsman.
- To promote equity and facilitate inclusiveness, provisions relating to the representation of women and Scheduled Caste/Tribe members on the boards of multi-State cooperative societies have also been included.
-Source: The Hindu
NASA’s Artemis 1 mission
NASA’s Orion capsule is scheduled to splash down back to Earth. The Orion’s landing in the Pacific Ocean will mark the end of the inaugural Artemis 1 lunar mission exactly 50 years after Apollo’s final moon landing.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Artemis I Mission:
- Aims of Artemis 1
- How is Artemis 1 different from NASA’s earlier lunar missions?
About Artemis I Mission:
- It’s been a half century since the six Apollo human Moon landings between 1969 and 1972.
- Since then, spacecraft have travelled beyond the solar system, exploratory missions have probed Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, more than 500 astronauts have made return trips to space, and permanent space labs have been set up.
- What remains to be achieved, however, is the promise of transporting humans to new worlds, of landing and living on other planets, or maybe meeting aliens.
- In the missions that will follow, human beings will go back to the Moon, explore the possibilities of long lunar stays, and assess the potential of the Moon as a launch pad for explorations into deep space.
- While the mission objectives of Artemis 1 itself are humble — it is only a lunar Orbiter mission even though, unlike most Orbiter missions, it has a return-to-Earth target — it is intended to lay the foundations for more complex and ambitious missions.
- The CubeSats it will carry are equipped with instruments meant for specific investigations and experiments, including searching for water in all forms and for hydrogen that can be utilised as a source of energy.
- Biology experiments will be carried out, and the impact of deep space atmosphere on humans will be investigated through the effect on dummy ‘passengers’ on board Orion.
- The SLS rocket, the most powerful ever built, will also be on test for its potential for more ambitious missions in the future.
Aims of Artemis 1
- Artemis 1 is being seen as NASA as a stepping stone to much greater things.
- It is the first in a series of missions that are planned to not only take humans back to the Moon, but to also explore the possibilities of extended stay there, and to investigate the potential to use the Moon as a launch pad for deep space explorations.
- The Artemis missions will build on the existing achievements of space technologies over the past few decades, and lay the foundations for more complex and ambitious missions in the future.
- It will work towards extracting the resources found on the Moon, build from the materials available there, and harness hydrogen or helium as energy sources.
How is Artemis 1 different from NASA’s earlier lunar missions?
- Although their objective is to ensure the return of humans to the Moon, the Artemis missions — named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister — are going to be qualitatively very different from the Apollo missions of 50 years ago.
- The Moon landings of the 1960s and 1970s were guided by Cold War geo-political considerations, and the desire of the United States to go one up on the Soviet Union — which had scored by launching the first satellite, Sputnik, and the first spacecraft, Luna 2, to crash on to the lunar surface, and sending the first man to space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
- So President made a public announcement in 1961 that the US would put a man on the Moon before the decade was out.
- That deadline was met, thanks to a massive mobilisation of resources towards that end.
- But the technology ecosystem wasn’t fully ready yet to fully realise the potential of that monumental scientific breakthrough — and the astronauts who landed on the Moon could do little more than bring back samples to Earth for investigations.
-Source: Indian Express
Three Himalayan Medicinal Plants Enter IUCN Red List
Three medicinal plant species found in the Himalayas have made it to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species following a recent assessment.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Three Himalayan Medicinal Plants
- About IUCN
About Three Himalayan Medicinal Plants
- Commonly known as Patwa, is a perennial shrub with restricted distribution that is endemic to Uttarakhand.
- The species is listed as ‘critically endangered’ based on its limited area of occupancy (less than 10 sq. km)
- The species is threatened by deforestation, habitat fragmentation and forest fires.
- The essential oil extracted from the leaves of the species possesses strong antioxidants and can be a promising natural substitute for synthetic antioxidants in pharmaceutical industries.
- Also called, Himalayan fritillary, it is a perennial bulbous herb.
- It is reasonable to conclude a decline of at least 30% of its population over the assessment period (22 to 26 years).
- Considering the rate of decline, long generation length, poor germination potential, high trade value, extensive harvesting pressure and illegal trade, the species is listed as ‘vulnerable’.
- In China, the species is used for the treatment of bronchial disorders and pneumonia.
- The plant is also a strong cough suppressant and source of expectorant drugs in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Known as Salampanja, it is threatened by habitat loss, livestock grazing, deforestation, and climate change the species is listed as ‘endangered’.
- It is extensively used in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and other alternative systems of medicine to cure dysentery, gastritis, chronic fever, cough and stomach aches.
- It is a perennial tuberous species endemic to the Hindu Kush and Himalayan ranges of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
- Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species.
- The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.
- It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.
- The IUCN Red List is used by government agencies, wildlife departments, conservation-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs), natural resource planners, educational organisations, students, and the business community.
The main objectives are:
- Identification and documentation of endangered species.
- Providing a global index of the decline of biodiversity.
- Developing awareness about the importance of threatened biodiversity.
- Defining conservation priorities at the local level and guiding conservation action.
- Every four years, IUCN convenes the IUCN World Conservation Congress to set the global conservation agenda.
IUCN Red List:
The IUCN system uses a set of five quantitative criteria to assess the extinction risk of a given species. In general, these criteria consider:
- The rate of population decline.
- The geographic range.
- Whether the species already possesses a small population size.
- Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area.
- Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild.
Red List divides species into nine categories:
- Not Evaluated (NE)
- Data Deficient (DD)
- Least Concern (LC)
- Near Threatened (NT)
- Vulnerable (VU)
- Endangered (EN)
- Critically Endangered (CR)
- Extinct in the Wild (EW)
- Extinct (EX)
Exceptions to classification:
- All else being equal, a species experiencing an 90 percent decline over 10 years (or three generations), for example, would be classified as critically endangered.
- Likewise, another species undergoing a 50 percent decline over the same period would be classified as endangered, and one experiencing a 30 percent reduction over the same time frame would be considered vulnerable.
- It is important to understand, however, that a species cannot be classified by using one criterion alone;
- it is essential for the scientist doing the assessment to consider all five criteria when determining the status of the species.
-Source: The Hindu
Singapore Declaration of ILO
The 17th Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) set ten-point priorities of national action under the Singapore Declaration.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Singapore Declaration
- Key points
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
About Singapore Declaration
- It aims to raise awareness of the need for member nations to address the problems of declining worker salaries, inflation, and unemployment.
- The delegates who represented regional governments, employers, and labour unanimously decided to adopt it.
- Members concurred that social dialogue is crucial for addressing labour market issues and figuring out how to deal with crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the current economic situation.
- Promoting freedom of association will ensure that everyone has access to labour protection.
- Recognition of the right to collective bargaining as an enabler of decent work, including for those in disadvantaged circumstances and those working in the informal economy
- Reducing gender disparities, raising women’s employment rates, supporting equal compensation for labour of comparable worth, balancing work and obligations, and encouraging women to take on leadership roles.
- Create and implement policies and programmes for an inclusive labour market that support demographic changes and life transitions.
- Promote and expedite a seamless transition from the informal to the formal economy by making concerted, continuous efforts in this direction.
- Improve governance structures and regard for migrant workers’ right to freedom of association
- Bolster the resilience and protection of social and employment systems
- Expanding social protection to all workers, guaranteeing universal access to comprehensive, adequate and sustainable social protection for all.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
- The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency whose mandate is to advance social justice and promote decent work by setting international labour standards.
- It was the first specialised agency of the UN.
- The ILO has 187 member states: 186 of the 193 UN member states plus the Cook Islands are members of the ILO.
- In 1969, the ILO received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving fraternity and peace among nations, pursuing decent work and justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to other developing nations.
ILO’s Tripartite Structure:
- Unlike other United Nations specialized agencies, the International Labour Organization has a tripartite governing structure that brings together governments, employers, and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
- The tripartite structure is unique to the ILO where representatives from the government, employers and employees openly debate and create labour standards.
- The structure is intended to ensure the views of all three groups are reflected in ILO labour standards, policies, and programmes, though governments have twice as many representatives as the other two groups.
The Functions of the ILO
- Creation of coordinated policies and programs, directed at solving social and labour issues.
- Adoption of international labour standards in the form of conventions and recommendations and control over their implementation.
- Assistance to member-states in solving social and labour problems.
- Human rights protection (the right to work, freedom of association, collective negotiations, protection against forced labour, protection against discrimination, etc.).
- Research and publication of works on social and labour issues.
Objectives of the ILO
- To promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work.
- To create greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment.
- To enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all.
- To strengthen tripartism and social dialogue.