IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


18th February, 2020


Women in Army: What Supreme Court said

The Supreme Court on Monday brought women officers in 10 streams of the Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects, setting aside longstanding objections of the government.

Background of the case:

-       The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992.

-       They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.

-       In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers.

-       They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.

-        Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme, or to continue under the erstwhile WSES.



Court order:

-       High court ruled that Women officers of the Air Force and Army on SSC who had sought permanent commission but were not granted that status, would be entitled to PC at par with male SSC officers.

-       However, this benefit was only available to women officers in service who had instituted proceedings before the High Court, and had retired during the pendency of the writ petitions.

-       The Defence Ministry did not implement those directions.

Supreme Court orders:

-       Supreme Court held that they are “based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women.

-       It only shows the need “to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army”.

-       The SC has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.

-       It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant aspect of the judgment.

-       Government argument screamed of the age-old patriarchal notion that domestic obligations rested only with women.

Argument of the government:

Government justified the proposal:

-       limitations of judicial review on policy issues,

-       occupational hazards,

-       Rationalization on physiological limitations for employment in staff appointments.

-       Women ran the risk of capture by enemy and being taken prisoner of war.

-       Women would have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family.

-       Government hailed women as physiologically unfit for answering the “call beyond duty” of the Army.

Impact of Judgement:

-       Women officers will be eligible to tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers.

-       It would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.

-       If women officers had served only in staff, they would not have gone beyond the rank of Colonel.

-       In junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.

-       Bigger shift will take place in the culture, norms, and values of the rank and file of the Army.

Reference: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/women-in-army-what-supreme-court-said-6273177/


India’s bird population suffers long-term decline

State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB) assessment:

-       Several spectacular birds, many of them endemic to the sub-continent, face a growing threat from :

-       loss of habitat due to human activity,

-       widespread presence of toxins, including pesticides;

-       Hunting and trapping for the pet trade.

-       For every bird species that was found to be increasing in numbers over the long term, 11 have suffered losses.

-       Endemics such as the Rufous-fronted Prinia, Nilgiri Thrush, Nilgiri Pipit and Indian vulture were confirmed as suffering current decline.

-       The SoIB was produced using a base of 867 species (among 1,333 birds ever recorded in India), and analysed with the help of data uploaded by birdwatchers to the online platform, eBird.



On General bird:

-       The common sparrow, long seen as declining in urban spaces, has a stable population overall.

-       Peafowl, on the other hand, are rising in numbers, expanding their range into places such as Kerala.

-       The Great Indian Bustard (GIB), is being brought back from the brink.

-       raptors overall are in decline, with ‘open country’ species such as the Pallid and Montagu Harriers, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Red-necked Falcon suffering the most.

-       Migratory shorebirds, along with gulls and terns, seem to have declined the most among waterbirds.

-       Meat-eater populations have fallen by half, and birds that depend on insects exclusively have also suffered over the long term.


-       Updating to the Red List of endangered species published by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) using the SoIB.

-       Special emphasis should be on removing gaps in data, and urgent emphasis on habitats of species of high concern, notably grasslands, scrublands, wetlands and the Western Ghats.

About SoIB:

-       It was produced in a partnership that included ATREE, BNHS, and Foundation for Ecological Security, NCF, and National Biodiversity Authority of India, National Centre for Biological Sciences, SACON (Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History), Wetlands International, WII and WWF.


Google to wind down free public Wi-Fi service at rail stations

Reason behind the move:

-       Better data plans and improving mobile connectivity have made it “simpler and cheaper” for users to get online.

-       The challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable, especially for our partners

About the Program:

-       The programme was kick-started in India in 2015 as a partnership between Google, Indian Railways and RailTel to bring fast, free public Wi-Fi to over 400 of the busiest railway stations by mid-2020.

-       The company crossed that number by June 2018, following which more locations were added across the country in partnership with telecommunication companies, ISPs and local authorities.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/google-to-close-station-which-provides-free-public-wifi-in-railway-stations/article30841811.ece


Government unveils plan for research on ‘indigenous’ cows

To be funded by multiple institutions, the initiative, SUTRA PIC, is led by Department of Science and Technology.

About SUTRA PIC (Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows):

-       It has the Department of Biotechnology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) among others and the Indian Council of Medical Research as partners.

Five Themes:

-       Uniqueness of Indigenous Cows,

-       Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Medicine and Health,

-        Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Agricultural Applications,

-       Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Food and Nutrition,

-       Prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items.

Purpose of the scheme:

-       perform scientific research on complete characterisation of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows;

-       scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods;

-       Development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian-origin cow.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/government-unveils-plan-for-research-on-indigenous-cows/article30845071.ece


Why are you holding back names reiterated by SC Collegium, judge asks govt

Court observation:

-       Why government was “holding back” recommendations for appointments to various High Courts even after reiteration by the Collegium.

-       Once the Supreme Court Collegium reiterates the name of a candidate for appointment, then you [government] cannot hold back.

-       Now it is like by the time one set of vacancies is filled, another lot arises and neutralises the process.

-       The court ordered the Registrar Generals of all the High Courts to submit reports of the pending judicial vacancies and likely ones in the future within four weeks.

Government argument:

-       The government’s delay is largely because it thoroughly combs the antecedents of the candidate, leaving no room for error.

-       The process, on an average, takes at least 127 days.

-       The collegium delays the appointment process quite as the government.

-       The judiciary takes 119 days on an average merely to forward the file to the government.

Pending in High court:

-       High courts suffer at least 40% vacancies.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/why-delay-appointments-asks-supreme-court/article30845600.ece


Peninsular command by next year end, theatre commands by 2022: Gen. Rawat

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat comments:

Possible restructuring of the command:

-       An Indian Ocean-centered Peninsular Command, possibly formed by merging the Eastern and Western Naval Commands, should start shaping up by the end of next year.

-       Security of peninsular India should be the responsibility of one Commander.

-       Can we integrate the Eastern and Western Naval Commands and call it Peninsular Command?

-       Spotlighted the importance of upgrading airstrips on the islands in the Andaman and Nicobar chain as static bases.

-       One or two theatre commands will man the border with China.

-       Jammu and Kashmir should be a separate theatre, including the IB (International Boundary) part.

Other Comments:

-       Military diplomacy also must be prioritised.

-       India has signed several logistics agreements with a number of countries, which should be leveraged for operational turnaround.

Need for Peninsular command:

-       Chief of Naval Staff must look at the “big picture”, and stressed that the “Indian Ocean region is one entity”.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/peninsular-command-by-next-year-end-theatre-commands-by-2022-gen-rawat/article30840974.ece


-        They were to be however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.


-       While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.

-       They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.