September 28, 2021
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Good morning. We all talk a lot about UPSC examinations. Often we see people who aspire to become IAS and IPS officers. But have you heard about the IFS (Indian Foreign Services) officer Sneha Dubey?
She is a young diplomat who hit out at Pakistan at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). In response to Imran Khan’s talk about Pakistan being ‘a victim’, she gave a powerful speech. Her response speech was widely appreciated by Indians. People say she is the new, young inspiration for Gen Z. You can watch the power packed speech here.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Assam’s Anti-Encroachment Drive
The land that we settle in holds a lot of importance. Sometimes people settle in lands of others or those which belong to the government. It is called an encroachment of those lands. Similarly, several people have reportedly settled on the government lands in Assam over the years.
This conflict over Assam lands goes back decades. These alleged illegal occupants are primarily Bengali-speaking Muslims and the indigenous community in the state are against their settlements. The current BJP regime promised to evict these people and have begun the anti-encroachment drive. However, those who are accused as ‘illegal encroachers’ claim that they bought these lands and settled forty years ago. Congress also called the drive unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The anti-encroachment drives happen in several places and such drives in Assam are a part of its history. So why has this drive caught national attention? Last week, the eviction drive was happening as usual in the Darrang district. The drive suddenly turned violent as a brutal clash broke out between the police and the protestors.
A video of the same made rounds on the internet. In the video, a protester who was holding a lathi was kicked and stomped on by a civilian and was shot at point-blank range by the Assam Police. This stirred the people all over India and they called for action. While both the police and the protestors tell different tales about how the clash broke out and reason their actions, a judicial probe has been set up to investigate the same.
Coming to the root of the issue, there are other conflicts and mixed opinions about the anti-encroachment drive. The indigenous people, BJP and a few experts stand at one end of the bargain, while the Congress, other parties and settlers are at the other end. Amidst this, several critics support the drive but assert that the way of execution is wrong. This anti-encroachment drive has just begun and is only the tip of the iceberg. So let’s untangle the web of tales that has resulted in this land tussle.
Anti-encroachment drive is legitimate and necessary
Land rights have been a long-standing issue in Assam. Earlier, the Sarbananda Sonowal government formed the Brahma Committee to make recommendations on land rights. Its report in 2017 revealed that 63 lakh bighas of government land were occupied illegally. For those of you who do not know what bigha is, it is a measure of land area varying locally from 1/3 to 1 acre. Additionally, few other official sources said that 6,652 sq km of government land and 22% of forest land was encroached upon. Such illegal occupancies created the need for an anti-encroachment drive.
The indigenous community were not happy with such settlements. They alleged that they were losing their lands to migrants from Bangladesh. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma visited the locality in June during which he promised the local residents that the encroached lands would be recovered.
This recovered land will also be used for the benefit of the state. The land will be used for agricultural purposes. Under the Garukhuti Project, the government aims to boost farming and promote afforestation. The whole project is pegged at 9.6 crores. After the eviction that happened recently, 4,000 bighas of land that was made encroachment free has been used for sowing seeds of various crops. This project entails farming for indigenous youths on 77,000 bighas of the claimed encroached land.
The anti-encroachment drives were assured by the BJP in its poll promises. This way, it is only doing what it promised to its people. The CM said the landless among those evicted will be given 2 acres. As per government statements, proper rehabilitation is promised. The protest that turned violent last week is alleged to have been begun by the protestors. The talks about eviction and rehabilitation were settled and ended on a peaceful note. However, police claim that even after the agreement, the protestors suddenly started to attack and they could do nothing but fight back as a measure of self-defence.
Anti-encroachment drive is dehumanizing
While the occupants are alleged as Bangladeshi settlers, they claim that they are Indians. In fact, these people have Aadhar cards and documents that assert that they have been living in the area for decades. They say that they bought these lands and settled here 40 years ago and are the rightful owners of the land.
These people add a lot of value to the state’s agriculture. They were able to produce more products and increased the total productivity in the state. Talking about the farming initiatives of the government in the recovered areas, experts call it selective, targeted and violent. They say that if the state government wants to promote community farming, it could have done so by involving the 800 families who were already cultivating in the area for decades instead of evicting them.
Beyond the concept of being evicted, more damage was done when the eviction took place without proper rehabilitation. After a demonstration demanding rehabilitation, the authorities and the evicted people reached a common ground. Authorities reportedly assured that the eviction will be kept on hold until the facilities were arranged. Despite this, the eviction process was carried out. This spiralled into violence. Supporters call this eviction dehumanising and ‘the othering’ of Bengali-speaking Muslims.
In an opinion in The Wire, the author questions how the police firing can be considered an act of self-defence. If a protester runs towards the police with a stick in his hand, is it so threatening that the police had to resort to shooting? Can he not be controlled by police batons?
It is not just these people who allegedly occupied government lands. As per records, the indigenous people encroached on such lands as well. The Congress government emphasized that this eviction process is undemocratic and unconstitutional. They cited a Gauhati High Court order dated May 10 2021, that asked all eviction proceedings to be kept on hold due to the pandemic. Experts say that this eviction drive is driven by political and communal intentions.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Birthday wishes and ‘aartis’ have no place in our military. This needs fixing
For the Left:
Decisive governance: A new paradigm that is transforming the northeast
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Museum Of Spirits (Goa) – If you’ve ever been to Goa or even otherwise, you would know that the state is infamous for its collection of liquor. In particular, the local drink ‘feni’, which is made out of cashew apples, is considered the state’s famous brew. So entrepreneur Nandan Kudchadkar decided to build ‘All About Alcohol’ – India’s first museum dedicated to alcohol. Spread over 1,300 sq ft area, this museum will give us a peek into the history of brewing feni. Bottles of feni from the 1950’s and antique pieces used to serve feni will be on display for all visitors. Cheers to India’s first alcohol museum! But on special note, remember that this museum is built only to educate people about the history of alcohol; not to promote liquor consumption.
Touring The Beauty (Jammu and Kashmir) – Jammu and Kashmir is a unique tourist destination that shines with nature’s beauty. The Union Territory and the Centre have been working towards providing a better tourism experience. The Union Minister for Civil Aviation announced that two new airports will be built in the state. The total cost of building both the airports is pegged at ₹2150 crore. A great deal of importance is given to improving transport and connectivity in the state. So besides these airports, a major road network, comprising highways, and other projects are being implemented. Such projects will for sure boost tourism in the state.
New Tourist Spot (Kerala) – Kerala’s Malabar riots of 1921 has always been a point of contention between the right and left wingers. While the Right parties call it an attack on the Hindus by the Muslims, the Leftists say it was a peasant uprising against the British. Debates aside, the state government is now planning to develop a tourism circuit based on the riots. Plans are on to connect all the important sites related to the Malappuram rebellion. Once this plan turns into reality, the tourism circuit will attract visitors and history enthusiasts. We are curious to see how many controversies this project will create.
Made In Bihar (Bihar) – Bihar is planning to bring alive the ‘local goes global’ mission in India. Industries minister Shahnawaz Hussain revealed that the state is planning to export Bihar-based products to 75 countries. While the state is already involved in exporting, it’s aim is to tap the potential of the export market and contribute to the ‘Make in India for the world export’ project. A framework has been charted out to create export hubs in each district of the state. We are loving the spirit of the export project, what about you?
Budding Leader (Tripura) – India has a huge demand for agarbatti or incense sticks. Until recently, 96% of the bamboo sticks required for India’s agarbatti sector was supplied by Vietnam and China. These countries made use of the free trade regime and sent in bulks of bamboo sticks, which are the raw materials required for the agarbatti. But in 2019, the Indian government placed import restrictions on bamboo sticks, which has made it hard for these countries. Meanwhile, over 30 manufacturing units for bamboo sticks have been approved in the state. With this boost and other governmental benefits, Tripura hopes to capture at least 60% of the agarbatti market in India. Well, we cannot wait to see how the bamboo business booms in Tripura.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹19.5 crore – Amount earned by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) after selling 3.55 million carbon credits, which was collected between 2012 and 2018. The last time DMRC sold its carbon credits in 2012, it generated ₹ 9.55 crore. Carbon credits were claimed for the regenerative braking project of the Delhi Metro.