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23 January, 2020

21 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Democracy Index
Coronavirus
UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP)
Commission for sub­categorisation of Other Backward Classes
India-Brazil agreement on legal and criminal cooperation International Relations
Amnesty International study
GS-III Vyommitra : ISRO’s half-humanoid
Pathalgadi Movement Miscellaneous
GS-II :
Democracy Index

Syllabus subtopic: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.

Prelims and Mains focus: About the Index and its findings on India and the world: about EIT and its various reports

News: The latest edition of the Democracy Index spells gloom for India. The world’s biggest democracy slipped 10 places in the 2019 global ranking to 51st place.

 

About the study

  • The report, “A year of democratic setbacks and popular protest”, published on Wednesday by The Economist Intelligence Unit — the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, which is the sister company to The Economist newspaper — records how global democracy fared, analysing 165 independent states and two territories.

 

India’s performance on the Index

  • India’s overall score fell from 7.23 to 6.9, on a scale of 0-10, within a year (2018-2019) — the country’s lowest since 2006.
  • India was graded in electoral process and pluralism (8.67), government functioning (6.79), political participation (6.67), political culture (5.63) and civil liberties (6.76).
  • In the Asia and Australasia region, India ranks eighth, behind Taiwan and Timor-Leste.

 

Reasons given for India’s low score

  • The survey attributes the primary cause of “the democratic regression” to “an erosion of civil liberties in the country”.

 

  • The report talks about the repeal of both Article 370 and Article 35A and how ahead of the move, “the government deployed a large number of troops in J&K, imposed various other security measures and placed local leaders under house arrest, including those with pro-India credentials.”

 

  • “The government also restricted Internet access in the State,” it notes. It says the NRC exercise in Assam excluded 1.9 million people from the final list, and that “the vast majority of people excluded from the NRC are Muslims.”

 

  • On the CAA, the report says, “The new citizenship law has enraged the large Muslim population, stoked communal tensions and generated large protests in major cities.”

 

  • The Index also categorises India under “flawed democracies”, countries that hold free and fair elections and where basic civil liberties are respected, but have significant weaknesses in aspects of democracy, such as problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.

 

  • According to the report, there are only 22 “full democracies” as compared to 54 “authoritarian regimes” and as many “flawed democracies,” that include the U.S.

 

Global score

  • The average global score also recorded its worst value ever, down from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44, driven by a sharp regression in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, a lesser one in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and by stagnation in the remaining regions that were covered.

 

  • Almost one-half (48.4%) of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort, although only 5.7% reside in a “full democracy”, down from 8.9% in 2015 as a result of the US being demoted from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in 2016.

 

  • The total score of some 68 countries declined from 2018, but almost as many (65) recorded an improvement. Thailand registered the biggest improvement in score owing to an election in March 2019, which was the first since the military coup d’état in May 2014, while China registered the greatest decline as discrimination against minorities, especially in Xinjiang, intensified, and digital surveillance of the population continued apace.

 

  • The report describes the year in Asia as one filled with “drama and tumult,” with Hong Kong being the epicentre of protest in the continent. Globally, “the sheer number of protests spanning different time zones” caught the attention of commentators everywhere, says the report, topped by Norway (9.87) and followed by Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand. North Korea (1.08) figures at the bottom.

 

 

About Economist Intelligence Unit

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is a British business within the Economist Group providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis, such as monthly country reports, five-year country economic forecasts, country risk service reports, and industry reports.

 

  • The EIU provides country, industry, and management analysis worldwide and incorporates the former Business International Corporation, a UK company acquired by its parent company in 1986. The EIU has several offices across the globe including two offices in China and one in Hong Kong.

 

Publications:

  1. E-readiness rankings
  2. Global Liveability Ranking
  3. Quality-of-Life Index
  4. Democracy Index
  5. CHAMPS (China)
  6. Consensus Economics: Surveys of International Economic Forecasts
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GS-II :
Coronavirus

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.

Prelims and Mains focus: About the Coronavirus: its origins; symptoms and measures taken to contain it

News: Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on January 22, heightening global fears of contagion from an infection suspected to have come from animals.

 

Background

  • The previously unknown and contagious coronavirus strain emerged from the central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States. Officials believe the origin to be a market where wildlife is traded illegally.

 

  • With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China's main industrial and commercial centre and an important transport hub, home to the country's largest inland port and gateway to its giant Three Gorges hydroelectric dam.

 

  • The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading.

 

Global health emergency?

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) began an emergency meeting to rule if the outbreak was a global health emergency.

 

  • The virus has spread from Wuhan around China to population centres including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong. Abroad, Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.

 

  • The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures.

 

  • A first case of the virus emerged in Hong Kong on January 22, media reported. The patient arrived via high-speed railway from the mainland and had been quarantined.

 

  • New cases may appear as China has stepped up monitoring. But there was no evidence of “super-spreaders” capable of disseminating the virus more widely, as happened during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak. SARS was thought to have crossed to humans from civet cats sold for food.

 

 

Precautions taken worldwide

  • Airports round the world have stepped up screening of people from China.
  • Russia's consumer safety watchdog said it had strengthened its sanitary and quarantine control, Britain said it would start enhanced monitoring of passengers arriving from Wuhan and Singapore started screening all passengers arriving from China.
  • Mexico said it was investigating a potential case of the virus.
  • North Korea banned foreign tourists from January 22 due to the virus, several foreign tour operators said, losing one of its main sources of foreign currency.
  • India: Passengers are being screened at airports and no cases have been detected. A travel advisory had been issued and posted on the Health Ministry’s website

 

About the Coronavirus

  • The coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause a lot of mild to life-threatening diseases.

 

  • It is the cousin of the more popular Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus. Mostly these viruses affect animals and do not spread to human beings. However, there are seven strains of this virus that can affect humans.

 

  • The symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and difficulty in breathing. In severe cases, the condition can progress to pneumonia, kidney failure and even death. For now, there is no vaccine for the new virus.

 

  • All the six coronaviruses known to humans, including the one that caused severe acute respiratory disease, originated from wild mammals.

 

  • The virus is constantly adapting and mutating which makes controlling the outbreak a challenge for the authorities.

 

  • The virus can spread via human-to-human contact and can also spread via respiratory transmission.
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GS-II :
UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP)

Syllabus subtopic:

  • India and its Neighborhood- Relations.
  • Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: About the issues raised at the meeting by Pakistan; about UNMOGIP and India’s position on it; about WEF

 

News: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday urged the international powers, including the UN and the U.S., to help de­escalate tensions with India, saying they “must act” to prevent the two nuclear- armed countries from reaching a point of no return.

  • He also claimed that India might attempt to raise tensions at the border in order to divert attention from domestic protests against the new citizenship law and the Kashmir issue.
  • Mr. Khan also demanded that UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) be allowed along the Line of Control.

 

Background

Mr. Khan, is in Davos, Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum annual meeting.

 

About UNMOGIP

  • Established: January 1949
  • Location:  India and Pakistan 
  • Headquarters:  Islamabad (November to April) and Srinagar (May to October)
  • Method of financing: UNMOGIP is funded through the UN regular budget

 

  • The first group of United Nations military observers arrived in the mission area on 24 January of 1949 to supervise the ceasefire between India and Pakistan in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

  • These observers, under the command of the Military Adviser appointed by the UN Secretary-General, formed the nucleus of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

 

  • Following renewed hostilities of 1971, UNMOGIP has remained in the area to observe developments pertaining to the strict observance of the ceasefire of 17 December 1971 and report thereon to the Secretary-General.

 

  • India maintains that the UNMOGIP, has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Shimla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the LoC.
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GS-II :
Commission for sub­categorisation of Other Backward Classes

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the commission: its mandate and significance; Article 340

 

News: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a six- month extension in the tenure of the commission to examine sub­categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC).

  • The Cabinet also approved an addition to the commission’s terms of reference.

 

Background:

  • The Commission was constituted under Article 340 of the Constitution with the approval of President on 2nd October, 2017 with an initial time frame of 12 weeks.

 

 

Why did the commission sought an extension?

  • The commission has come to the view that it would require some more time to submit its report since the repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription, etc., appearing in the existing Central list of OBCs need to be cleared.
  • Hence the commission has sought extension of its term by six months, that is up to July 31, 2020 and also addition in its existing terms of reference.

 

Mandate of the Commission

  • The commission has been appointed to look into the existing list of OBCs and categorise the castes that have not benefitted from reservation in government jobs and education.

 

  • It is also expected to give its recommendations to ensure that these marginalised communities get the benefits of various schemes.

 

  • The commission will now also study the various entries in the Central list of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.

 

  • The expenditure involved are related to the establishment and administration costs of the Commission, which would continue to be borne by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.

 

  • The commission is headed by the G. Rohini, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.

 

 

Significance

The Communities in the existing list of OBCs which have not been able to get any major benefit of the scheme of reservation for OBCs for appointment in Central Government posts & for admission in Central Government Educational Institutions are expected to be benefitted upon implementation of the recommendations of the Commission. The Commission is likely to make recommendations for benefit of such marginalized communities in the Central List of OBCs.

 

Article 340 in the Indian Constitution

Appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes

  1. The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition and as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the Union or any State the conditions subject to which such grants should be made, and the order appointing such Commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission.

 

  1.  A Commission so appointed shall investigate the matters referred to them and present to the President a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendations as they think proper .

 

  1. The President shall cause a copy of the report so presented together with a memorandum explaining the action taken thereon to be laid before each House of Parliament.
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GS-II : International Relations
India-Brazil agreement on legal and criminal cooperation

Syllabus subtopic: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the Brazilian President’s visit: agreements to be signed and their significance; about India-Brazil relations

 

News: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an agreement on bilateral legal and criminal cooperation to be sealed during the coming visit of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.

 

Context: Brazilian President Bolsonaro is scheduled to arrive on Friday to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.

 

Aim of the agreement

  • To enhance effectiveness of both the countries in investigation and prosecution of crime through cooperation and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

 

  • It is expected to bolster counter­terror cooperation between the two countries.

 

Other agreements to be signed

Three pacts, covering:

  1. research in minerals and mining,
  2. child behaviour and
  3. energy cooperation.

 

MoU for cooperation in the oil and natural gas sector

  • The MoU in the energy sector will allow for joint exploration in the petroleum and natural gas segment.

 

  • Under the MoU, both sides will work towards establishing cooperation in the E&P (exploration & production) initiatives in Brazil and India, research & development in this sector, exploring collaboration in liquefied natural gas projects in Brazil, India and third countries.

 

  • It will also encourage collaboration in oil energy and environmental issues, including energy policies such as energy efficiency, energy research development and expansion of the regional energy infrastructure networks.
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GS-II :
Amnesty International study

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.
  • Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the report and its findings; about Amnesty and its objectives

 

News: Amnesty International India study of thousands of tweets found that women politicians are trolled more on social media.

 

How was the study conducted?

  • The data set involved 1,14,716 random samples of 7 million total tweets mentioning 95 Indian women politicians between March and May 2019. Based on nomination papers, the sample of women were MPs in the two most recent Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections, MLAs as of February 2019, party office-bearers and spokeswomen, current and former chief ministers, and members from reserved constituencies.

 

  • The categories of online abuse include threats of physical or sexual violence, caste or religious slurs, and sexist discrimination. The Decoders read tweets in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.

 

  • Between July and November 2019, the organisation crowd sourced 1,907 digital volunteers, who were given a random set of tweets. The decoder marked tweets as “abusive” or “problematic” as well as the nature of abuse. Each tweet was marked by multiple people, amounting to 4,74,383 total answers.

 

  • The data was then submitted to a team of data scientists “to validate and analyse”. Amnesty said it conducted this analysis in the US and the UK in 2018 to build the world’s “largest crowd-sourced dataset of online abuse against women”.

 

Key findings of the study

  • Over the Lok Sabha election period last summer, one in every seven tweets mentioning women politicians in India were “problematic” or “abusive”, amounting to over 100 such tweets to each woman politician every day.

 

  • Non-BJP women politicians faced 56.7 per cent more online abuse than women politicians from the BJP, according to the study.

 

  • As part of a global quantitative analysis on women contesting elections, the study also found that Indian women politicians faced far more online abuse (13.8 per cent of tweets) than their counterparts in the UK or the US on Twitter (7.1 per cent).

 

  • Muslim women received almost 55.5 per cent more problematic or abusive content than women from other religions.

 

  • Examples of sexist abuses from India included Hindi slurs for ‘witch’ and ‘prostitute’ as well as threats to send the politician concerned to Pakistan.

 

What did the report recommend?

Given the significance of Twitter among the political elite, the report suggests, “Twitter is failing in its responsibility to respect women’s rights online.” It recommends more focus on regional languages in India, continuously evaluating its efforts against online violence against women, and more transparency about its content moderation process.

 

 

About Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty or AI)

  • It is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with its headquarters in the United Kingdom focused on human rights.

 

  • The stated mission of the organization is to campaign for “a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.”

 

  • It works to mobilize public opinion to generate pressure on governments that let abuse take place. Amnesty considers capital punishment to be "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights.

 

  • The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its “defence of human dignity against torture,” and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.

 

  • In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has the third longest history, after the International Federation for Human Rights and broadest name recognition, and is believed by many to set standards for the movement as a whole.
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GS-III :
Vyommitra : ISRO’s half-humanoid

Syllabus subtopic: Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about Vyommitra and the functions it can perform; its significance; about Gaganyaan

 

News: The ISRO unveiled its first ‘woman’ astronaut, named Vyommitra, to an international gathering in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

 

About Vyommitra

  • Vyommitra (vyoma-space, mitra-friend) the prototype of the half-humanoid, made for the first unmanned Gaganyaan mission.

 

  • The artificial intelligence-based robotic system is being  developed at a robotics lab at the VSSC in Thiruvananthapuram for an unmanned flight of ISRO’s GSLV III rocket in December 2020, which, along with a second unmanned flight in July 2021, will serve as the test of  ISRO’s preparedness for its maiden manned space mission, Gaganyaan, being targeted for 2022 to mark 75 years of India’s independence.

 

  • Vyommitra, equipped with a head, two arms and a torso, is built to mimic crew activity inside the crew module of Gaganyaan. It will have a human-like face, with lips synchronised for movement to mimic speech.

 

  • Once it is fully developed, Vyommitra will be able to use equipment on board the spacecraft’s crew module, like safety mechanisms and switches, as well as receive and act on commands sent from ground stations.

 

Functions it can perform

  • It can monitor through module parameters, alert crew members and perform life support operations.

 

  • It can perform activities like switch panel operations.  It can also be a companion and converse with the astronauts, recognise them and respond to their queries.

 

  • Attaining launch and orbital postures, responding to the environment, generating warnings, replacing carbon dioxide canisters, operating switches, monitoring of the crew module, receiving voice commands, responding via speech (bilingual),’’ are among its functions listed.

 

Significance

  • The unmanned test flight with a humanoid will be the first human rated flight of the GSLV Mk III.

 

  • With ISRO set to be the first to attempt to send a manned mission to space without carrying out tests with animals, the flight with Vyommitra will serve as a test of the capabilities of the rocket system to take a human to space and back. Among the key parameters that will be tested is the efficacy of the crew module where astronauts will fly, whether its environment is conducive for human flight, and the safety factor.

 

Is this the first time ISRO is deploying a robotic system?

No. ISRO has used robotic and autonomous system for many of its missions, including the recent Chandrayaan-2 mission where the Vikram lander was functioning in autonomous mode — using data stored in its systems — while attempting to make a soft landing on the moon’s surface.

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GS-III : Miscellaneous
Pathalgadi Movement

Syllabus subtopic: Linkages between Development and Spread of Extremism.

Prelims and Mains focus: About the Pathalgadi movement and its impact on the internal security of India; About Birsa Munda and his contribution

News: Seven persons were taken hostage and later killed, allegedly by armed supporters of the Pathalgadi self-rule movement, in a village in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, on Wednesday.

  • The killings were said to be a fallout of an old rivalry between supporters of the Pathalgadi movement and those against it.

 

Background

  • In its first cabinet decision on December 29, the Hemant Soren government dropped all cases registered against people during the Pathalgadi movement of 2017-2018.

 

  • The previous BJP government in the state headed by Raghubar Das had reportedly booked more than 10,000 people for sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code for participating in the movement.

 

 

What is Pathalgadi?

  • ‘Pathalgadi’ literally means carving a stone — it is an ancient tradition in the tribal communities of Jharkhand. Adivasis usually erected engraved stones to mark the birth or death of a person.

 

  • The practice took on a new meaning after tribal activists, former IAS officer B.D. Sharma (now deceased) and IPS officer Bandi Oraon, initiated the practice of erecting stones outside villages after the Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Area) Act came into existence in 1996. That Act empowered the gram sabhas or panchayats to safeguard and preserve their traditions, community spaces and culture, and gave them the right to mandatory consultation in land acquisition.

 

  • The two civil servants got stones engraved with the provisions of the PESA Act to spread awareness among the tribals about their rights.

 

  • These green-painted stones are usually 15-feet long and 4-feet wide, and are found in four districts of Jharkhand, including Khunti, the birthplace of Adivasi icon Birsa Munda. The stones include excerpts from the PESA Act and the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India, which deals with the administration and control of ‘scheduled areas’ as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in that area.

 

  • The stones signify self-rule by the local gram panchayat, declaring the village as sovereign territory and prohibiting the entry of outsiders into the village. The supporters of the movement also declare the gram sabha as the highest authority, and refuse to obey the state and central governments.

 

CNT and SPT acts

  • The (Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act) CNT Act was enacted in 1908, eight years after the death of Birsa Munda. This Act extends to the north and south Chotanagpur and Palamau divisions.

 

  • The (Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act) SNT Act was passed in 1949, extending to Dumka, Sahibganj, Godda, Deoghar and Pakur in the Santhal Pargana region in eastern Jharkhand.

 

 

  • Together, these Acts granted special protection and land rights to the tribals and prohibited the transfer of tribal land to non-tribals or the commercial use of the land without the permission of the concerned gram sabha.

 

BJP govt’s ordinances

  • In May 2016, the BJP government introduced two ordinances — the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 (Amendment) Ordinance and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949 (Amendment) Ordinance, which enabled commercial use of tribal land and made it easily transferable. The Act empowered the government to procure agricultural land from tribals for non-agricultural purposes.

 

  • The Pathalgadi practice regained prominence after the ordinances were brought in, with tribal people erecting new stones as a mark of protest. They named it a battle for “jal-jangal-zameen” (water, jungles and land).

 

  • The ordinances were passed by the Jharkhand assembly in June 2017, but after objections from political parties like the JMM, Congress, the Left as well as residents of the state, Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu asked the government to reconsider its decision. The government later withdrew the ordinances.

 

Violence over Pathalgadi

  • However, clashes between the establishment and the local population continued and turned violent, leading to allegations of the movement becoming more radicalised and fuelled by separatism.

 

  • In June 2018, five women of an NGO, who were in Khunti district to raise awareness against human trafficking, were allegedly abducted and raped. The police blamed leaders of the Pathalgadi movement for the crime.
  • According to a report, more than 10,000 people were booked for sedition between June 2017 and July 2018, when the movement was at its peak, which is “possibly the highest number of people booked at one time in one district anywhere in India”. These people were booked for “exciting, or attempting to excite feelings of disaffection against the government”.

 

  • Thereafter, the local residents decided to boycott the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

 

About Birsa Munda

  • Bisra Munda was a folk hero and a tribal freedom fighter hailing from the Munda tribe. He was a spearhead behind the Millenarian movement that arose in the Bihar and Jharkhand belt in the 19th century under the British colonisation. He is also known as ‘Dharti Abba’ or the Earth Father.

 

  • Bisra wanted to reform the tribal society and so, he urged them to let go of beliefs in witchcraft and instead, stressed on the importance of prayer, staying away from alcohol, having faith in God and observing a code of conduct. Based on these, he started the faith of ‘Birsait’.

 

  • Bisra started a movement called ‘Ulgulan’, or ‘The Great Tumult’. His struggle against the exploitation and discrimination against tribals led to a big hit against the British government in the form of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act being passed in 1908. The act restricted the passing on of land from the tribal people to non-tribals.
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