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17th December 2020 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Excellence in diversity
  2. The many challenges for WTO
  3. The long road to food security

Editorial: Excellence in diversity


The significant expansion of the IIT system since 2008, after reservation was extended to student candidates belonging to Other Backward Classes, has resulted in a vexed situation in which these institutions are unable to find enough qualified faculty members, whose recruitment must also meet quota norms.


GS Paper 2: Welfare Schemes (centre, states; performance, mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for protection of vulnerable sections);

Mains Questions:

  1. Equal opportunity and universal education can make affirmative action meaningful. Discuss. 15 Marks
  2. Diversity achieved through affirmative action such as compensatory discrimination in favour of some classes of citizens corrects historical distortions. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is positive discrimination?
  • Constitutional Provisions for reservation.
  • Why reservation is needed in India?
  • Issues in Quota System in IITs.
  • Supreme Court’s Judgements related to reservation
  • Way Forward

What is Positive Discrimination?

Affirmative action (Positive Discrimination) refers to a set of policies and practices within a government or organization seeking to increase the representation of particular groups based on their gender, race, creed or nationality in areas in which they were excluded in the past such as education and employment.

  • Positive Discrimination was instituted in India in the mid-20th century. Its normative justification was that historically marginalised disadvantaged groups could not compete on equal terms and required guarantees to create background conditions of equality.
  • Positive Discrimination policies are rooted in the country’s complex cultural diversity, composed of multi-layered identities encompassing language, region, caste (estimated to total between 2000-3000) and religion. It has been viewed as an interim compensatory discrimination measure that would eventually help entrench universalist norms of citizenship.

Constitutional Provisions regarding reservation:

  • Article 15 (4) allows the State to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This provision was extended to admission in educational institutions by 93rd Amendment Act, 2006 (except minority educational institutions).
  • Article 16 (4) allows State to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
  • Article 16(4A), empowers state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees.
  • Article 46 states that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Article 243D provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Panchayat.
  • Article 243T provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Municipality.
  • Article 330 states that seats shall be reserved in the Lok Sabha for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Article 332 of the Constitution of India provides for reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

Why reservation is needed in India?

  • To correct the historical injustice faced by backward castes in the country.
  • To provide a level playing field for backward section as they cannot compete with those who have had the access of resources and means for centuries.
  • To ensure adequate representation of backward classes in the services under the State. For advancement of backward classes.
  • To ensure equality as basis of meritocracy i.e. all people must be brought to the same level before judging them on the basis of merit.

Issues in Quota System in IITs:

A committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Education (MoE) to suggest measures for effective implementation of reservation policies in IITs has recommended that these institutions be exempted from following reservation policies in faculty recruitment. Followings are the observations of the committee:

  •  IITs should maintain their academic excellence and the lack of candidates from the reserved categories who fulfil the qualification criteria.
  • Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance under an Act of Parliament, IITs have ought to be listed under the Schedule to the above CEI Act, 2019 for exemption from reservations
  • Addressing diversity issues: system emphasising targeted goals over a period of time” and not “specific quotas” be followed so that IITs can “compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching.
  • Maintaining quality of teachers:  The expectations on the faculty from IITs were very high due to the quality and standards of education. “The faculty being recruited at IITs are candidates with minimum of Ph.D. degree with superior academic record and with high research accomplishments.

Supreme Court’s Judgements related to reservation:

  • Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India (1992):
    • The 9 Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court by 6:3 majority held that the decision of the Union Government to reserve 27% Government jobs for backward classes – with elimination of Creamy Layer- is constitutionally valid.
    • The reservation of seats shall only confine to initial appointments and not to promotions, and the total reservations shall not exceed 50 per cent.
  • M. Nagaraj vs. Union of India (2006: A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court validated parliament’s decision to extend reservations for SCs and STs to include promotions with three conditions:
    • State has to provide proof for the backwardness of the class benefitting from the reservation.
    • State has to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment.
    • State has to show how reservations in promotions would further administrative efficiency.
  • Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta (2018):
    • The Supreme Court held that the government need not collect quantifiable data to demonstrate backwardness of public employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) to provide reservations for them in promotion

Way Forward:

Governments must aim for progressive redistribution, for which policy should actively expand equal opportunity, starting with a strong, liberal public school system. This will strengthen diversity, and lay the foundation for the kind of scholarship that institutions of excellence need.

Editorial: The many challenges for WTO


For the first time in its 25-year history, the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be led by a woman, as both the contending candidates for the Director-General (D-G) post are women, from Nigeria and South Korea respectively.


GS Paper 2: Important International institutions, agencies, for a (structure, mandate);

Mains Questions:

  1. What are the key areas of reform if the WTO has to survive in the present context of ‘Trade War’, especially keeping in mind the interest of India? 15 Marks
  2. Restoring the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, especially the revival of its Appellate body, is also crucial for the organisation’s efficient functioning. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • About the WTO
  • Functions of the WTO
  • The Importance of the WTO to World Trade
  • Issues related to WTO
  • Way froward

About the WTO:

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was set up in 1995 in Geneva. It came about to replace another international organisation called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was formed in 1948 between 23 countries, with the aim of reducing customs tariffs and creating a fair platform for member countries.

  • WTO has a much wider scope – GATT regulated trade in merchandise goods, while the WTO is also involved in trade between services, such as telecommunications and banking, as well as a number of other issues, such as intellectual property rights.
  • Structure- The WHO has a three-tiered structure, comprising:
    • The World Health Assembly- It is the supreme decision-making body comprising all member states to determine policy direction.
    • The Executive Board- It comprises of technical experts to oversee the implementation of WHA’s decisions.
    • The Secretariat- It is headed by the Director General and functions as WHO’s administrative and technical organ with the overall responsibility for implementing its activities.

Functions of the WTO:

  • Administering WTO trade agreements.
  • Forum for trade negotiations.
  • Handling trade disputes.
  • Monitoring trade policies.
  • Technical assistance and training for developing economies.
  • Cooperation with other international organizations.

The Importance of the WTO to World Trade

  • The WTO is at the forefront of efforts to ensure unimpeded global free trade and reduce trade barriers, operating on a rules-based multilateral system.
  • It has made important contributions to the progress made around the world towards promoting global trade. This has led to the growth of a number of economies, the emergence of new markets – all important factors not only in improving business, but also in lifting people out of poverty.
  • It does this by implementing, regulating and operating trade agreements between countries, and provides a fair forum for trade negotiations between member countries, mediating on disputes as they arise. It aims to help with imports, exports and conducting trade fairly.
  • The WTO also cooperates with the IMF (International Monitory Fund) and World Bank to ensure global economic policies are fair and cohesive. Therefore, it isn’t a matter of the WTO being important for international business, but of it being absolutely fundamental.
  • Different countries operate on different regulations and rules between different countries, and it’s not easy for an international business to stay on top of these when it operates in multiple countries. But the job would be a lot more difficult if these rules were unfair or unreliable, or not consistently applied.
  • The importance of a regulatory body such as the WTO is especially pressing at a time of such pronounced global uncertainty – several of its members are currently using it to dispute President Trump’s Trade tariffs, while a no-deal Brexit scenario would likely see the UK revert to WTO rule.

Issues related to WTO:

  • Lack of defined functions: There is no single document which comprehensively describes its responsibilities, obligations and powers with respect to infectious diseases.
    • A collection of documents, such as treaties, regulations like International Health Regulations (IHR), WHA resolutions and operational practices manifest WHO’s powers
  • Recommendatory powers: The WHO’s authority is recommendatory in nature and include proposing conventions, agreements, public health practices and international nomenclatures.
    • Unlike bodies like World Trade Organisation (WTO), it has no ability to bind or sanction its members.
  • Capacity to work in an outbreak: The organisation’s responsibilities during a pandemic include surveillance, monitoring and evaluation, developing guidance for member states.
    • Its coordinating authority and capacity are weak and it merely works as a technical organisation.
    • It relies on bureaucracy and regional offices for control.
    • It lacks the ability to direct an international response to a life-threatening epidemic.
  • Limited funding: WHO’s annual operating budget, about $2bn in 2019, is smaller than that of many university hospitals, and diversified among an array of public health and research projects
  • Issues in Doha Development Agenda:  which the developed countries sought to jettison in favour of a new agenda that includes, amongst others, e-commerce, investment facilitation, MSMEs and gender.

Way Forward:

  • Salvaging the ‘development’-centric agenda is critical for a large number of developing countries as they essentially see trade as a catalyst of development. Restoring the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, especially the revival of its Appellate body, is also crucial for the organisation’s efficient functioning.
  • Most imminently, the next Director General will need to build trust among its members that the WTO needs greater engagement by all countries, to stitch fair rules in the larger interest of all nations and thwart unfair trade practices of a few.

Editorial: The long road to food security


The Global Hunger Index 2020 report has given India the 94th rank among 107 countries, much behind Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. As per a UN-FAO report, 194 million people go hungry every day in India, comprising about 23% of the world’s undernourished population.


GS Paper 2: Poverty and hunger issues

Mains Questions:

  1. How far do you agree with the view that the focus on lack or availability of food as the main cause of hunger takes the attention away from ineffective human development policies in India? 15 Marks
  2. Despite being self-sufficient in agricultural production, India’s hunger levels are alarming. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Status of Hunger in India?
  • Causes of higher hunger in India
  • Measures to address the Hunger in India
  • Way Forward

Status of Hunger in India:

  • India’s malnutrition levels are almost twice the level of many African countries.
  • The Global Hunger Index 2020 report has given India the 94th rank among 107 countries, much behind Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal.
  • As per a UN-FAO report, 194 million people go hungry every day in India, comprising about 23% of the world’s undernourished population.

Causes of higher hunger in India:

  • Food Wastage: However, according to data released by the Department of Consumer Affairs, almost 62,000 tons of food grains were damaged in Food Corporation of India warehouses between 2011 and 2017.
  • Misuse of Subsidy: A study conducted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations found that while there is a proliferation of millions of ineligible and bogus ration cards, there are also, simultaneously, a multitude of genuinely poor families that do not even possess ration cards. These data expose the poor management of the food ecosystem in India.
  • Poverty: Still 30 percent people live below poverty line and they cannot afford costly food at market price.
  • Monoculture: The farmers produce mostly rice and wheat instead of coarse grains like millet etc. These cereals give carbohydrates but not nutrition.

Measures to address the Hunger in India:

  • To ensure India’s food security, a two-pronged policy is needed.
    • Firstly, the government must ensure remunerative prices for farm produce. For this, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) should be made available to the maximum range of farm products. This will enhance the purchasing power of farmers so that they can purchase essential food items.
    • Secondly, it is crucial that India improves the Public Distribution System and Public Procurement.
  • Reviving Annapurna Scheme: The situation could be further improved by revamping the Annapurna Yojana. Under this scheme, ten kilograms of food grains are distributed per month free of cost to destitute persons above 65 years of age, with no or meagre subsistence.
  • Increasing Pulses Production: According to the Global Pulse Confederation, pulses are part of a healthy, balanced diet and have been shown to have an important role in preventing illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Way Forward:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution titled Price Rise of Essential Commodities – Causes and Effects (2020), says, “With dietary shift in favour of proteins, in an otherwise vegetarian society, the consumption of pulses is growing but the production has not kept pace … However, production of pulses has increased during the last two years which has resulted partly from continuous increase in MSP, increased procurement, and creation of buffer stock of pulses.” Hence, this is an ideal time to include pulses too in our Public Distribution System.

April 2024