1. GORKHALAND ISSUE
WHAT TRIGGERED THE EPISODE OF VIOLENT PROTESTS RECENTLY ?
- In May, the West Bengal government announced Bengali as a compulsory language in schools across the State.
- This triggered protests and claims of ‘linguistic imperialism’ in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
- Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee then decided to hold a Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling for the first time in over 40 years.
- But representatives of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) or the three hill MLAs, were not included, eliciting protests.
- Subsequent protests and crackdowns have led to further destruction and deaths.
- The aspiration for self-rule of the hill people in Darjeeling is more than a century old. To be precise, such aspiration for autonomous rule can be traced back to 1907.
- The Gorkhaland movement is a long-standing quest for a separate State of Gorkhaland within India for Nepali-speaking Indian citizens (often known as ‘Gorkhas’).
- Gorkhaland is a classic sub-nationalist movement, similar to those that have produced other States like Telangana, Uttarakhand etc.
- Gorkhaland is a desire for the recognition, respect, and integration of Gorkha peoples in the Indian nation-state.
- The movement is neither separatist nor anti-nationalist; it is about inclusion and belonging in India.
- It stands as a key means to redress the Gorkhas’ enduring history of discrimination, misconception, and marginalisation in India.
- By demanding Gorkhaland, the people of Darjeeling-Kalimpong are opting out of West Bengal’s domination, and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India.
- Since 1947, the Darjeeling-Kalimpong region has remained under West Bengal, despite no substantive pre-Partition evidence to support West Bengal’s territorial claims to this region.
- Conciliatory set-ups like the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (1988-2012) and the GTA (2012-present) have failed to provide meaningful autonomy.
THE NEGLECTED GORKHAS
- Gorkhas remain pegged to the lowest levels of employment.
- Outsiders own the tea industry, and profits flow out of the hills.
- Gorkhas face discrimination when they seek education and work in places like Kolkata, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. Called ‘foreigners’, ‘outsiders’ and ‘chinkys’, racial discrimination affects aspiring Gorkhas at every turn.
STEPS TAKEN IN THE PAST
- The institution of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 ended the cycle of violence that engulfed the area between 1986-88. However, it failed to deliver any results.
- Following the unsuccessful experiment, yet another administrative body, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), was instituted in 2011. This provided official recognition to ‘Gorkhaland’. But the GTA too, like its predecessor, lacked sufficient autonomy.
- It is worth noting that neither successive state governments (until the recent threat surfaced) nor the administrative set-ups in the hills ever felt the need to furnish accounts of public funds disbursed to them. This mutually acceptable lack of accountability was gainful for both the state government and the GTA, until they collided with each other.
2. RCEP TALKS AND INDIA’S CONCERNS
- India’s concern is regarding the potential adverse impact of eliminating duties on its local manufacturing and job creation
- Effect: It said to be(by other members) slowing down the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations
- According to some of the members, most RCEP countries have agreed to quickly eliminate barriers affecting goods trade
- India is seeking more time to do so, and that is delaying the negotiations.
- According to CII, many countries were urging greater focus on duty elimination.
- But India ought to highlight the need for removal of non-tariff barriers including those in China
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which include India, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New zealand.
- In total, the grouping of 16 nations includes more than 3 billion people, has a combined GDP of about $17 trillion, and accounts for about 40 percent of world trade.
- If negotiated successfully, RCEP would create the world’s largest trading bloc and have major implications for Asian countries and the world economy.
- The RCEP seeks to achieve a modern and comprehensive trade agreement among members. The core of the negotiating agenda would cover trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation and dispute settlement. The partnership would be a powerful vehicle to support the spread of global production networks and reduce the inefficiencies of multiple Asian trade agreements that exist presently.
RCEP AND INDIA
- India is not a party to two important regional economic blocs: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. New Delhi fears the TPP, although years away from reality, could mean losing some textile and drugs exports to countries like Vietnam, which has embraced both the TPP and the RCEP.
- TPP is set to change the landscape of global trade. For India, it is most likely to affect sectors like leather goods, plastics, chemicals, textiles and clothing.
- The RCEP would enable India to strengthen its trade ties with Australia, China, Japan and South Korea, and should reduce the potential negative impacts of TPP and TTIP on the Indian economy.
- The RCEP agreement would complement India’s existing free trade agreements with the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations and some of its member countries, as it would deals with Japan and South Korea.
- It would be the world’s largest trading bloc covering a broad spectrum of issues such as trade in goods, services, investment, competition, intellectual property rights, and other areas of economic and technical cooperation.
- From India’s point of view, the RCEP presents a decisive platform which could influence its strategic and economic status in the Asia-Pacific region and bring to fruition its act east policy.
- RCEP will facilitate India’s integration into sophisticated “regional production networks” that make Asia the world’s factory. The RCEP is expected to harmonize trade-related rules, investment and competition regimes of India with those of other countries of the group. Through domestic policy reforms on these areas, this harmonization of rules and regulations would help Indian companies plug into regional and global value chains and would unlock the true potential of the Indian economy. There would be a boost to inward and outward foreign direct investment, particularly export-oriented FDI.
- India enjoys a comparative advantage in areas such as information and communication technology, IT-enabled services, professional services, healthcare, and education services. In addition to facilitating foreign direct investment, the RCEP will create opportunities for Indian companies to access new markets. This is because the structure of manufacturing in many of these countries is becoming more and more sophisticated, resulting in a “servicification” of manufacturing.