a) Protecting prisoners: Reforms must secure rights of inmates

The focus of public and judicial concern over the situation prevailing in India’s prisons has in recent times been related to overcrowding and long spells of incarceration faced by indigent inmates too poor to obtain bail. On some occasions, such as when the horrific blinding of prisoners in Bhagalpur took place over three decades ago, the stark human rights situation also attracted attention. The brutal murder of a woman life convict in the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai on June 23 has brought the focus back on custodial violence, especially the vulnerability of inmates to authoritarian behaviour. The allegation that prison guards targeted Manjula Shette, a lifer brought to the jail a couple of months ago from the Yerwada Central Prison in Pune as a warder, over some missing rations is indeed startling. It is said she incurred the wrath of the guards because of her rising popularity among the women prisoners. This suggests that until her arrival the inmates may not have been accustomed to even rudimentary care from the jail authorities. Eyewitnesses say that when the warder was severely assaulted by the guards, it led to a riot-like situation among the prisoners. It is not difficult to surmise that simmering discontent over the prevailing conditions, and an intense animus between the guards and the inmates, were behind the events. It is some consolation that the police have arrested six prison officials for the custodial murder. It is disconcerting that the untoward incident took place at a time when the Maharashtra government had been directed by the Bombay High Court to undertake a comprehensive review of the conditions in three major prisons in the State. As per the March 2017 court order, an empowered committee was to be constituted to look into all aspects of the jails in the light of Supreme Court decisions, the Model Prison Manual of 2016 and relevant UN resolutions. In particular, the panel was to suggest measures to create modern jails and modernise amenities. In the last half century, the superior courts have passed a series of orders to reform jails. The issues range from prisoners’ rights, health, hygiene and access to legal aid, to the condition of women inmates and their children. The judiciary’s approach has been anchored in the belief that fundamental rights “do not part company with the prisoner at the gates”. The Union Home Minister released a model jail manual last year. It makes clear that the state is under an obligation to protect the residuary rights of prisoners after they surrender their liberty to a legal process. One can only reiterate a principle already enshrined in it: the management of prisons must be marked by firm discipline, but also due regard to the human rights of prisoners. Prison reforms are not only about amenities and conditions; they must also address the prisoner’s right to life.

b) Missile diplomacy: U.S. must be inventive in responding to North Korea

In early January, Donald Trump, then the U.S. President-elect, tweeted that North Korea would never develop a “nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S.”. But Pyongyang appears to have done exactly that, defying warnings issued by Washington. Tuesday’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, that appears to be capable of striking Alaska, poses perhaps the greatest foreign policy challenge so far before Mr. Trump. And he appears to be lost for an effective response. While senior officials of the Trump administration have consistently talked tough, they have banked heavily on China, North Korea’s most crucial political and economic ally, to rein in its missile programme. Mr. Trump had even offered China better trade deal for its help in addressing the crisis and appreciated President Xi Jinping’s efforts. But neither the tough posturing nor banking on China’s help seems to have worked, and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader, remains as defiant as ever. Washington’s response to the missile test was typical. The U.S. and South Korea immediately conducted missile exercises to counter “North Korea’s destabilising and unlawful actions”, and the State Department asked for more UN sanctions on the North. But had sanctions and threats been effective as a strategy, Mr. Kim would not have carried out the ICBM test in the first place. Ever since he took power in 2012 he has steadily expanded North Korea’s missile programme; challenging the U.S. is central to his foreign policy doctrine. All these years the U.S. has stepped up sanctions and taken an incrementally harsher line towards the Kim regime. Mr. Trump has simply followed the Obama administration’s stick-and-sanctions policy towards the North, but with a China emphasis. But he is now back to square one, with very few options. Though the administration has said all options are on the table, even a limited military strike would be dangerously risky. Given the unpredictability of the Kim regime, any attack could be tantamount to a declaration of war on the Korean peninsula. Another option is to continue the tested-and-failed policy of sanctions and international isolation, which would mean more trouble for the North Korean people with an uncertain effect on the roguish regime. It is also unclear whether China will back such isolation. A third option, something that both the Obama and Trump administrations have seemingly overlooked so far, is to hold direct negotiations with Pyongyang. It may appear strange given the current hostility, but that remains the only realistic option before Washington. Mr. Trump has a counterpart in Seoul, Moon Jae-in, who is more inclined to addressing the issue through diplomacy. Besides, there is the history of the North freezing its nuclear programme for nearly a decade in 1994 after a deal with world powers. Mr. Trump should take a realistic view of the crisis rather than immediately opt for retaliatory and punitive measures.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Prevailing

Meaning: Existing in a particular place or at a particular time.

Example: The prevailing mood is one of optimism.

Synonyms: Current, Existing, Prevalent

2) Incarceration

Meaning: To put or keep someone in prison or in a place used as a prison.

Example: Thousands of dissidents have been interrogated or incarcerated.

Synonyms: Imprisonment, Internment, Confinement

Antonyms: Freedom

3) Indigent

Meaning: Very poor.

Example: the first state pensions were given to indigent people over seventy.

Synonyms: Poor, Impecunious, Destitute

Antonyms: Rich

4) Stark

Meaning: Empty, simple, or obvious, especially without decoration or anything that is not necessary.

Example: It was a stark room with a bed and chair as the only furniture.

Synonyms: Sharply Delineated, Desolate

Antonyms: Fuzzy, Indistinct

5) Allegation

Meaning: A statement, made without giving proof, that someone has done something wrong or illegal.

Example: Several of her patients have made allegations of professional misconduct about/against her.

Synonyms: Claim, Assertion, Declaration

6) Startling

Meaning: To do something unexpected that surprises and sometimes worries a person.

Example: She was concentrating on her book and his voice startled her.

Synonyms: Surprising, Astonishing, Amazing

Antonyms: Predictable, Ordinary

7) Incurred

Meaning: To experience something, usually something unpleasant, as a result of actions you have taken.

Example: The play has incurred the wrath/anger of both audiences and critics.

Synonyms: Suffer, Sustain, Experience

Antonyms: Avoid

8) Wrath

Meaning: Extreme anger.

Example: The people feared the wrath of God.

Synonyms: Anger, Rage, Fury, Annoyance

Antonyms: Happiness, Good Humour

9) Rudimentary

Meaning: Basic / Rudimentary methods, equipment, systems, are simple and not very well developed.

Example: A simple device which can be constructed by anyone with rudimentary carpentry skills.

Synonyms: Basic, Elementary, Introductory

Antonyms: Advanced, Sophisticated

10) Assaulted

Meaning: A determined or serious attempt to do something difficult.

Example: The assault was premeditated and particularly brutal.

Synonyms: Hit, Strike

11) Surmise

Meaning: To guess something, without having much or any proof .

Example: The police surmise (that) the robbers have fled the country.

Synonyms: Guess, Conjecture, Suspect

Antonyms: Know

12) Simmering

Meaning: Exist in a suppressed state / something that is simmering is controlled but may burst out at any time, often violently.

Example: The simmering controversy now appears to be coming to an end.

Synonyms: Be Furious, Be Enraged, Be Angry

13) Animus

Meaning: A feeling of hate or anger towards someone or something.

Example: He harbours no animus toward his rival.

Synonyms: Hostility, Animosity, Antagonism

14) Inmates

Meaning: A person who is kept in a prison or a hospital for people who are mentally ill.

Example: The inmates claim they have been mistreated by the prison guards.

Synonyms: Prisoner, Convict, Captive, Detainee

15) Reiterate

Meaning: To say something again, once or several times.

Example: The government has reiterated its refusal to compromise with terrorists.

Synonyms: Repeat, Say Again, Restate, Retell

16) Enshrined

Meaning: To contain or keep something as if in a holy place.

Example: Almost two and a half million war dead are enshrined at Yasukuni.

Synonyms: Set Down, Set Out, Spell Out

17) Amenities

Meaning: Things considered to be necessary to live comfortably.

Example: The council has some spare cash, which it proposes to spend on public amenities.

Synonyms: Facility, Service, Convenience

18) Defying

Meaning: To refuse to obey a person, decision, law, situation, etc.

Example: It is rare to see children openly defying their teachers.

Synonyms: Disobey, Rebel Against, Flout

19) Posturing

Meaning: Behaviour or speech that is intended to attract attention and interest, or to make people believe something that are not true.

Example: His writing has been dismissed as mere intellectual posturing.

Synonyms: attitude, stance, stand

20) Destabilising

Meaning: Upset the stability of (a region or system); cause unrest or instability in.

Example: The accused were charged with conspiracy to destabilize the country.

Synonyms: Undermine, Weaken, Impair

Antonyms: Strengthen, Shore Up

21) Emphasis

Meaning: The particular importance or attention that is given to something.

Example: I think we should put as much emphasis on preventing disease as we do on curing it.

Synonyms: Prominence, Importance, Significance

22) Tantamount

Meaning: Being almost the same or having the same effect as something, usually something bad.

Example: Her refusal to answer was tantamount to an admission of guilt.

Synonyms: Equivalent To, Equal To, Amounting To

23) Roguish

Meaning: Characteristic of a dishonest or unprincipled person.

Example: He led a roguish and uncertain existence .

Synonyms: Unprincipled, Dishonest, Deceitful

Antonyms: Honest, Honourable

24) Retaliatory

Meaning: A retaliatory action is one that is harmful to someone who has done something to harm you.

Example: Fears of a retaliatory attack by the victim’s friends.

25) Punitive

Meaning: Intended as a punishment.

Example: He called for punitive measures against the Eastern bloc.

Synonyms: Penal, Disciplinary, Corrective

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