THE HINDU EDITORIAL : 24, July – 2017

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a) The boycott ban

Maharashtra’s new law prohibiting the social boycott of individuals, families or any community by informal village councils is a step in the right direction, given the pervasive nature of the problem. The progressive legislation, which received Presidential assent recently and was gazetted earlier this month, targets the pernicious practice of informal caste panchayats or dominant sections using ostracism as a means of enforcing social conformity. The Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, may serve as a template for similar legislation in other States. The Act lists over a dozen types of actions that may amount to ‘social boycott’, which has been made a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years or a ne of ₹1 lakh or both. The practices it prohibits range from preventing the performance of a social or religious custom, denial of the right to perform funerals or marriages, cutting off someone’s social or commercial ties to preventing access to educational or medical institutions or community halls and public facilities, or any form of social ostracism on any ground. The law recognises the human rights dimension to issues of social boycott, as well as the varied forms in which it occurs in a caste-based society. Its progressive sweep takes into account discrimination on the basis of morality, social acceptance, political inclination, sexuality, which it prohibits. It even makes it an offence to create cultural obstacles by forcing people to wear a particular type of clothing or use a particular language. This is not thefirst law of its type. Bombay enacted a law against excommunication in 1949, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1962 after the Dawoodi Bohra community successfully argued that it violated the community’s constitutional right to manage its own religious affairs. One hopes the latest Act will not be vulnerable to legal challenge. Article 17 of the Constitution and the Protection of Civil Rights Act outlaw un touch ability in all its forms, but these are legal protections intended for the Scheduled Castes. In reality, members of various castes and communities also require such protection from informal village councils and gatherings of elders who draw on their own notions of conformity, community discipline, morality and social mores to issue diktats to the village or the community to cut off ties with supposedly offending persons and families. The case of a mountaineer from Raigad is somewhat notorious. He had conquered Mt. Everest but could not escape a social boycott in his village because his wife wore jeans and did not wear a mangalsutra. It is not a proud moment for a country when special legislation is required to prohibit social discrimination, ostracism and practices repugnant to human dignity. Yet, given the prevailing circumstances, any legislative assault on abhorrent social practices ought to be welcomed.

b) Spanish steps

Ahead of the controversial October 1 referendum on secession in Catalonia, the Spanish government’s awkward move of tightening the purse-strings could prove politically costly. There is cause for concern that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s meddling with the financial priorities of Barcelona will play into the hands of the separatists. A veteran of many a crisis, Mr. Rajoy recently issued instructions to the regional government to ensure that not a single euro earmarked for development activities is diverted to the vote. The decision requiring weekly certification follows a judicial declaration that all expenditure towards the vote were unconstitutional. Recourse to such seemingly stringent measures has predictably drawn flak from Catalan leaders, who were already embittered that the province is being denied its due share of the overall tax revenues. Madrid’s mainstream political parties are opposed to the long-standing demand of Catalonia for independent statehood. Riding on the overwhelming support in the national parliament, Mr. Rajoy’s centre-right coalition is determined to block the proposed independence referendum. The government is even contemplating the invocation of Article 155 of the constitution to exercise direct authority over the north-eastern region in the event of a worst-case scenario. The country’s constitutional court is widely expected to rule that any referendum, as well as secession from the union, is violative of the constitution. But that is where legalese ends and politics inevitably takes over. After holding several symbolic independence votes across many municipalities over the past decade, Catalan nationalists sense that what once seemed a distant dream could one day be turned into reality. The economic and social upheaval following the bursting of the Spanish housing bubble after the 2007-8financial crisis, local problems were defected on to the national stage. The 2015 election of the regional government, with a known pro-independence bent, might have been a reflection of this shift in perception. A perception among Catalan youth that the national government is clamping down on democratic expression could only strain the already delicate equation between Madrid and Barcelona. Recent history casts a remarkably sobering light on how much politicians can count on rational arguments to hold sway over popular sentiment. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is just one example. Mr. Rajoy has earned a reputation for exercising caution to a fault during his premiership. His conciliatory tone, for instance, on Catalonia’s fiscal autonomy, a demand he had rejected some years ago, may yet open a window. The call issued by the opposition socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, for more federal powers could similarly soothe tensions. Madrid must look to expand this spirit of accommodation.


1) Boycott

Meaning: Withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest.

Example: We will boycott all banks which take part in the loans scheme.

Synonyms: Spurn, Snub

2) Pervasive

Meaning: (Especially of an unwelcome influence or physical effect) spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people.

Example: Ageism is pervasive and entrenched in our society.

Synonyms: Prevalent, Insidious

3) Gazetted

Meaning: Announce or publish (something) in an official gazette.

Example: We will need to gazette the bill if a decision cannot be reached imminently.

4) Denial

Meaning: The action of denying something.

Example: She shook her head in denial.

Synonyms: Contradiction, Refutation

5) Ostracism

Meaning: Exclusion from a society or group.

Example: The family suffered social ostracism.

Synonyms: Exclusion, Rejection

Antonyms: Acceptance, Welcome

6) Enacted

Meaning: Make (a bill or other proposal) law.

Example: Legislation was enacted to attract international companies.

Synonyms: Pass, Approve

Antonyms: Repeal

7) Notorious

Meaning: Famous or well known, typically for some bad quality or deed.

Example: Los Angeles is notorious for its smog.

Synonyms: Infamous, Scandalous

Antonyms: unknown, anonymous, faceless

8) Conquered

Meaning: Climb (a mountain) successfully.

Example: The second Briton to conquer Everest.

Synonyms: Climb, Ascend

9) Repugnant

Meaning: Extremely distasteful; unacceptable.

Example: Cannibalism seems repugnant to us.

Synonyms: Terrible, Dreadful

Antonyms: Attractive, Agreeable

10) Abhorrent

Meaning: Inspiring disgust and loathing; repugnant.

Example: Racism was abhorrent to us all.

Synonyms: Detestable, Hateful

Antonyms: Admirable, Loved

11) Purse-strings

Meaning: The spending of money by a family, company, or country.

Example: A recent survey showed that in 53 percent of families, women hold the purse strings.

12) Meddling

Meaning: Interfere in something that is not one’s concern.

Example: I don’t want him meddling in our affairs.

Synonyms: Interfere, Intrude

13) Veteran

Meaning: A person who has had long experience in a particular field.

Example: A veteran of two world wars.

Synonyms: Expert, Virtuoso, Maestro

Antonyms: Novice, Apprentice, Recruit

14) Earmarked

Meaning: Designate (funds or resources) for a particular purpose.

Example: The cash had been earmarked for a big expansion of the programme.

Synonyms: Appropriate, Reserve

15) Flak

Meaning: Strong criticism.

Example: You must be strong enough to take the flak if things go wrong.

Synonyms: Criticism, Censure

16) Embittered

Meaning: Make (someone) feel bitter or resentful.

Example: He died an embittered man.

Synonyms: Sour, Anger, Poison

17) Overwhelming

Meaning: Very great in amount.

Example: His party won overwhelming support.

Synonyms: Profuse, Enormous

Antonyms: Small

18) Upheaval

Meaning: A violent or sudden change or disruption to something.

Example: Major upheavals in the financial markets.

Synonyms: Disruption, Upset

Antonyms: Stability, Tranquillity

19) Bubble

Meaning: Used to refer to a good or fortunate situation that is isolated from reality or unlikely to last.

Example: We both lived in a bubble, the kind provided by occupying a privileged pied-à-terre in Greenwich Village.

Synonyms: Illusion, Delusion

20) Clamping down

Meaning: Suppress or prevent something in an oppressive or harsh manner.

Example: The authorities have also clamped down on public demonstrations.

Synonyms: Suppress,, Prevent

21) Sobering

Meaning: Make or become more serious, sensible, and solemn.

Example: His expression sobered her.

Synonyms: Relax, Soften

22) Sway

Meaning: Rule; control.

Example: The country was under the sway of rival warlords.

Synonyms: Jurisdiction, Rule, Government

23) Conciliatory

Meaning: Intended or likely to placate or pacify.

Example: A conciliatory approach.

Synonyms: Placatory, Pacific

Antonyms: Antagonistic

24) Soothe

Meaning: Gently calm (a person or their feelings).

Example: A shot of brandy might soothe his nerves.

Synonyms: Calm, Quiet

Antonyms: Agitate, Disturb

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