Dear Reader,

On the third day of this month, a calamity predicted and feared for over two decades came to pass. A devastating flood, as an aftermath of glacier melt swelling the South Lhonak Lake in Sikkim, breached its banks, smashing the concrete bulwarks of the Teesta Stage-III dam, overwhelming another dam on Stage V and heavily damaging a third dam on Stage VI, and completely flooding the Teesta River. This inundated and pillaged villages, causing over a hundred deaths – one of the worst environmental disasters to visit the state.

Article 14 investigates and finds that the anguish at the devastation and loss of lives is compounded by the knowledge that multiple warnings of the impending doom, especially on the specific dangers of building the Teesta Stage-III dam, went unheeded. The perils of the melting of Himalayan glaciers and causing destructive floods in the eastern Himalayas is a red flag that continues to be ignored with no talk of a review of the planned construction of two other dams on the same river, besides the many other hydel projects which are on the anvil.

With generative AI now ubiquitous and its perceived opportunities and threats needing greater clarity, it raises credible concerns about how it impacts citizens’ privacy. This is the context in which the Union Ministry of Education’s direction to the states to create an ‘Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry’ (Apaar) for students from pre-primary to higher education, a unique ID for academic records is being perceived.

While seemingly a measure to create a ‘lifelong Academic Bank of Credits’ to facilitate and ease access to a student’s academic record, MediaNama reports that the almost “compulsory” nature of the move, with schools acting with alacrity and undue haste, has raised anxiety that the unambiguous and clear ‘consent’ stipulated by the recently passed Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, is being given a go by. This raises hackles on the aspects of both privacy and inclusion, with scepticism about how data of millions of students will be handled securely.

MGNREGA, the government's flagship scheme to provide at least a hundred days of employment and provide a safety net to the unemployed and the poor is not exactly going as mandated. This has a direct impact on the quest for alleviating rural distress. The Probe delves into the inadequacies and challenges.

And, last week, on October 17, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India, unanimously agreed that there is no fundamental right to marry, and marriages between queer persons cannot be read into the Special Marriage Act, 1954. Further, in a 3:2 majority, the bench held that same-sex couples did not have the right to form civil unions, and that they could not adopt. However, the Court accepted the government’s suggestion to constitute a panel to consider the question of parity in the right of marriage between “queer couples” and heterosexual civil unions. Supreme Court Observer details the arguments and the judgment.

For more such stories from the grantees this week, please read on.


Sunil Rajshekhar

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Disaster On The Teesta: Ignoring Warnings Of Melting Glacier, Sikkim Hoped Large Dams Would Earn Money

Despite two decades of red flags on the dangers of building the Teesta Stage-III dam, on the river by the same name, warnings were disregarded resulting in the recent catastrophe when the river burst its banks and devastated villages in Sikkim. Article 14 delves into the calamity where a hundred lives were lost.

Read Here

India’s Education Ministry Asks Schools To Begin ‘Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry’ Process

MediaNama says that the diktat by the Union education ministry to the states to build a unique academic ID for students, distinct from Aadhaar, has raised anxieties about the capability of the system to handle millions of data cases without compromising privacy and inclusivity.

Read Here

MGNREGA: From Guarantee to Uncertainty—Why Its Decline is India’s Emerging Crisis

The flagship scheme, MGNREGA, to provide at least the bare minimum support to the unemployed through guaranteed jobs for at least a hundred days, is facing many challenges. The Probe reports on what is hampering the scheme.

Watch Here

Plea for Marriage Equality: Judgement Summary

Supreme Court Observer analyses last week’s judgment of the Supreme Court of India which refused to legalise same-sex marriage but backed a proposal for constituting a committee to go into the issue.

Read Here

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