- For equal treatment
- Centralisation in decision making in education
- Why annual floods are essential for the survival of Kaziranga ?
Why in news?
Supreme court in its recent judgement extended the benefits of SC/ST’s to physically disabled in order to create level playing field and ensure social justice.
Why such a decision ?
- Disability is recognised by law and have always been an underprivileged and underrepresented section in the society.
- Delhi High Court had decided in 2012 that “people suffering from disabilities are also socially backward, and are therefore, at the very least, entitled to the same benefits as given to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes candidates”
- Without imparting proper education to those suffering from disabilities, “there cannot be any meaningful enforcement of their rights
- According to 2001 Census illiteracy rate among the disabled was at 51%
- The share of disabled children out of school was quite higher than other major social categories.
- So, Supreme Court has recognised the difficulty of the disabled in accessing education or employment, regardless of their social status.
Argument against the judgement
Disabled individual from traditionally privileged community will be at an advantage over those suffering from historical social disability.
What is Reservation?
- In India, reservation is a system which ensures that individuals born in the castes categorised as SCs and STs and Other Backwards Classes are given priority over General Category candidates in recruitment to government jobs, admission in higher educational institutions, and selection of Legislative and parliament members.
- The objective of the reservation is to address the historic oppression, inequality and discrimination faced by these communities.
The current scenario of reservation in India:
- Today 50% of seats in government-aided educational institutions and public jobs are reserved for the SC, ST and, OBCs.
- The central government of India reserves 27% of higher education, and individual states may legislate further reservations.
- The current scenario of Reservation in India is:
- 15% seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC).
- 5% of seats are reserved for Scheduled tribes (ST).
- 27% seats are reserved for Other backward classes (OBC).
- Total constitutional reservation percentage is 49.5% and the rest 50.5% seats are open to all i.e. general, SC, ST And OBC.
How does the Indian Constitution deal with Reservation?
- Article 15(4): It was added by the Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951. It provides for special provision for the advancement of backward classes.
- Article 16(3): Forbids discrimination on the ground of residence. It provides for reservation of Posts in Public Employment on the Basis of Residence:
- Article 16(4): It provides for reservation for Backward Classes in Public Employment. It empowers the state to make special provision for the reservation in appointments of posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the State are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
- Fundamental Right: The Constitution of India provides for the right to equality. A fundamental right, it provides for equality irrespective of religion, race, gender, caste or place of birth. It also includes the right of equal opportunity in employment as well as the abolition of titles and untouchability.
- Preamble: The preamble states, “Equality of status and of opportunity”. Reservation hence seemed to be a justified recourse. It elevated those sections of society that had for generations been neglected. It provided a chance for equal opportunities or status in society and culture.
Indra Sawhney judgment
- It recognized socially and economically backward classes as a category and recognized the validity of the 27 per cent reservation.
- The concept of ‘creamy layer’ gained currency through this judgment. Those among the OBCs who had transcended their social backwardness were to be excluded from the reservation.
- It laid down a 50 per cent limit on reservations and observed that economic, social and educational criteria were needed to define backward classes.
- Reservation for backward classes (which include OBCs and SCs & STs) should be confined to initial appointments and not extend to promotions
Why in news?
Decentralisation and active encouragement was the principle in the initial years of independence. Recent trends show a growing emphasis on centralisation in university education.
Government support and the rise of educational institutions
- In the initial decades after Independence, the government was conscious of various social, economic and financial challenges. So, the government strongly supported universities.
- The IITs and IIM along with institutions of academic excellence like the IISc, Indian Statistical Institute, and JNU emerged as model institutions.
- The institutional and academic autonomy offered was crucial to their development as premier institutions.
- Other universities revised curricula and set about the task of reforming the themselves as a space for healthy academic engagement.
Rise of decentralisation in collective decision making
- The above changes were marked by the growing importance of various large representative institutional bodies.
- For example, institutional bodies like faculty committees, committees of courses, board of studies, university senates, academic councils and executive councils grew in importance.
- These bodies oversaw the administrative and academic functioning of the university and ensured collective decision-making.
- Debate over ideological positions, scholarly beliefs shaped the process of nation-building in independent India.
Policy changes and its impact (2005-15)
- Administrative and academic decisions were imposed from above.
- Discussions within various academic bodies were discouraged.
- The imposition of the semester system and a four-year undergraduate programme in many public and private universities were hallmarks of this new era of bureaucratic centralisation.
- The academic achievements of scholars from Indian universities were undermined.
- Those in positions of authority within the universities were encouraged to undermine academic bodies and limit their role.
New government intervention after 2015
- Choice Based Credit System was introduced and there were renewed attempts to privatise higher education linked to an emphasis on rankings.
- The government started to look into minute details pertaining to academic curricula, the teaching-learning process and the parameters that governed academic research within the university.
Centralisation in Covid-19 pandemic
- The centralisation trend intensified with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Central government and the University Grants Commission have imposed themselves on the daily functioning of all higher educational institutions.
- This represents a new government-oriented bureaucratic centralisation.
- Decisions about the conclusion of academic term, the modalities for evaluation and the conduct of the teaching-learning process have become exclusive government prerogatives.
- The various academic bodies that had original jurisdiction over these matters have been made redundant.
- How and whether examinations are to be conducted has become an issue of contention between State and Central governments.
Why in news?
As a fresh wave of floods ravages Assam, killing 73 and affecting nearly 40 lakh people across the state, 85 per cent of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) remains submerged.
What is the role of floods in Kaziranga’s ecosystem?
- Assam is traditionally flood prone, and the 1,055 sq km KNPTR — sandwiched between the Brahmaputra river and the Karbi Anglong Hills — is no exception.
- It is a riverine ecosystem, not a solid landmass-based ecosystem. The system won’t survive without water. The entire area of Kaziranga — formed by alluvial deposits from the Brahmaputra and its tributaries — is centred around the river.
- This “floodplain eco system” has not only been created by floods but also feeds off it.
- The regenerative nature of floods helps replenish Kaziranga’s water bodies and maintain its landscape, a mix of wetlands, grasslands and semi-evergreen deciduous forests.
- Floodwaters also function as a breeding ground for fish. The same fish are carried away by the receding waters into the Brahmaputra — in a way, the park replenishes the river’s stock of fish too.
- The waters also help get rid of unwanted plants such as water hyacinth which collect in huge masses in the landscape.
- In a herbivore-dominated area like Kaziranga, it is important we maintain its grassland status. If it were not for the annual floods, the area would become a woodland.
- Many also believe that floods are a way of natural selection. A number of animals — especially the old, weak — cannot survive the floods. Only the ones with superior genes survive.
Can the floods become problematic for Kaziranga?
- Barring 2018, the years between 2016 and 2020 have all featured high floods (or floods which submerge more than 60 per cent of the park) killing and injuring hundreds of animals.
- Animals adapt naturally to floods but when the waters hit a certain level, they gravitate towards safer, higher ground in the Karbi Anglong hills.
- While in the past, Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong were part of the same landscape, the animals now have to cross the bustling National Highway 37 which cuts across the park.
- Mushrooming of hotels, restaurants, shops, and ancillary structures of the tea industry has not helped either.
- As a result, animals that venture out of the park, die either under the wheels of speeding vehicles on the highway, or are killed by poachers who take advantage of their vulnerability.
What measures are taken to prepare for the flood?
- Preparedness begins a month before floods hit. The authorities keep a track of updates from the Central Water Commission, and monitor water levels of the Brahmaputra tributaries upstream in Arunachal Pradesh.
- To avoid disease outbreaks, a door-to-door vaccination is organised every year pre-floods. “Thereafter, camps are organised to create awareness against poaching and harming wild animals that are rendered vulnerable during the floods.”
- Moreover, when the floods hit, Section 144 is imposed along NH-37, speed limits are enforced and fines levied.
- Barricades are also placed to help animals cross over to Karbi Anglong.
- The efforts of the forest department’s frontline staff become crucial during the season.
How helpful are Kaziranga’s artificial highlands?
- Over the years, another mitigation measure has been artificial highlands (111 in the Nineties, 33 in 2016-17) built inside the park for wild animals to take refuge in during the flood.
- While these highlands have helped a fair bit in reducing the number of animal casualties during floods, some feel that it is not a ‘permanent solution’.
- Animals do take refuge there — especially rhino and swamp deer — but it is not viable to build more highlands since such constructions will ruin the natural ecosystem.
- These 33 highlands cannot accommodate all animals of Kaziranga, and the older ones are more or less dilapidated.
- Some animals do not take to the highlands naturally.
- They have been migrating to natural highlands of Karbi Anglong for centuries; suddenly these artificial constructions do not inspire confidence, they do not find it secure.
Kaziranga National Park
It is located in Golaghat and Nagaon, in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam in northeast India.
About the Park:
- In the year 1985, the park was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
- Along with the iconic Greater one-horned rhinoceros, the park is the breeding ground of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
- Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
- Also, the park is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species. Birds like lesser white-fronted goose, ferruginous duck, Baer’s pochard duck and lesser adjutant, greater adjutant, black-necked stork, and Asian Openbill stork specially migrate from the Central Asia during the winter season.
- The park has successfully managed to grow the population of Greater one-horned rhinoceros, an endangered species.
- The vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests undoubtedly makes the park look beautiful but it’s the presence of Brahmaputra river, which makes it look enigmatic.
- Due to the difference in altitude between the eastern and western areas of the park, here one can see mainly four types of vegetation’ like alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests.
About Asian One-horned Rhinoceros
- The Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is also called Greater One-horned Rhinoceros and Asian One-horned Rhinoceros and belongs to the Rhinocerotidae family.
- It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- Primarily found in parts of north-eastern India and in protected areas in the Terai of Nepal, where populations are confined to the riverine grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Weighing between 2260 kg and 3000 kg, it is the fourth largest land animal and has a single horn.
- These Rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain but excessive hunting reduced their natural habitat drastically. Today, about 3,000 Rhinos live in the wild, 2000 of which are found in Assam’s Kaziranga alone.
- It has excellent senses of hearing and smell but relatively poor eyesight.