August 6, 2021
Fear of the others
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. Sangam-era Tamil literature talked about the existence of a well-developed ancient society in south India spanning parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and north Sri Lanka. However, physical evidence or remains of such a society was scarce, until Keeladi excavations in Tamil Nadu shed light to it.
During the recent seventh phase of excavations conducted in Keeladi, archeologists found the presence of an iron dagger with a wooden handle in a burial urn. This is the first time a weapon with a wooden handle has been recovered. Scientists are hoping that this weapon will be helpful in dating the exact period of the Keeladi settlement. And we can’t wait to find out the results!
📰 FEATURE STORY
Row over ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ in Sikkim
In this developing world, we keep moving from one place to another for business, work and other reasons. If you decide to settle down in a new place for a while, the basic issue you will face is the difficulty in availing government’s ration facilities. Therefore, the Government of India came up with the scheme ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ (ONORC). This will be of huge help to migrant people and others who work in different districts and states.
Based on the directions of the Supreme Court and the Centre, this scheme was recently launched in Sikkim. The state government believes that this will help both Sikkimese working in other places as well as migrants who work in Sikkim. However, opposition parties assert that this move violates Article 371F of the Constitution and will also affect the local people.
There are a few things we should know before we get to the benefits and challenges of the scheme in Sikkim. To begin with, we will look at the ONORC scheme. Since people had to go far from their homes to work, most often they were deprived of the necessary food supply. With the constant change in places, there was no way they could get their ration cards changed. So, the government launched this scheme. Under this, one can procure essential food supplies from any fair price shop in India. This way, you can go to any place for work and still get all your essential rations at subsidized prices.
After the pandemic hit, it has become tough for all of us to purchase goods. This only means that the migrant workers will be suffering a lot more. So, the SC posed queries to the Centre asking how long will it take for registering workers of the unorganized sector. It also directed the States and Union Territories to implement the ONORC scheme by the end of July.
Following this, the Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay virtually launched the scheme in the state capital Gangtok. During the launch, he appreciated this flagship programme. He also emphasized that the scheme will reduce fraudulent activities and will curb the influx of migrants. But opposition parties claimed that the scheme will not benefit the people. It also accused the government of neglecting certain ‘special circumstances’ of the state before launching the scheme.
ONORC is a huge blow to Sikkim: Opposition
As soon as the scheme was launched, objections erupted from the opposition parties. They had a few major grounds on which they claimed that the scheme will do more bad than good. One of the main concerns was that the scheme violated Article 371F. Now, let’s find out what this article is all about.
This Article was introduced when Sikkim merged with India. It lays down certain rules and regulations that ensure the autonomy vested with the state. According to this article, the laws passed in the Parliament need not be necessarily implemented in Sikkim. Further, an activist mentions that ration and food supplies are normally handled by the state. Thus, the opposition parties maintain that the Sikkim government implementing this national scheme violates the special provisions of the article. They also fear that Sikkim, being a border state, could be affected by illegal document holders who can settle here due to this scheme.
The government says that the scheme will curb the influx of illegal immigrants. However, opposition parties deny it. In their argument, they explain that even though Sikkim has a great work environment, there is an important reason why migrant workers are hesitant to settle in Sikkim along with their families. It is because they want to save on expenses made on food and ration. But now, the scheme will allow them to get ration supplies based on their state cards. Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) acting president Bhaichung Bhutia has stressed that this in turn will encourage them to settle in the state. The opposition parties also assert that such settlements will change the demography of Sikkim and might also affect the locals.
They said that the government is power-hungry and they are doing this to get a loan from the Centre. Further, they demanded clarity on facts and figures on migrant workers in Sikkim. Critics also fear that if there is a shortage of grains in future, things might get complicated. In such cases, will the ration be given to locals or migrant workers? This has raised concerns over whether or not locals will be prioritised.
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) spokesperson MK Subba also opined that an all-party meeting should have been held before making decisions on such important issues. Similarly, Bhaichung Bhutia said that if talks and decisions are made sitting in a room, there will be no space for discussion and feedback.
Finally, if we see what the opposition party demands are, they want the scheme to be well studied and debated in the assembly. This way, protection of Article 371F can be ensured and the migrant workers will also benefit from food security.
ONORC will benefit Sikkim: Government
Amidst so many concerns and accusations, the government has taken a clear stand and supports the ONORC scheme. Their stand is based on three major points. One, the scheme will benefit both migrants and Sikkimese. Two, any suggestions and debates are welcome, as they will help in developing the state. Three, while discussions are appreciated, the opposition parties are going in the wrong direction.
Clearing the air, The government elucidated that the ONORC scheme will not only benefit the migrants who come to Sikkim, but it will also aid the locals who work in other states. Moreover, the scheme allows intra-state procedures as well, benefitting Sikkimese who work in a different district other than their native. For example, if an individual has a registered ration card in Gangtok, he/she can purchase goods at the fair price store from any other district in the state.
The Chief Minister also assured that the scheme will reduce the misuse of ration and fraudulent beneficiaries. If you are wondering how, it is because the scheme links your ration card with Aadhar and uses online systems to record your purchase every month. This way, all information is stored digitally and is available across India. This digitalisation will reduce bogus activities and promote transparency and accountability.
Though the opposition parties claim that it will increase the influx of illegal immigrants, the government stays strong in its stance that the scheme will curb the influx. The ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha spokesperson Jacob Khaling said that the demography of the state now is very different from how it was in 1993. He seems to be hinting at the state’s already changed demography during the rule of the opposition.
To further ease the activities under the scheme, the government has planned to distribute the goods in three modes.
- Online distribution with biometric authentication.
- Completely offline distribution in places where no internet connection is available – Eg: dark zone or border areas.
- Partial or Hybrid distribution – both online and offline modes will be carried out based on network availability.
BJP Sikkim unit President Dal Bahadur Chauhan said that nothing will be taken out of the share of Sikkimese. This brings us to the last and most important point. Food and civil supplies minister Arun Upreti asserted that the scheme will not violate Article 371F. Dismissing the allegations that the government is working against the local protection act, State BJP president D.B. Chauhan mentioned that every individual, including the party, is equally committed towards safeguarding the state’s constitutional privileges.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Two years on, the deepening anxieties and growing distance between Delhi and Kashmir
For the Left:
Legislative immunity is not absolute
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Early warning (Uttarakhand) – We never know when an earthquake will strike us. So far, there is no reliable way to predict an earthquake. In such a time, Uttarakhand becomes the first Indian state to develop an early earthquake warning system. Following the models of Japan, Mexico and US, this system will detect real-time quakes and identify the expected areas that will be affected. Immediately after this, an alert will be triggered in the phones of those within the area. People will get about 15 seconds to a minute to evacuate the place. There will also be two options that say ‘I need help’ and ‘I am safe.’ This would alert the first responders to organize rescue operations. The only thing you need to do is install the Uttarakhand Bhookamp Alert app, then your safety is half assured.
Textbook revolution (Tamil Nadu) – Whenever we find a problem in the real world, we blame our textbooks for not teaching us right. We say our books are outdated and that we need to come outside of the books. But there’s a silent textbook revolution happening across the country. One recent example is how Tamil Nadu decided to drop the caste surnames of scholars in the textbooks. This move proves that recognition comes with one’s work and not because of their caste identity. Such efforts might go unnoticed but don’t you think our textbooks have started gearing towards many such societal changes?
Unrest over dam (West Bengal) – It’s not so difficult to set off a fight between political parties. If anything happens in the state, one party points fingers at another and the cycle continues. This time it’s the flood situation in the state that has caused a tiff in West Bengal. The state irrigation minister blamed the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) for releasing unprecedented water during the rains. He said that the Centre was involved in creating man-made floods in the state. This obviously did not go down well with the BJP in West Bengal. They accused the ruling party (TMC) of not focusing on erecting efficient dams in the state. They said that the government should have been more careful after the Cyclone Yaas that destroyed many dams in the state. Who do you think is at fault – DVC, TMC or both?
Illegal factories (Meghalaya) – On Tuesday, many people rallied against the illegal coke factories in the East Jaintia Hills district. It was reported that these factories cause environmental damage as well as health issues to all the residents. So far 55 coke factories in the area have received the No objection certificate. But only very few have the ‘Consent to Operate’ (CTO). An order has been issued to close down all illegal coke factories that function without CTO. But similar orders issued earlier had no effect on the factories. Is there no solution to the people’s plight?
Vanity project? (Maharashtra) – The acclaimed bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad stands undecided. There has been a delay in acquiring land in Maharashtra, which has led to the unsure deadline of the project. The Centre has blamed the Maharashtra government for not cooperating properly. While Goa and Daman and Diu are in their final stages of acquisition, Maharashtra has not done much. On the other hand, the Maharashtra government has mentioned that the bullet project was not on their to-do list priorities. They said that it was nothing but a vanity project initiated by the Centre.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
23.36 hours/day – Average power supply in cities per day in June 2021, according to the Power Ministry. The average power supply in rural areas remained at 22.17 hours/day during the same period.