27 February 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Mains Notes : Mains Sure Shot for UPSC IAS Exam

No. 1.

Question – Analyse the Bodoland issue in the context of the recent signing of the Bodo accord.

Context – The signing of the Bodo accord.

What is the Bodoland issue?

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
  • The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.
  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
  • In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
  • In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
  • The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.

What was the Assam movement?

  • The Assam Movement (or Assam Agitation) (1979-1985) was a popular movement against illegal immigrants in Assam. The movement, led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), developed a program of protests and demonstrations to compel the Indian government to identify and expel illegal, (mostly Bangladeshi), immigrants and to protect and provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the indigenous Assamese people.

The Assam Accord:

  • The issue of illegal immigrants fuelled massive protests for six years beginning 1979, when a Lok Sabha bypoll was to be held at Mangaldoi seat. Various outfits with All Assam Students Union (AASU) forming the nerve centre of the protests complained about foreigners – mainly Bangladeshis – having been included in the voters’ list.
  • The Indira Gandhi government continued to engage with the protesters between 1980 and 1984 but without reaching an agreement. After her assassination, the Rajiv Gandhi government signed an agreement with the protesters – AASU and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad – bringing the agitation to an end.
  • The agreement between the Centre and the protesters is called the Assam Accord.
  • It was signed on the Independence Day in 1985. In the 15 clauses of the Assam Accord, the key focus areas were:
  • Foreigners issue
  • Economic development
  • Restricting acquisition of immovable property by foreigners
  • Preventing encroachment of government lands
  • Registration of births and deaths
  • This was done to ensure protection of political, social, economic and cultural identity of the local people.
  • The heart of the accord was Clause 5. Clause 5 of the Assam Accord deals with the issue of foreigners, that is, detection of foreigners in Assam, deletion of their names from the voters’ list and their deportation through practical means.

The Bodo Accord:

  • The previous Bodo Accord signed by the erstwhile insurgent outfit, Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) with Delhi and Dispur on February 10, 2003 led to creation of the BTC as a new experiment of territorial autonomy under the Sixth Schedule. However, the constitutionally mandated legislative power of the BTC has been reduced to a farce as the Assam Governor has not given assent to any of the legislations passed by the BTC Legislative Assembly.

What is the BTC?

  • The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) is an autonomous district council for the Bodoland Territorial Region of Assam state in India.
  • There have been two Bodo Accords earlier, and the second one led to the formation of BTC. The ABSU-led movement from 1987 culminated in a 1993 Bodo Accord, which paved the way for a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC), but ABSU withdrew its agreement and renewed its demand for a separate state. In 2003, the second Bodo Accord was signed by the extremist group Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF), the Centre and the state. This led to the BTC.

The new accord:

  • The new Accord has been signed by the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), United Bodo People’s Organisation and all the four factions of the insurgent outfit- National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) with Delhi and Dispur on January 27 promises more legislative, executive and administrative autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and expansion of the BTC territory in lieu of statehood.
  • The Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), the autonomous region governed by BTC, will be known as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) after demarcation of the augmented territory.
  • Primarily, a truce with four factions of the NDFB after decades of armed movement that, according to Shah, claimed over 4,000 lives. The most significant point is this Accord marks the end of the armed movement. The coming of all factions of the armed groups together to sign the Accord is a very big thing.
  • Asked about the statehood demand, Boro (ABSU President) said the ABSU will decide in its next special convention. Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the demand for statehood came to end with the Accord. An ABSU leader, however, said: “It is not mentioned anywhere in the settlement that the ABSU will give up the statehood demand.”
  • The agreement says: “Negotiations were held with Bodo organisations for a comprehensive and final solution to their demands while keeping intact the territorial integrity of the State of Assam.”

What was agreed about territory?

  • The area under the jurisdiction of BTC, formed under the 2003 Accord, was called the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD). On Monday, the BTAD was renamed Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
  • BTAD comprises Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts, accounting for 11% of Assam’s area and 10% of its population. Estimates for the Bodo population in BTAD vary.
  • The new Accord provides for “alteration of area of BTAD” and “provisions for Bodos outside BTAD”. A commission appointed by the state government will examine and recommend if villages contiguous to BTAD and with a majority tribal population can be included into the BTR while those now in BTAD and with a majority non-tribal population can opt out of the BTR. This, minister Sarma explained, will lead to an increase in the Bodo population in BTR and decrease in non-tribal population, leading to mitigation of inter-community clashes wherever it was happening.
  • The government will set up a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council for focused development of Bodo villages outside BTAD — which opens up a way to potentially address the needs of Bodos outside BTAD.
  • The 2020 agreement says the Government of Assam “will notify Bodo language in Devanagari script as the associate official language in the state”.

Way forward:

  • A shift in the political equilibrium in the BTC resulting from a likely expansion of the ST list in Assam has the potential to keep the Bodos out of power in the BTC and push Bodo organisations to reviving their homeland demand. Peace will continue to be fragile in Assam’s Bodo heartland until an all-inclusive power sharing and governance model is evolved under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.



No. 2.

Question – Analyse the importance of water quality in backdrop of the water quality report released by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

Context – Outcome of the controversy surrounding the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) report of November 2019 on drinking water status is that the issue of water quality has got politically prioritised.


The urgency of ensuring good water quality:

  • Water should be treated as an urgent concern for public health and the ecosystem of the country.
  • The threats to human health due to poor water quality, except when they appear as an epidemic, are largely imperceptible. This generally subjects the population to subtle health problems without its knowledge or consent.
  • India is on the throes of a severe water crisis, not only because of a gradual reduction in per capita availability of water due to a rising population, but also because of rising and unchecked pollution in the country’s rivers and water bodies, a fact which is mostly overlooked in the deliberations on water resources management.
  • As per published estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country has a treatment capacity of only about 30% of sewage generated in the major cities, not to talk of other urban and rural areas where the sewage finds its way to local water bodies or rivers without treatment.
  • A 2018 Report of the NITI Aayog has observed that currently 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people.
  • In Delhi, according to the Census 2011 data, there are about 33.41 lakh households of which 27.16 lakh households, i.e, 81.30%, are provided water through a piped supply system. However, only 75.20% of the households are supplied treated water. The treatment method is conventional — involving sedimentation, filtration and disinfection through chlorine and chloramine — whose effect is contingent upon the overall quality of water. For the water coming from the Yamuna released from Haryana, the DJB has to often stop the supply for a few days if the concentration of methane goes up beyond a certain level. This is because the tri-chloromethane that may be produced during the disinfection process is highly carcinogenic. The effect may surface on human health not immediately, but over a period of time.

What is the issue?

  • The controversy started with the release of the BIS report for 21 major Indian cities, in keeping with the objectives of the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’, which aims to provide safe piped water to all households by 2024.
  • The study is scheduled to cover all districts in the country within a year. Supply of potable water obviously requires first compilation of information on the existing status. The fact that drinking water in Delhi was ranked the most unsafe, as the samples failed in 19 out of 28 parameters, was challenged by the Government of Delhi and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

Way forward:

  • It’s high time we realise that all of us are responsible and it is not one person’s job to clear the mess.
  • Also it is not only the untreated sewage water and industrial effluents, but also the solid wastes and construction material discharged by individuals, companies and municipal bodies that have caused the suffocation of the rivers.
  • These need to be dealt with both individually as well as holistically.


Note – Also refer to the article of 9th October, 2019.

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