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4th May Current Affairs

The debate on the national language

(GS-II: Important Constitutional Amendments)

In News:

Remarks by a Hindi actor to the effect that Hindi is the national language of India sparked a controversy recently over the status of the language under the Constitution.

Is there any national language?

The Constitution of India has not given any language a national status.

What is the status of Hindi?

Under Article 343 of the Constitution, the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The international form of Indian numerals will be used for official purposes.

In the constituent assembly discussions, it was decided that English would continue to be used for a period of 15 years.

The Constitution said that after 15 years, Parliament may by law decide on the use of English and the use of the Devanagari form of numbers for specified purposes.

Article 351:

It is the Union government’s duty to promote the spread of Hindi so that it becomes “a medium of expression for all elements of the composite culture of India” and also to assimilate elements of forms and expressions from Hindustani and languages listed in the Eighth Schedule.

Why was there opposition to the imposition of Hindi?

The Official Languages Act, 1963 was passed in anticipation of the expiry of the 15-year period during which the Constitution originally allowed the use of English for official purposes.

Its operative section provided for the continuing use of English, notwithstanding the expiry of the 15-year period.

Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in 1959 that English would remain in official use and as the language of communication between the Centre and the States.

The Official Languages Act, 1963, did not explicitly incorporate this assurance, causing apprehensions in some States as the January 1965 deadline neared.

At that time, PM Lal Bahadur Shastri reiterated the government’s commitment to move towards making Hindi the official language for all purposes.

It created an apprehension that Hindi would be imposed in such a way that the future employment prospects of those who do not speak Hindi will be bleak.

Imposing the Hindi language:

  • Can affect the learning ability of non-Hindi speakers thereby affecting their self-confidence.
  • Can also threaten other languages and reduce diversity.
  • Could also threaten the diversity and federalism of India.

What is the three-language formula?

Since the 1960s, the Centre’s education policy documents speak of teaching three languages — Hindi, English and one regional language in Hindi-speaking States, and Hindi, English and the official regional language in other States.

In practice, however, only some States teach both their predominant language and Hindi, besides English.

In States where Hindi is the official language, a third language is rarely taught as a compulsory subject.

Vaccine hesitancy

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

While last year, before the second wave, vaccine hesitancy was ascribed to the low uptake, it is quite likely now that people are exercising their option of waiting for more kinds of the vaccine.

Details:

The current attitude is foregrounded in the ground reality that daily infections are low despite a complete opening up of normal life.

What’s the Concern?

A vaccine is one of the essential weapons in the armamentarium in our war against the pandemic. Any hesitation in accepting the vaccine will have a negative consequence on our effort to control the pandemic.

Need of the hour:

Proactively address the reasons behind this hesitancy.

Give confidence to the public by discussing the robustness of various processes involved in drug/vaccine development — clinical trial designs, conduct, monitoring, analysis, reporting and the regulatory reviews that happen before it is approved.

This will make the public aware about the rigorous processes followed for clinical trials, and the approval, as followed by regulators.

Vaccine Hesitancy: A generation at risk:

Vaccine hesitancy is defined by WHO as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services”.

It was one of 10 threats to global health this year.

National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID

(GS-III: Important Security Agencies)

In News:

Union Minister for Home and Cooperation Amit Shah recently inaugurated the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) campus in Bengaluru.

What is NATGRID?

Envisaged as a robust mechanism to track suspects, the NATGRID can help in preventing terrorist attacks with real-time data and access to classified information like immigration, banking, individual taxpayers, air and train travels.

In 2010, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had given approval to the Rs 3,400-crore NATGRID project.

C-DAC Pune has been roped in as Technology Partner and IIT, Bhilai as Plan Management Consultant for the development of NATGRID solution.

Who can access the data?

It will be a medium for 11 Central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) to access data on a secured platform. The data will be procured by NATGRID from 21 providing organisations such as the telecom, tax records, bank, immigration etc.

Criticisms:

NATGRID is facing opposition on charges of possible violations of privacy and leakage of confidential personal information.

Its efficacy in preventing terror has also been questioned given that no state agency or police force has access to its database thus reducing chances of immediate, effective action.

According to few experts, digital databases such as NATGRID can be misused. Over the last two decades, the very digital tools that terrorists use have also become great weapons to fight the ideologies of violence.

Intelligence agencies have also opposed amid fears that it would impinge on their territory and possibly result in leaks on the leads they were working on to other agencies.

But, Why do we need NATGRID?

The danger from not having a sophisticated tool like the NATGRID is that it forces the police to rely on harsh and coercive means to extract information in a crude and degrading fashion.

After every terrorist incident, it goes about rounding up suspects—many of who are innocent. If, instead, a pattern search and recognition system were in place, these violations of human rights would be much fewer.

Natgrid would also help the Intelligence Bureau keep a tab on persons with suspicious backgrounds.

The police would have access to all his data and any movement by this person would also be tracked with the help of this data base.

Cannot force vaccination

(GS-II: Separation of powers)

In News:

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) of India has ruled that no one can be forced to get vaccinated because bodily autonomy and integrity are protected under Article 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution.

Background:

A petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking disclosure of vaccine trial data and a stay on vaccine mandates.

What has the court said?

The court made it clear that vaccines cannot be made mandatory, and no person can be forced to get vaccinated against his or her wishes.

This is because the right to bodily integrity of a person under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to refuse vaccination.

But, in the case of “communitarian health”, the government is entitled to regulate issues.

The Courts also had the authority to review whether the government’s interventions met the “three-fold” requirements as expounded in the Constitution Bench judgment in S. Puttaswamy case (the judgment which upheld the right of privacy as a constitutional right under Article 21).

What next?

The court directed the Centre to set up a virtual public platform at the earliest to facilitate individuals and private doctors to report adverse vaccine events without compromising their privacy.

The court directed the Union government to ensure that the findings and results of the relevant phases of clinical trials of vaccines already approved by the regulating authorities for administration to children be made public at the earliest.

Regarding segregation of vaccine trial data, subject to privacy of individuals, all trials conducted and to be subsequently conducted, all data must be made available to the public without further delay.

Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India:

In 2017, a 9-judge bench of the SC delivered a unanimous verdict affirming that the Constitution of India guarantees to each individual a fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Three-fold test laid down in the judgement:

The courts had the authority to determine whether the government’s intrusions into an individual’s personal autonomy satisfies the “three-fold” conditions.

The three-fold requirements include:

The activity must be backed by a law.

The state must have a legitimate interest to bring such a law that collides with fundamental right.

The state’s infringement must be proportional to its aim.