Ideas such as ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’ are amusing themes for fiction movies and literature. In reality, however, they seem irrational. What if we tell you that a continued belief in such primitive concepts still forms the basis of violent crimes against women in several parts of rural India?
Witch-Hunting is a practice involving the search for a woman who has been labelled a ‘witch’ (‘chudail’, ‘dayan’, ‘tonahi’), on charges of causing harm to others through the use of black magic. The attack is led usually by relatives, neighbours or villagers and comprises violence against the accused in the form of hounding, thrashing, shaving of the head, naked parades, forcing consumption of human excreta, rape or murder. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, witchhunting has claimed nearly 2500 lives from 2000 to 2016. Yet, unlike many European Countries, India is yet to pass a Central level legislature or address incidental issues to combat the problem of witch-hunting.
Criminology is a subject which aims at studying an offence from a socio-behavioural perspective. It plays a key role in determining the root cause for an offence and how the criminal justice system can tackle it. While criminologists remain fascinated with dissecting physiological and behavioural science behind serial killers, female criminality remains an unexplored area of law. What little research is done in female criminality is largely unscientific and suffers from strong gender bias. We attempt to explain how gender bias present in the work of many celebrated sociologists and criminologists have a normalized stigma around the malpractice of witch-hunting and how the legislature has failed to tackle witch-hunting in rural parts of India.
NORMALISATION OF WITCH-HUNTING THROUGH MISOGYNISTIC THEORIES OF CRIME
An undeniable fact of our society is that women are still seen as the weaker sex. The unscientific notion of the weaker sex is not limited to rural or uneducated population. The gender prejudice is quite visible in almost all profession ranging from the inclusion debate around the inclusion of women in the army to a coveted position in academia. While progressive thoughts are emerging from around the globe like bringing a woman on par with men in terms of pay parity, the problem of gender bias is deeply entrenched and institutionalized when it comes to studying of crime.
Almost all prominent criminologists who laid the foundation of the subject have attributed female criminality to the physiological, hormonal or psychological female characteristics. Most of them argue that women who commit crime display an “abnormality” in natural female behaviour and hence, such women are “born criminals”. According to such criminologists, this “abnormality” of committing a crime can be rectified if certain measures such as sterilization of women committing a crime or isolating them from society are adopted. In short, Positivist School of criminology lays its foundation on a false notion that women who commit crime are “suffering” from an abnormality and the society as a whole should cure the said abnormality by whatever means possible.
According to Lombroso, women having a higher number of “atavistic” features are more likely to become criminals. According to him, Atavistic characteristics are special bodily features which are commonly found in criminals. For example – large hand size, low voice pitch, dark skin, crooked teeth etc. In the context of female criminality, Lombroso argued that women have a smaller cerebral cortex which diminishes their intelligence. Consequently, they are incapable of committing crime requiring intelligence and primarily indulge in offences like prostitution.
According to the famous sociologist W.I Thomas, female criminality occurs when women use their feminine attributes to manipulate others. According to him, female criminals use sexual proximity or commit acts of prostitution for obtaining something for self-interest. He argues that female criminals are driven by lust and commit crimes to attract the attention of males. In short, Thomas largely sees female criminals in terms of their sexuality to justify their criminal behaviour. Sigmund Freud built his theory on similar grounds stating that female criminals were those who attempted to compete with men by refusing to accept their “natural weakness”. Another renowned sociologist, Otta Pollak, believed that women used their inherent cunning nature to manipulate and deceive men into committing crimes. Therefore, women act as an instigator to the serious offence but could commit smaller offences like shoplifting by themselves.
Apart from these writers, there are plenty more criminologists and sociologists who advocated similar theories of female criminality. Such theories of crime fail to take into account factors like poverty, education and health when analyzing female criminality. One may argue that with time, such theories have lost their relevance. However, the malpractice of witch-hunting in northern India is a perfect example to elucidate the problem of bias and irrational principles dictating crimes against women. This bias stems from the work of noted criminologists who are glorified as founders of the subjects. Witch-hunting in India is committed to ward off “evil spirits” from the village by torturing the victim who is accused of casting a spell. As argued by Pollak, witch-hunting too establishes an idea that women are cunning in nature, thereby using blackmagic to obtain something for self-interest. In reality, witch-hunting is an attempt to subdue independent women in rural India. Just like Freud, perpetrators of witch-hunting consider women to be the weaker sex, who must remain dependent on men for their survival. Therefore, it is majorly the divorced or widowed women who are subjected to witch-hunting. Lastly, the theory of “Atavistic Characteristic” by Lombroso is visibly seen in the practice of witch-hunting where Dalit women are targeted for being “inherently impure and bringing ill-luck to the village”.
UNDERSTANDING TRUE REASONS BEHIND WITCHHUNTING IN INDIA
Post-independence, witchhunting continued as a customary practice amongst rural and tribal populations in Assam, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Jharkhand is the hot-bed for witching-hunting with maximum cases being reported from this State ever since its inception in the year 2000. Let us look at some of the predominant causes behind the continuing practice of witch-hunting in India.
The very premise of patriarchy that Indian society is built upon has injustices rooted in it. Entrenched gender hierarchy has made women easy scapegoats in all kinds of situations, and is similarly relevant to the analysis of witch-hunting practices in India. This is evident in the NCRB reports stating that allegations concerning black magic are mostly inflicted on women, even though male members of the family also receive the wrath of the people when a woman is declared a witch. A statistical indicator of patriarchal societies is how most of these high ranking states report wide gaps between the literacy rates for male and female populations. In Jharkhand, the State that records the highest number of cases, for instance, the literacy rate (male) is 76.8 % whereas the literacy rate (female) is only 55.4%. Depriving women of education equips men to further perpetuate the prevailing power dynamics. The requisite structural support is also ensured as local administrators, witch doctors, family headmen etc. are all invariably men. Here again, certain categories of women are more vulnerable to attacks. Amongst these are women that are middleaged or old, married, widow or childless.
The question of caste or group identity is also extremely relevant in this analysis. Several reports reveal that victims of witch-hunts generally do not belong to the dominant castes. Thus, even within the gender category, lower caste and tribal women (SC, ST, OBCs and others) face greater victimization.
An interesting deduction from the analysis of the causes behind its modernday practice in India is that instances today are often rooted in individual conflicts more than an actual belief in witchcraft. Personal conflicts over ideological differences, economic reasons, non-conformity or jealousy may escalate into a situation where people may want to malign the concerned person’s image or cause them severe harm. Of course, the inherent structural backwardness of the society is exploited to garner support. For instance, old widows owning resources such as inherited land are often targeted to sideline them and seize their property. In male-centric communities, romantic rejection by a woman may also be avenged with allegations of practising witchcraft. This could be done by making various kinds of false claims regarding her demeanour. In a male chauvinist society that holds on to baseless ideas of dignity supposed to be preserved by the women, such allegations are accepted unquestioningly. Witchhunting, thus, becomes an effective tool in exercising control over-opinionated women who may try to break free from the shackles. The most unfortunate part is that in rural areas, the perpetrators in maximum cases are the woman’s family/in-laws or neighbours, men as well as women.
Economically backward societies are more susceptible to continuing with primitive practices like witchhunting. Rural societies in India suffering from chronic economic backwardness are usually those with large populations, considerably engaged in agriculture. Owing to economic deprivation, people lack access to quality education and healthcare facilities and tend to rely more on traditional responses during crises situations. Societies with agriculture as the primary occupation often witness income shocks propelled by sudden situations such as monsoon failure, floods or poor harvest in the region. Such financially trying times lead to an increase in strategic witchhunts where the motive is the confiscation of property or extraction of money. As per rankings of NSDP per capita for States in India (2018-19), Bihar and U.P. rank the lowest along with Jharkhand, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and others doing only fairly better.
Widespread illiteracy is another factor that a large number of cases of witchhunting in rural India can be attributed to. A progressive society must be capable of developing a rational outlook towards its cultural inheritance. Where more people have attained primary education, the growth of a rational intellect empowers that society to reject superstitions and inhuman traditions like witch-hunting. On the contrary, low levels of education usually indicate that people are susceptible to embracing irrational beliefs and practices. Uneducated people fail to comprehend the scientific reasons behind misfortunes such as a poor harvest, spread of disease, death of cattle or humans in the locality, etc. Resorting to explanations like black magic is a convenient way to rationalize with natural occurrence of events. According to Census-2011, Jharkhand- 66.4%, Bihar- 61.8%, Rajasthan66.1%, U.P.- 67.7%, Madhya Pradesh- 69.3%, Chattisgarh 70.3%, Assam- 72.2% and Odisha- 72.9% reported a literacy rate that struggles below the already grim national literacy rate of 74%. Thus, it is not a coincidence that the practice of witchhunting is thriving in these states of India.
Poor healthcare facilities also significantly aggravate the problem of witch-hunting in India. Many regions where witch-hunting cases are frequent still lack access to affordable quality healthcare facilities. At the most, predominantly rural areas may have primary healthcare centres. But these provide little respite owing to insufficiently trained personnel, poor infrastructure, etc. For the lack of alternatives, people seek help from quacks or ojhas (local witch doctors), who thrive by feeding into the collective conscience ideas like witchcraft. They are also responsible for conducting trials for suspected witches in the village. Ojhas command traditional authority amongst the villagers, and when they fail to understand a problem brought to them, they resort to illogical appeals like witchcraft. This is more rampant when addressing complex diseases or mental illnesses that rural people are unaware of.
Societies recording high rates of crime provide a conducive climate for practices like witch-hunting to thrive. As per NCRB’s annual crime report 2018, Uttar Pradesh topped the statewise rankings for crimes against women, followed by Maharashtra and West Bengal. The data also shows that cases of crimes against women in the country have increased as compared to the previous year, with domestic violence cases accounting for the largest share. The conviction rate in rape-related cases stood at 27.2% even though the rate of filing charge sheets was 85.3% in such cases. The poor plight of law and order in a State may not directly trigger an incident of a witch-hunt, but it certainly emboldens perpetrators to commit more crime since they mostly go unpunished.
Article 51-A (H) casts a duty upon Indian Citizens to develop a scientific temperament. However, even after 73 years of Independence, the practice of witch-hunting continues to thrive in India. While orthodoxy in rural India remains the prime factor behind the rising cases of witch-hunting, the inaction on part of the Central Government to tackle the problem is also deplorable. Various states have formulated legislations at state- level to combat the practice of witch-hunting but all state-level legislations are loosely framed laws which leave a lot to be desired in terms of strict punishment and enforcement. In fact, Justice Panigrahi in Jitu Murmu vs the State of Orissa observed that the state laws have failed to prevent crimes related to witch-hunting and re-emphasized the need for uniform legislation at the national level. Thus, it is high time that Governments at the centre and state levels acknowledge witch-hunting as a serious menace plaguing the Northern Indian states and undertake a coordinated effort by providing basic amenities like education and drafting a strict legislation to criminalize witchhunting in India.
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All-time high exports of engineering goods in August suggest pandemic may be behind us: EEPC India chairman
Reflecting strong demand from its key markets, engineering goods exports to 24 out of 25 top nations recorded positive growth in August, 2021 blowing past its previous monthly record of US$ 9.13 billion in July.
Unlike the previous months, exports to China registered the second largest export destination witnessing positive monthly growth in August 2021. Shipments to China rose 15% in August to reach US$ 613.3 million as compared to US$ 531.3 million in the same month last year.
Malaysia was the only country which saw a negative trend in import of engineering goods from India.
The US continued to be on top of the chart with August import of engineering goods from India growing 42% to US$ 1.3 billion as compared to US$ 916.5 million in the same month last year.
All the European countries for India’s top 25 engineering export destinations – Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, UK, Poland, Spain and France recorded high positive growth during August as well as on a cumulative basis this fiscal.
The share of India’s engineering exports to its top 25 nations accounted for 76.8% of India’s total engineering exports in April-August 2021. This significant high share is indicative of the dependence of India’s engineering export on the traditional markets.
India’s engineering exports was at its all-time monthly high for the second straight month in August. The robust performance of the sector resulted in the share of engineering goods in total merchandise exports during the previous month rising significantly.
Share of engineering in total merchandise export was 27.68% in August 2021 as against 25.82% in July, 27.19% in June, 25.44% in May, 24.83% in April 2021 and 25.36 percent in March 2021.
“In the month of August, engineering goods exports recorded more than 40% growth even when compared with the same month in 2019. It now seems that the pandemic is behind us. We are positively hopeful that as a result of a turnaround in global trade and policy support the sector would do better than expected in the full financial year,” said EEPC India Chairman Mr Mahesh Desai.
“The annual target of US$ 107 billion looks very doable even though the achievement till August fell a bit short of the target when calculated on a pro-rata basis,” he said.
During April-August period of 2021-22, India’s engineering exports have fallen short of the target set by about US$ 1.82 billion calculated on a pro-rata basis achieving 40% of the target against 42% of desired level for the full year.
Engineering exports crossed US$ 9 billion mark consecutively for the second time after the month of July, reaching an all-time high of US$ 9.21 billion in August.
Cumulative engineering exports during April-August 2021-22 stood at US$ 42.91 billion registering 66.18% growth over the shipments of April-August 2020-21 at US$ 25.82 billion.
Out of 33 engineering panels or product groups, 29 panels witnessed positive growth in exports and remaining four panels witnessed negative export growth during August 2021 vis-à-vis August 2020.
Exports of iron and steel recorded a continuous growth to the extent of 142% in August 2021 compared to the same period last year. In case of non-ferrous metals, sectors like Zinc and products exhibited negative growth in exports to the extent of 26% during the month of August 2021 vis-a-vis August 2020. All the remaining segments showed positive growth.
All the seven panels under Industrial machinery exhibited positive growth in August 2021 which led the total industrial machinery panel increase by 39% during August 2021.
Electrical Machinery and equipment which is a major engineering exporting sector for India experienced a growth in exports both monthly and on cumulative basis increasing to the extent of 26.8% from US$ 692.9 million in August 2020 to US$ 878.4 million in August 2021.
The automobile sector (combination of Two and Three wheelers and Motor vehicles and Cars) recorded consecutive massive jumps in exports to the extent of 57.5% primarily due to sharp jump in exports of Two and Three Wheelers by 72.4% and Motor Vehicles by 52.5% during August 2021.
Exports of Aircrafts and Spacecraft parts and products recorded 12.8% negative monthly growth while ‘Ship, Boats and Floating Bodies’ exhibited a monthly decline of 21.7%.
“The government has relentlessly supported the industry and we hope that the two key issues of high raw material prices and container shortage would also be looked into. The industry is awaiting proper rates under RoDTEP,” said EEPC India Chairman.
Centre provides a massive relief to the exporters
The government releases Rs 56,027 crore under various Export Promotion Schemes.
The Government of India has decided to budget Rs 56,027 crore in this Financial Year FY 21-22 itself in order to disburse all pending export incentives due to exporters. This amount includes claims relating to MEIS, SEIS, RoSL, RoSCTL, other scrip based schemes relating to earlier policies and the remission support for RoDTEP and RoSCTL for exports made in the 4th quarter of FY 20-21. Benefits would be disbursed to more than 45,000 exporters, out of which about 98% are small exporters in the MSME category.
The amount of Rs 56,027 crores of arrears is for different export promotion and remission schemes: MEIS (Rs 33,010 crore), SEIS (Rs 10,002 crore), RoSCTL (Rs 5,286 cr), RoSL (Rs 330 crore), RoDTEP(Rs 2,568 crore), other legacy Schemes like Target Plus etc (Rs 4,831 crore). This amount is over and above duty remission amount of Rs 12,454 crore for the RoDTEP scheme and Rs 6,946 crore for RoSCTLscheme already announced for exports made in this year i.e. FY 2021-22.
Exports in India have seen robust growth in recent months. Merchandise exports for April-August, 2021 was nearly $164 billion, which is an increase of 67% over 2020-21 and 23% over 2019-20. This decision to clear all pending export incentives within this financial year, will lead to even more rapid export growth in coming months.
For merchandise exports, all sectors covered under MEIS, such as Pharmaceuticals, Iron and steel, Engineering, Chemicals, Fisheries, Agriculture and allied Sectors, Auto and Auto Components would be able to claim benefits for exports made in earlier years. Benefits would help such sectors to maintain cash flows and meet export demand in international market, which is recovering fast this financial year.
Service sector exporters, including those in the travel, tourism and hospitality segments will be able to claim SEIS benefits for FY 2019-2020, for which Rs 2,061 crore has been provisioned. The SEIS for FY 2019-20 with certain revisions in service categories and rates is being notified. This support would have a multiplier effect and spur employment generation.
The apparel sector, which is a major labour-intensive sector, would get past arrears under ROSCTL and ROSL, and all stakeholders in the interconnected supply chains would be strengthened to meet the festive season demand in international markets.
Export claims relating to earlier years will need to be filed by the exporters by 31st December 2021 beyond which they will become time barred. The Online IT portal will be enabled shortly to accept MEIS and other scrip based applications and would be integrated with a robust mechanism set up by Ministry of Finance to monitor provisioning and disbursement of the export incentives under a budgetary framework.
A decision to clear all pending export incentives within this Financial Year itself despite other budgetary commitments arising out of the pandemic is with the objective of providing timely and crucial support to this vital pillar of Indian economy.
FIEO HAILS GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO DISBURSE ALL PENDING EXPORT INCENTIVES TO EASE THE LIQUIDITY AT MOST CHALLENGING TIMES: DR SAKTHIVEL
Welcoming the government’s decision of budgeting an amount of Rs 56,027 crores to disburse all pending export incentives due to exporters as claims related to different export promotion and remission schemes including MEIS, SEIS, RoSL, RoSCTL, other scrip-based schemes relating to earlier policies and the remission support for RoDTEP and RoSCTL for exports made in the 4th quarter of FY 20-21, FIEO President, Dr A Sakthivel said that such a move will help the sector in meeting the liquidity concerns and maintaining cash flow of the exports sector thereby further facilitating in addressing the export demand in the international market.
Benefits to be disbursed to over 45,000 exporters, specially those from the MSME sector has come as a booster dose for them as it would help them to be able to complete their booked order more efficiently, said Dr Sakthivel. Thanking the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the Union Commerce & Industry and Textiles Minister and the Union Finance Minister, President, FIEO added that the decision will lead to an even more rapid growth in exports in coming months.
FIEO Chief said that support to Service sector exporters, including those in the travel, tourism and hospitality segments, with certain revisions in service categories and rates being notified will not only have a multiplier effect but will also help in employment generation. Incentivising major labour-intensive sectors and all the stakeholders including those from the supply chain will help in strengthening their endeavours to meet the festive season demand in the international market.
Such support and handholding to the sector during these challenging times, when the whole exporting community is showing their commitment and resilience to perform impressively has definitely given a boost to the government vision of achieving USD 400 billion exports for the fiscal. Dr Sakthivel said that these announcements has further infused confidence in exporters that the Government is working hand in hand with exporters as promised by our Hon’ble Prime Minister.
Analysing a bill passed by Rajasthan Assembly that allows registration of child marriages
“Unity is meaningless without the accompaniment of women. Education is fruitless without educated women and agitation is incomplete without the strength of women.”
— Dr BR Ambedkar
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) charged on September 17 that the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which was passed by voice vote in the state Assembly to amend a 2009 Act on mandatory marriage registration within 30 days of the union, will legitimise child marriages.
Despite parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwaldefended the Bill by claiming that registering child marriage does not make it legitimate, the opposition staged a walkout. He also promised that anyone who organise child weddings, even after they have been registered, will face consequences.
JUDGMENT OF THE SC IN 2006
The minister further informed the House that the Supreme Court had ordered that all forms of weddings be registered in its 2006 decision in Seema vs Ashwini Kumar.
He claimed that registering child weddings does not legitimisethem, and that if a kid gets married, he or she will have the ability to dissolve the marriage once they reach adulthood.
WHAT DOES THE BILL STATE?
On 17 September, the Rajasthan Assembly passed the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which changes the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009, and requires parents or guardians to provide information on child marriages within 30 days after the wedding.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) questioned the need for child marriage registration and asked that the law be withdrawn. “How can they include child marriage in this Bill if child marriage is prohibited? All of this is done by Congress in order to create a vote bank.” If this measure passes, the assembly will have a bad day. Is it possible for the assembly to agree to legalise child marriages? We shall approve child weddings by a show of hands. The bill would write a dark chapter in the assembly’s history. Ashok, a BJP MLA.
WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT SAY?
Shanti Kumar Dhariwal, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, defended the legislation, saying, “The bill makes no mention of the legality of child marriage. According to the bill, only registration is required after marriage. This is not to say that child marriage is legal. The district collector can still take action against underage marriages if he or she so desires.”
Dhariwal further stated that the legislation now allows for registration at the District Marriage Registration Officer, Additional District Marriage Registration Officer, and Block Marriage Registration Officer levels. These officers will be able to monitor and review the work of registration. This will make it easier for the general public to register. This will bring simplicity and transparency to the work. He further said that the marriage registration certificate was a legal document without which widows would be unable to benefit from numerous government programmes. According to him, any or both parties in a marriage will be entitled to file for marriage registration and get a certificate as a result of the mandatory registration.
MARRIAGES IN INDIA
Although no comprehensive data is available, estimates show that at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 marry each year in India, making it the country with the most child brides in the world, accounting for a third of the global total. While the percentage of females marrying before the age of 18 has decreased from 47% to 27% between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, it is still too high.
Multiple reasons, including greater maternal literacy, improved access to education for girls, robust laws, and migration from rural to urban regions, may be contributing to the reduction. Among the reasons for the shift include increased rates of girls’ education, aggressive government investments in teenage girls, and strong public messaging about the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes.
At the global level, child marriage is included in Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” Under Target 5.3 “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.
Will we hand over a ruined world to our posterity?
The world engaged in the race for power has waged a relentless war against nature. If nature does not survive, we will not survive either.
I was performing ‘Pratikraman’ (introspection) on the occasion of Paryushan Parva and felt that this festival embraces the entire environment. I was seeking forgiveness from all the creatures of water, land and sky. I was asking for forgiveness from human beings, I was asking for forgiveness from trees, birds, insects and moths and also from animals. While doing so, a question came up in my mind that while we worship the five elements, do we practise it meaningfully in day-to-day life? Why has man deliberately waged a war against the nature? Every loss of nature is our loss, then why are we hoisting with our own petard?
I am always in a state of contemplation about the environment and it worries me that the craving of the present generation of human beings is causing huge damage to the environment and we are not only suffering because of it, our children are suffering too. I don’t understand how much of a ruined world we will leave for the generations to come. Environment is the most important subject for me. There are many people like me who care about the environment but there is a large section that doesn’t care! This world is heading for destruction. We do not even think about how much carbon dioxide we are emitting even personally. When I look around myself, I am amazed. In my institution, my offices are visited by so many people. Some come by car and some by motorcycle. How much carbon is being emitted! This emission can be reduced if public modes of transport are available. If many people ride in a bus or train, the emissions per person will be less, but if one person is going by car then it is unfair.
When I used to look at the operation of machines in the printing press of my institution and the consumption of electricity in the offices, I used to think that this electricity is made from coal and how much carbon is being emitted from it. This concern turned us towards solar energy and we are using solar energy to print newspapers. Yes, we have to invest heavily for this, but we take comfort from the fact that we have taken steps towards environmental protection.
Actually every person will have to be concerned and many options will have to be adopted at the personal level. We can’t rely only on the government. Even our small efforts can be effective. Take, for example, the need to prevent food wastage. Statistics show that about 70 per cent of food grains and fruits are wasted. During the production of cereals and fruits, the electricity used in irrigation or the production of pesticides causes a lot of damage to the environment. What a benefit it would be if we could save grains and fruits from being wasted!
There have been many conferences on the environment under the banner of the United Nations. When the conference was held in Geneva, more than a hundred countries had agreed to save the environment. This resolution was also repeated in Rio de Janeiro and Paris. In 1994, it was decided that by the year 2000, carbon emissions in the world would be brought down to 1990 levels. In this task, developed countries will help developing countries financially and technologically. But what happened? The agreement was left in abeyance! Even in 2019, the then US President Trump broke the Paris Agreement on global warming. On the other hand, it blamed India, Russia and China that these countries are not doing anything and American money is being wasted. But the fact is that America is not even allowing the appointment of an inspector who audits carbon emissions in the world. Surely America has inflicted the maximum damage to the environment, so it should pay for it too. The compulsions of developing countries also have to be taken into account. If you work, a lot will go wrong but that doesn’t mean you should point your finger at it. Five, ten, fifteen or twenty per cent errors will occur but 80 per cent of good things will happen!
As of now, the situation is extremely worrisome. Forests are being annihilated. Rivers are drying up, the atmosphere is getting polluted, the ozone layer is getting thinner and mountains are getting washed away. Many animals have become extinct. Diseases are on the rise. It goes without saying that the destruction of the environment means the destruction of the human species! Can any of our government units today say that they are not harming the environment? We all have to find a way to get better because we have done this destruction! You will remember the period of lockdown when people were locked in their homes, the nature started becoming so wonderful. We may not impose a lockdown but change the behaviour! Just think, what kind of world will we leave for our posterity?
At present I am in Switzerland. There is no air pollution here. Rivers are flowing smooth and clear. The lakes are absolutely clean. There is an excellent system of disposal of medical waste. Trash is nowhere to be seen. I talked to the local people. They say this is our responsibility. If only this kind of thinking developed all over the world! Everyone should be concerned about the environment and think about how to make this world a beautiful place to live in!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha. email@example.com
We are all engaged in the struggle of life. But on the issue of the environment, due to which we are enjoying our life, we do not see the same vigour. Man seems to be hell-bent on destroying the environment. Keep in mind that if the environment is not preserved and protected, human beings will not survive on the earth too!
Making it happen: ZIIEI initiative of Aurobindo Society
It was March 17th 2018. In my capacity as Secretary, School Education, Government of India I visited Agra to launch Innovative Pathshaala- a series of booklets for the teachers comprising experiential and activity-based lesson plans mapped with the State Board. The event was organized by Sri Aurobindo Society and HDFC Bank’s initiative, ‘Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives’ (ZIIEI). There were education officers and teachers from many districts of Uttar Pradesh and I could sense a lot of positive energy and the collective zeal to bring about a transformation in school education. ‘Rupantar’, a nation-wide education transformation programme of Sri Aurobindo Society was on show.
What I saw was just a glimpse of a bigger change that was being attempted through the power of zero-investment innovations in education. These were innovations developed and contributed by the teachers from length and breadth of the country as a part of the ‘Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives’ (ZIIEI) under inspired leadership of Sambhrant Sharma.
ZIIEI started its journey from Uttar Pradesh in the year 2015-16. The aim was to bring the best practices and zero-investment innovative ideas of the teachers to the forefront. Since then, ZIIEI has travelled a long distance. With more than 20 lakh teachers oriented towards zero-investment innovation ecosystem, accessing experiential-activity based teaching content digitally and impacting around 2 crore students with innovative and best teaching practices, ZIIEI has moved beyond the peripheries of an initiative, it has become a mass movement in education.
The movement has been acknowledged and appreciated by the President of India. The Vice President of India too went on to state, “Teachers lead students on the path of becoming self-reliant. I am glad to know that Sri Aurobindo Society’s education initiative ZIIEI is giving the confidence to the teachers to experiment with new ideas.”
In early 2016 when the teacher started attending the one-day training session in all the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, they assumed that another long-drawn lecture would be delivered to them. However, to their surprise, instead of telling the teachers what to do, ZIIEI team members asked for inputs and zero-investment innovations from them to improve the quality of education. When there’s no cost involved there is no barter, no favours, only free flow of optimism and collective efforts takes place. As mentioned in the Process Monitoring Report on ZIIEI submitted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), ZIIEI reflects an approach where engagement with all stakeholders in planning, strategizing and implementation process, has resulted in better outcomes
ZIIEI aims to develop joyful, engaging and experiential teaching- learning environment in classrooms. Teacher training sessions ZIIEI programme provided the much need platform and support for innovation in education but there still remained a gap in regular practice of zero-investment innovations. To bridge this gap and make everyday teaching – learning a joyful process, ZIIEI programme developed “Innovative Pathshaala”- the teaching tool for teachers. Each subject specific book, mapped with the respective State board, is a repository of innovative teaching methods based on zero-investment ideas published in the state specific Innovations Handbook/Navachar Pustika. These books give teacher the choice to deliver any topic using different types of activities. Innovative Pathshaala booklets have been distributed in more than 5,000 schools, and more than 20 lakh users access experiential teaching content in Innovative Pathshaala App.
ZIIEI has emerged as the largest programme in terms of the number of teachers receiving support and the number of States in India in which the programme directly operates.
The assessment report submitted by KPMG (India) on ZIIEI programme states that ZIIEI has successfully instilled high motivation in teachers, empowered them to become torch-bearers of transformation in education and enabled them to change their roles from ‘passive’ followers to ‘active’ contributors.
Boosted with high motivation and realization of their true potentials, lakhs of teachers share their innovative ideas with ZIIEI team members. All the ideas are evaluated by following a stringent, transparent and rigorous process. The potential ones are short-listed, and compiled in State specific Innovation Handbook/Navachar Pustika. The ideas in Navachar Pustika aim at creating a holistic environment for students, with equal emphasis on New-Age Teaching Techniques, Community Participation, Simplified Language Learning to Nation Building, and Health-Sanitation-Nutrition of the Students.
In 2016, the first Innovation Handbook/Navachar Pustika was launched. The growth, acceptance and significance of the programme is evident from the fact that 53 Innovations Handbooks/Navachar Pustika have been launched so far. Thus, for most of the States/UT’s at least two editions have been released.
The teachers look up to Navachar Pustika as the testimony of their efforts and significant contribution in making education better. Teachers whose ideas are selected in Navachar Pustika are recognized and felicitated at the National Conference & Workshop organised by Sri Aurobindo Society and HDFC Bank. Around 1,500 innovative teachers from all the States/UT’s and numerous education officers have received award from top leadership at the Central government. These annual events have become an integral part of bringing all the stakeholders in education and policy-makers at a common platform
The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed the way we used to perceive teaching and learning. The world is swiftly moving to digital platforms and our teachers need to acquire the skills to make their online classes as engaging and experiential as their physical classrooms. Aligning with the new needs, Innovative Pathshaala has developed teaching material for the teachers which can be used online and offline in classrooms. With the focus on learning outcomes, online training sessions are being organized for the teachers of 300 districts. These 300 districts will soon have Role-Model Schools which will be center of excellence and inspiration for others.
The efforts under ZIIEI and Innovative Pathshaala are in alignment with the vision of National Education Policy -2020. Through ZIIEI, Rupanatar is playing contributing role as a catalyst in bringing a positive change in education.
Aurobindo Society has demonstrated that even in the complex terrain of school education, impact can be created and that impact can be scaled through public-private partnership. They have made-it-happen and the impact what they have managed through Rupantar is clearly visible.
Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.
The scepticism about ‘electronic evidence’ in India
Technology has always been a double-edged sword which can be used for both good and bad, this equivocal nature of technology has been rightly expressed in the fitting words of Christian Lous Lange, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”. The leakage of WhatsApp chats in recent times has shed some light on the concept of electronic evidence and its admissibility both in a civil and criminal trial in India. Legal provisions dealing with the admissibility of electronic evidence in India should be critically examined as the leakage of WhatsApp chats at the investment stage even before the commencement of trial has been an issue. Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, talks about a specific legal framework governing the admissibility of electronic evidence in India, in regards to various judicial instances, Indian courts have exemplified perceptiveness towards electronic evidence in India which further apprehend its admissibility.
In the modern era, the usage of electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, computers, etc. is prolific. Moreover, these devices generate data to a great extent, originating a call for digital evidence in any investigation. Electronic evidence can turn out to be very significant if the evidence is analysed appropriately via forensics after being identified.
The admissibility of electronic evidence is not a present-day theory, it goes back with time but the evolution and innovation in the prevention of the production of evidence have changed for good concerning the fact that usage of electronic evidence is at surge. The introduction of the Information Technology Act 2000 concerning technology laws, led to various amendments to
the specific legal frameworks namely Indian Evidence Act 1872, Indian Penal code 1860, etc. which made electronic evidence admissible in India.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE
Electronic or digital evidence is the data stored within electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, etc., and can be extracted by forensic experts to use it as a piece of admissible evidence in the courtroom. Section 3 of the Indian Evidence defines evidence as “All the statements which are allowed in the court to be presented before it by the witnesses and have a connection with the matter of fact for further inquiry” Digital evidence plays a significant role in the modern world, keeping in mind the prolific usage of electronic devices. With the surge in the amount of data generated by digital devices, there is a high prospect of the discovery of electronic evidence. Accumulation of important data on a digital platform which can be presented as significant evidence in the court comes with a lot of security concerns. The major concern of the investigators is the preservation of digital evidence in a secure state with an assurance that that data is authentic, untouched, unaltered, and stored in a hard drive.
EVOLUTION AND INNOVATION OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE IN INDIA
The first half of the 20th century pretty much relied on paper but with time people shifted from paper to bits, due to the increase in the usage of digital communication methods over time the amount of data stored in digital form adequately increased. The shift from paper to digital data gave rise to an essential use of this information by bringing it to the court, but there was an expository question to the integrity of the digital evidence as alteration, malicious modification, destruction of the electronic evidence was at ease in the latter half of 20thcentury. The evolution of technology and information security prompted some methods for scrutinizing digital evidence, namely Checksum, One-way hash algorithm, Digital signature, etc, bearing some advantages and disadvantages. On Oct 17th, 2000 the Information Technology Act was enacted by the Indian government roused from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law(UNICITRAL) which resulted in various amendments to some specific legal statutes concerning digital evidence. In a recent case of Anvar P.K. v. P.K.Basheer and ors., the Supreme Court of India overruled the judgment of another notable case, State v. Navjot Sandhu by redefining the application of sections 63, 65 & 65B of the Indian Evidence Act which further enlightened the evidentiary value of electronic evidence in India.
LEGAL FRAMEWORKS REGULATING DIGITAL EVIDENCE IN INDIA
The introduction of the Information Technology Act, 2000 elucidated the electronic form of evidence stating it as an electronic record, section 2(1)(t) of the IT Act defines “Electronic Record” as the data generated or stored, an image or sound stored that is sent from one end and received on another in an electronic or digital form. The term ‘electronic record’ was included in the term ‘evidence’ under the Indian Evidence Act followed by the amendment in Section 92 of the Information Technology Act. Steering court proceedings to utilize electronic evidence as an essential piece of information requires specific provisions, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, regulates digital evidence in India.
• Section 45A of the evidence act talks about the opinion of the investigator who examines the electronic evidence as a relevant fact referred to under section 79A of IT Act 2000.
• Section 47A of the Indian Evidence Act states that the opinion of the certifying authority that issued the digital signature certificate will be a relevant fact when comes to the relevancy of an electronic signature.
• Electronic evidence must comply with the criteria stated under Section 65B to be deemed as an admissible piece of evidence in the courtroom. The paper on which the information of electronic record in printed or a form of media containing the information of such record will be admissible in any legal proceeding if the conditionsmentioned under section 65B(2) are fulfilled.
According to Section 65B of the Evidence Act, “The Data stored in an electronic record, whether it be the contents of a document or a conversation printed on paper, or stored, recorded, or copied in optical or magnetic media generated by a computer will be considered as a document and will be admissible as evidence without any further proof of the document.”
ADMISSIBILITY OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE IN INDIA VIS-À-VIS THE JUDICIAL INSTANCES
In the case of Anvar P.K. v. P.K. Basheer & Ors, as per the court, the certificate specified in Section (65)(B)(4), is required and does not come with an alternative. It is a unique clause that takes priority over the general requirements of Sections 63 and 65. The case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu was overturned to the extent that the certificate was now deemed necessary. In the same matter, it was stated that an oral admission on the substance of electronic evidence is irrelevant unless the electronic evidence’s authenticity is in dispute, as stated in Section 22 of the Evidence Act.
Further in the case of Sanjaysinh Ramrao Chavan v. Dattatray Gulabrao Phalke & Anr., “As the voice recorder is not submitted to inspection, there is no sense in emphasizing the translated version,” the court said, referring to the decision in Anvar PV’s case. The translation is questionable since it lacks a source. The two most important aspects of electronic evidence are the source and authenticity.” In Tomaso Bruno and Anr. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the relevance of electronic evidence and scientific procedures in the evidence-gathering process was demonstrated in this case. Procedural and electronic evidence under Sections 65A and 65B are admissible, as per the court.
In the recent case, Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal and others, a three-judge bench led by J. RF Nariman resolved the uncertainty surrounding multiple interpretations of Section 65(B)(4) and rejected Shafhi Mohammad’s decision, supporting the position that a certificate issued under this section is not an option among several, but a necessity.
Various other judgments have also addressed the requirement of the severe criteria stated in section 65B of the Evidence Act. The Delhi High Court supported the necessity of section 65B in Dharambir v. CBI, noting that they are for the development of the law.
In a recent Supreme Court decision, the conflicting viewpoints on section 65B of the Evidence Act were ultimately resolved. In 2014, the Supreme Court, in the case of Anvar P.K. v. P.K Basheer and Ors., took a positivist approach and concluded that, under the existing legal frameworks, section 65B is indeed required, and courts must implement the criteria outlined in the Section. If any modifications are anticipated, the Legislature must take the lead rather than the courts, which just obey the procedures declared by the law.
THE FUTURE OUTLOOK OF COURTS TRANSITIONING INTOTECHNOLOGICAL COMMUNISM AFTER THE PANDEMIC
The Covid-19 crisis has come to a head concern that has sparked debate for ages. Even though the concept of e-courts has been debated for some time, the Indian judicial system has not been able to keep up with it on a digital platform. Linked with a cycle of re-designing and simplifying court tactics, the Indian judiciary, both in its physical and virtual structures, is looking forward to a bright future in terms of the development and resolution of some of its long-standing concerns. While our nation is struggling with a national health and financial emergency, it is essential to think outside the box and reform the perspective of work culture and a high time now for the courts to accept the prevailing innovation. On the contrary technology will have a significant impact on future of Indian judiciary and legislature, since the technology that is yet to be discovered will evolve and restructure the way of living our lives.
The major point of contention in regards of electronic evidence is to ensure its authenticity, veracity, genuineness, and dependability for it to be accepted in court. Following the Supreme Court’s judgment in Anvar’s case, which established the standards for admission of electronic evidence, Indian courts have been expected to use a uniform approach and implement all available precautions for admitting and valuing electronic evidence.
It is now a well-established fact that any electronic evidence, even if it is a secondary evidence, must adhere to the provisions of Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act; it is typically inadmissible in a court of law without a certificate. Electronic gadgets can turn out to be extremely useful in investigations, but their usefulness is contingent on their compliance with the regulations of the Indian Evidence Act.
The laws regulating digital evidence in India made it clear that just including e-evidence in the legislation would not assist the case, the procedural issues that arose as a result of the usage of e-evidence should be addressed as soon as possible. Law, along with everything else, must evolve to keep up with the technological advancements. While nations like England have recognized this issue and implemented certain adjustments to their laws which resulted in electronic evidence being more effective. Although the courts have addressed the issues occasionally, it is the Legislature that should intercede for good.
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