30 October, 2019

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GS-I : Modern History
Assamese Bhaona to make an English debut in Abu Dhabi


Almost 500 years after saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardeva experimented with the literary language of Brajavali, Assam’s Bhaona has now reached foreign shores in an English avatar.


  • Entertainment played a major role in the neo-Vaishnavite movement that Sankardeva started in Assam.
  • He wrote his prose in Sanskrit but used Assamese and Brajavali to develop Borgeet, a new form of spiritual music, and Bhaona, a mythology-based theatrical performance, and monastic dances that evolved into the classical Sattriya.

Why Brajavali?

  • Sankardeva needed to connect with his Assamese masses, who did not expect the divine characters of his plays to speak in the common man’s language. So he created the Brajavali, a literary language limited to theatrical usage.

How English Boano evolved?

  • The need to connect with an audience not conversant with Assamese, not to speak of Brajavali, was the reason why three siblings from Sonitpur district’s Jamugurihat conceived the English Bhaona a couple of years ago.
  • The experiment has taken them to Abu Dhabi where they are set to stage two Bhaonas — Keli Gopala (‘Playful Krishna’) and Ravana Badha (‘Slaying Ravana’)


  • Conservatives have been critical of the trio for “deviating” from the pure form of Sankardeva and his disciple Madhabdeva’s creations with their “English misadventure”.
  • Transporting an entire troupe with their costumes and array of musical instruments is unwieldy besides being expensive.

Satrriya dance:

  • The Sattriya dance form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the great Vaishnava saint and reformer of Assam, Mahapurusha Sankaradeva as a powerful medium for propagation of the Vaishnava faith.
  • The dance form evolved and expanded as a distinctive style of dance later on. This neo-Vaishnava treasure of Assamese dance and drama has been, for centuries, nurtured and preserved with great commitment by the Sattras i.e. Vaishnava maths or monasteries. Because of its religious character and association with the Sattras, this dance style has been aptly named Sattriya.
  • Sankaradeva introduced this dance form by incorporating different elements from various treatises, local folk dances with his own rare outlook.
  • There were two dance forms prevalent in Assam before the neo-Vaishnava movement such as Ojapali and Devadasi with many classical elements. Two varieties of Ojapali dances are still prevalent in Assam i.e. Sukananni or Maroi Goa Ojah and Vyah Goa Ojah. Sukananni Oja paali is of Sakti cult and Vyah Goa Oja paali is of Vaishnava cult. Sankaradeva included Vyah Goa Ojah into his daily rituals in Sattra.
  • Till now Vyah Goa Ojah is a part of rituals of the Sattras of Assam. The dancers in a Oja paali chorus not only sing and dance but also explain the narration by gestures and stylized movements.
  • As far as Devadasi dance is concerned, resemblance of a good number of rhythmic syllables and dance postures along with footwork with Sattriya dance is a clear indication of the influence of the former on the latter.
  • Other visible influences on Sattriya dance are those from Assamese folk dances namely Bihu, Bodos etc. Many hand gestures and rhythmic syllables are strikingly similar in these dance forms.
  • Sattriya dance tradition is governed by strictly laid down principles in respect of hastamudras, footworks, aharyas, music etc. This tradition, has two distinctly separate streams - the Bhaona-related repertoire starting from the Gayan-Bhayanar Nach to the Kharmanar Nach.

Source: The Hindu

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Expressing concern over the functioning of parliamentary institutions in the country and decline of pubflic trust in them, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has come out with a 15-point reform charter.

This is the new political normal to enable effective functioning of the Parliament and State Legislatures.

The 15-point charter :

• Political Parties has to ensure attendance of at least 50% of their legislators to all sessions.

Review of anti-defection law.

• Review of the whip system which is restricting reasonable dissent even.

• Set up special courts for time-bound adjudication of criminal complaints against legislators.

• Pre and post legislative impact assessment.

• Address problem of rising number of legislators with criminal background.

• Governments should be responsive to opposition and opposition to be responsible and constructive while resorting to available parliamentary instruments

Consensus on the proposal for simultaneous elections.

• Steps should be taken for the effective functioning of the Parliamentary Committees.

• The representation of women in legislatures needs to be raised.

Why is 15 point reform charter is necessary?

The present pitfalls of our parliamentary democracy are too well known to be elaborated. Briefly, these include:

Declining number of sittings of legislatures.

Persistent disruptions.

Declining quality btof legislatures with criminal record.

High degree of absenteeism.

Inadequate representation of women.

Rising money and muscle power in elections.zt47w

Lack of inner democracy in functioning of the political parties.

Poor knowledge, low argumentative power of the masses, negative influences of poverty and economic disparities.

Faulty ‘First Pass the Post (FPTP) election system.

Society’s perpetual habit of accepting all permeable state to control public and private affairs.

Way forward:

As an institution, Parliament is central to the very idea of democracy and was assigned a pivotal role in our Constitution by the founding fathers of the republic.

Yet, so many decades later, it has neither evolved nor matured as it could, might or should have. If anything, slowly but surely, it has diminished in stature and significance.

Source: PIB

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The government has released National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) which aims to create National Digital Health Eco-System, in public domain. Health Ministry has sought inputs from various stakeholders on its vision.

Findings of the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB):

It lays out the ‘building blocks’ for the implementation of the National Health Stack (NHS), which aims to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) in leveraging health records.

Keeping true to the government’s larger agenda, of ‘data as a public good’, the blueprint proposes the linking of multiple databases to generate greater and granular data that can be leveraged by the public as well as private sector – including insurance companies, hospitals, apps and researchers.

The blueprint proposes a National Digital Health Mission “as a purely government organisation with complete functional autonomy adopting some features of some of the existing National Information Utilities like UIDAI and GSTN.”

The policy document essentially lays the implementation plan and defines the ‘building blocks’ of the NHS. In doing so, it lays down the following objectives:

To establish national and regional registries to create single source of truth in respect of Clinical Establishments, Healthcare Professionals, Health Workers and Pharmacies.

Creating a system of Personal Health Records accessible to the citizens and to the service providers based on citizen-consent.

Promoting the adoption of open standards by all the actors in the National Digital Health Ecosystem.

Promoting Health Data Analyticsand Medical Research.


This National Blueprint illustrates yet another example of the Centre moving forward with a major digitisation program involving the data of millions of citizens without a data protection law in place.

Data security is a prerequisite for any data movement. Currently, data privacy in health is a gray area.

Data researchers and activists have expressed concerns about the development of this policy, which proposes a health data set-up on a foundation of India Stack – a bouquet of privately-owned proprietary software applications.

Source: PIB

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Implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in a piecemeal manner


The Supreme Court’s recent judgement in the Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case has revived the need for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India.

Constitutional provisions:

  • Indian Constitution has a provision for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy, which says “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

What is the Uniform Civil Code?

  • The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India replaces the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set of laws governing every citizen.

Historical Background:

  • Indian Constitution provides certain strong safeguards in Part III, for the protection of individual rights irrespective of their differences with respect to caste, creed, religion, race, sex and place of birth.
  • It is universally accepted principle that one has to give prime importance to one’s religion, tradition, culture and customs as it comes under personal realm.
  • The provision enshrined under Articles 25-28 of our Constitution provides religious freedom to all religions. It paved the way to frame personal laws as suiting to one’s religion and culture.
  • Traditionally, under the basic feature of Secularism, every religion is left free with a discretion to frame their own personal laws and keeping them away from judicial clutch.
  • In a few instances it was found that under the guise of this religious freedoms, personal laws came in frequent conflict with other fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14-15 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life). These articles in our constitution act as a watchdog
  • Almost all personal laws clearly manifest certain gender-discriminatory provisions and have been challenged in the courts with the courts recurrently stressing on the need for a UCC.


  • Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, 1985 case:
    • In this case, the woman claimed maintenance from her husband under Sec.125 CrPC after she was given triple talaq. The Supreme Court clearly ruled in the woman’s favour.
    • The Supreme Court provided that the Muslim women are entitled to maintenance from their husband under Section 125 CrPC, when her economic position is weak and the husband’s financial position is good enough to provide, even if it goes against the basic personal laws.
    • The Supreme Court then directed Parliament to frame UCC. In this case the court held that Article 44(3) has remained as dead letter in the constitution.
  • Sarla Mudgal Vs Union of India, 1995 case:
    • In this case, the question was whether a Hindu husband, married under the Hindu law, by embracing Islam can solemnise second marriage.
    • The Supreme Court held that adopting Islam for a second marriage is an abuse of personal laws.
    • The court held the view that Hindu marriage can be dissolved only under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It meant that merely by converting into Islam and marrying again does not dissolve the marriage under Hindu Marriage Law and thus any such act will be an offence under Section 494[5] of the Indian Penal Code. It would also be a violation of the female’s basic fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of our constitution.
    • The Supreme Court again called for implementation of UCC and it also detailed how personal laws of different religions are in conflict with each other.
  • Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case, 2019:
    • The case dealt with whether succession to the property of a Goan situated outside Goa in India will be governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 as applicable in the State of Goa or by Indian Succession Act or by personal laws, as applicable in the rest of the country e.g. Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, etc.
    • The court held that Goa is a shining example of an Indian State which has a uniform civil code applicable to all, regardless of religion except while protecting certain limited rights.
    • The Supreme Court has lamented at the failure of successive governments to frame a UCC.
  • Shayara Bano and others v. Union of India and others case, 2017:
    • The 5 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court pronounced its decision in the Triple Talaq Case, declaring that the practice was unconstitutional.
    • The judgement upheld the primacy of Human rights like equality and dignity over the personal laws.
    • Though this case does not exclusively deal with UCC, the need for a uniform UCC become obvious.
  • On passing the verdict on Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act the SC paved the way for an adoption of a child by persons from Muslim Community even though not allowed under their personal laws. The Supreme Court of India again asked the Union Government to form a UCC to remove gender inequality and abolish the retrograde practices followed under the framework of personal laws.
  • The need of UCC is related to inconsistencies in Tax laws as well. The Hindu Undivided Families are exempted from taxes whereas Muslims are exempted from paying stamps duty on gift deeds. This brings in unnecessary differences which are generally exploited to avoid taxes. Such cases have been challenged in the courts as well.

Why Uniform Civil Code?

  • UCC will help in providing equal status to all citizens irrespective of their religion, class, caste, gender, etc. as it is envisaged in a secular democratic republic.
  • It is commonly observed that personal laws of almost all religions are discriminatory towards women. There is a need to reform our social system, which is full of inequities, discriminations and other things which conflict with our Fundamental Rights. UCC will help promote gender equality. UCC will bring both men and women at par.
  • India is a young country with more than half of India’s population, being under 25 years. They are set to change the fortunes of not just India but the world too. An attempt of shedding their identities based on religion has to be given a serious consideration so as to utilize their full potential towards nation-building. They should be guided by the principles of equality, humanity, and modernity as is envisaged by the UCC.
  • With the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code, all citizens will share the same set of personal laws. With this all Indian citizens will be equal before the court of law in case of both criminal laws and civil laws including personal laws. So, UCC will promote national integration.
  • There have been demands for reforming the personal laws since independence. But, politicization of issues of discrimination, concessions, special privileges enjoyed by a particular community on the basis of their particular religious personal laws have either eliminated the chances of positive reforms or have drastically slowed down the process. Implementation of UCC provides an opportunity to address the challenge of reform of existing personal laws individually.


  • Given the tremendous cultural diversity in India across the religions, sects, castes, states, etc., it would be challenging to come up with a common and uniform set of rules acceptable to all.
  • The internal differences within the communities is a major factor.
  • Eg: not all Hindus in the country are governed by one law. Marriages amongst close relatives are prohibited by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, but is considered auspicious in Southern India. The Hindu Code Bill recognises customs of different Hindu communities. Similarly, there is no uniform applicability of personal laws among Muslims and Christians. The Constitution itself protects the local customs of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram from outside influence.
  • There is an alternative view which states that India is a unique example of unity in diversity. Uniformity should not be mistaken for unity and any attempt to ensure uniformity via the implementation of UCC might endanger diversity which has been a defining nature of our shared culture.
  • Several communities, mainly minority communities perceive the Uniform Civil Code as an encroachment on their rights to religious freedom.
  • The Constitution via Article 25 provides for the right to freedom of religion of one’s choice. Under the basic feature of Secularism, the state extends its respect to all religions equally. With the implementation of UCC the scope of the freedom of religion might be reduced.
  • UCC can be counterproductive leaving minorities more insecure and vulnerable to get attracted towards fundamentalist and extremist ideologies.
  • Attempts for implementation of UCC might endanger the secular fabric of India which has been largely successful in ensuring unity and progress in India.
  • Since personal laws are in the Concurrent List, they may differ from State to State. The framers of the Constitution did not intend total uniformity or one law for the whole country. The states have brought in many amendments to cater to the local needs and culture this proves the futility of one nation, one law.

Way forward:

  • The importance of UCC was emphasized by our forefathers on, keeping in mind the advantages it can offer to India. However, the resistance to UCC must also be considered.
  • One territory one law will draw more benefits rather one territory with multiple laws having conflicting provisions in the same area.
  • UCC must be brought about by borrowing freely from different personal laws, making gradual changes in each, acknowledging the benefits that one community secures from the others.
  • The government should be sensitive and unbiased at each step while dealing with the majority and minority communities.
  • UCC can only emerge through an evolutionary process, which preserves India’s rich legal heritage, of which all the personal laws are equal constituents. The codification and implementation of UCC must necessarily usher in the expected equality among genders and religions.

Source: The Hindu

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