Desk Brief: 2021 with

31 January 2022

We thought it would be great if the first 2022 desk brief took a step back and reviewed 2021 through a curated set of pieces. So here goes!

The first few weeks of 2021 saw the farmers’ protest against the farm laws become increasingly vocal and intense, attracting wide political and media attention. In our first 2021 desk brief, we provided an overview of farmers’ movements in Indian history and pointed out that such agrarian mobilizations often folded themselves into the larger independence and constitutional reform movements.

The farmers’ protests, which were, for the most part, concentrated on the borders of Delhi, made their way to the centre of the city on 26 January, clashing with police and casting a shadow on India’s republic day celebrations. Seventy-one years ago, the mood was quite different in Delhi when India celebrated its first Republic Day. We tried to give our readers a sense of that moment and the world’s reaction to India transforming into a constitutional republic.

In March, we celebrated Women’s Day through a special series. This included the story of Sophia Duleep Singh – popularly known as the ‘Suffragette Princess’, an Indian woman who campaigned for women’s voting rights in Britain. We also looked at Dakshayani Velayudhan, the only Dalit woman in the Constituent Assembly and its youngest member. She had a rather distinct view on political safeguards for the Dalit community.

Speaking of safeguards, an unvaccinated Indian population had little to none when the second wave of COVID-19 swept India and wreaked havoc. Around the same time, India slowly began its vaccination drive. The Union’s vaccine procurement strategy attracted wide criticism for undermining federalism. We engaged with the issue through a piece that looked at federalism in the time of corona.

In August, the Union government was accused of conducting surveillance on politicians, activists and journalists. The ‘Pegasus Scandal’ rocked Parliament, triggered public furore and vindicated many concerns about the Indian State accessing citizens’ private correspondence and data. We looked at a debate in the Constituent Assembly around a proposal to include the right to privacy in the Indian Constitution.

Around the same time, the world was treated to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Much to our delight, the Indian men’s hockey team bagged a bronze medal. We took our readers back to 1928 when the Indian hockey team won a gold medal. The team was captained by Jaipal Singh Munda, a Constituent Assembly member and a leader of tribal rights movements in India. Notably, Singh had left his Indian Civil Service training, disobeying the Civil Services Authority, to participate in the Olympics. He was reprimanded and eventually resigned altogether.

The Indian Supreme Court heard an important case related to the civil service. Article 335 directs the State to consider SC/ST representation in making appointments to posts and services while maintaining administrative efficiency. We argued that unlike current debates around this Article, our Constitution framers did not view affirmative action and administrative efficiency as conflicting goals.

In November, India celebrated Constitution Day to commemorate the Constituent Assembly’s adoption of the Constitution. We provided our readers with a glimpse of the Assembly’s proceedings on that day.

Hope you enjoyed this review of 2021!

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