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25th April – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. No 100% quota for tribal teachers: SC
  2. Clean environment now will only be short term
  3. States can amend law to up deficit target to over 3%
  4. Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre
  5. Explained: How oil price crash impacts sugar
  6. Create green worker pools, not green zones

NO 100% QUOTA FOR TRIBAL TEACHERS: SC

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

A 152-page judgment by a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said it was an “obnoxious idea” to have only tribals teach tribals.

Supreme Court ruling stresses that overzealous reservation tends to affect rights of other communities

The verdict comes from a 5-Judge Bench quashing the reservation of 100% of all teaching posts in ‘Scheduled Areas’ of Andhra Pradesh for local Scheduled Tribes.

Details leading to the judgement

  • One of the aspects that the court took into account was that Andhra Pradesh has a local area system of recruitment to public services. The President, under Article 371D, has issued orders that a resident of a district/zone cannot apply to another district/zone for appointment. Thus, the 100% quota deprived residents of the Scheduled Areas of any opportunity to apply for teaching posts.
  • Affirmative action loses its meaning if it does not leave the door slightly ajar for open competition.
  • According to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar- any reservation normally ought to be for a “minority of seats”.
  • This is one of the points often urged in favour of the 50% cap imposed by the Court on total reservation, albeit with some allowance for relaxation in special circumstances.

Conclusion

  • Wherever it is imperative that the 50% cap be breached, a special case must be made for it.
  • Such a debate should not divert attention from the fact that there is a continuing need for a significant quota for STs, especially those living in areas under the Fifth Schedule special dispensation.
  • In this backdrop, it is somewhat disappointing that courts tend to record obiter dicta advocating a revision of the list of SCs and STs.
  • While the power to amend the lists notified by the President is not in dispute, it is somewhat uncharitable to say that the advanced and “affluent” sections within SCs and STs are cornering all benefits and do not permit any trickle-down. Indian society is still some distance from reaching that point.

-Source: The Hindu


CLEAN ENVIRONMENT NOW WILL ONLY BE SHORT TERM

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Introduction (Can be used in Answers)

Pandemics and environment have a close relation. Throughout history epidemics have caused large scale deaths, reducing human influence on the environment.

Pandemics and Environment

  • Europe’s Black Death, which killed about 20 million people during 1347-1351, led to a drastic reduction in toxic lead pollution in the air for the first time in over a thousand years.
  • The Anthropocene – age of the humans – started with an epidemic. This epidemic, which happened around 1610 and killed more than 50 million people in Latin America, was caused by the transmission of smallpox virus from Europeans to the native population. The impact of this epidemic was so significant that atmospheric CO2 levels in 1610 dipped dramatically from the normal. Researchers have named this dip ‘Orbis Spike’.
  • Lower CO2 levels led to the cooling of the planet and triggered a ‘little ice age’. For the first time human activity had planetary implications; hence the beginning of the Anthropocene.

But does it mean we will change?

  • It is clear from history that environmental changes during pandemics have been short lived.
  • The epidemic of 1610 also paved the way for large scale European settlement in Latin America. These settlers destroyed the environment, especially forests, to feed the raw material needs of the colonisers.
  • So, there is no historical evidence that points to humans actively mending their ways after a pandemic to relish a clean environment.
  • On the contrary, post-pandemic periods seem to have led to large scale exploitation of nature to fuel economic growth.

What about COVID-19?

  • Covid-19 is likely to cause the biggest economic collapse in the modern era.
  • The general tendency of governments will be to bail out companies and boost consumption to stimulate economic growth.
  • This strategy, though popular in the short term, will strengthen an economic system that will lead to a much bigger crisis than Covid-19, such as climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse.

Way Forward: A 5-point Agenda

  1. Green package: The massive government investments in infrastructure, technology, and business bailout should align to stabilise the climate system, preserve biodiversity and ensure water security.
  2. Taxing the bad, supporting the good: Governments should tax fossil fuels and other large carbon emitting products and incentivise investments in renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency.
  3. Local production, local jobs: Post-Covid world will see shrinkage of jobs in the corporate sector in the name of efficiency and social distancing. Governments must, therefore, invest in local production and small businesses to generate local employment.
  4. Nature restoration programme: In India, we will see massive joblessness and hence programmes like MGNREGA will play a critical role in supporting livelihoods. We should use MGNREGA for ecological restoration projects related to land, water and forest.
  5. Invest in global cooperation and institutions: Covid should not be used as an excuse for anti-globalisation. We need globalisation to share knowledge, technology and values. Similarly, we need unprecedented global cooperation to solve crises like climate change and the next pandemic.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s remind ourselves of the massive environmental challenges that lie ahead and invest in building a resilient society, economy and ecosystem.

-Source: Times of India


STATES CAN AMEND LAW TO UP DEFICIT TARGET TO OVER 3%

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, GS-II Governance

Why in news?

While acknowledging that states may face difficulties in raising resources due to Covid-19, 15th finance commission chairman N K Singh on 24th April 2020, said that they can seek to amend the law to raise fiscal deficit from the mandated 3% of GDP to a higher level, although the Centre will need to be on board.

What was said by the XV-FC Chairman?

  • There is no dispute that states find themselves stretched, but why should they raise the issue with the Centre? Each state has its own FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) Act.
  • They will need the Centre’s concurrence but they need to start the process
  • State laws too allowed them to deviate from the fiscal consolidation path for a year and they could have a fiscal deficit of up to 3.5% of the GDP.
  • The finances of the central and state governments need to be watched carefully.
  • As of now, adequate provision for Ways and Means Advances can largely help governments to manage cash-flow mismatches.
  • the government and the RBI could extend a helping hand to the micro, small and medium enterprises as well as non-banking finance companies.
  • Although higher deficit levels will allow states to borrow more, Singh cautioned that they should carefully weigh the options of raising money.
  • While market borrowings were the preferred option for the states, the National Small Savings Fund was another avenue, although it came with a higher cost.

– Source: Times of India


PESHAWAR’S QISSA KHWANI BAZAAR MASSACRE

Focus: GS-I History

Introduction

Before the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, the Qissa Khwani Bazaar marketplace was also the site of a massacre perpetrated by British soldiers against non-violent protesters of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement on April 23, 1930.

Who were the Khudai Khidmatgars?

  • The Khudai Khidmatgar was a non-violent movement against British occupation of the Indian subcontinent led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a Pashtun freedom fighter, in the North-West Frontier Province.
  • Following the arrest of Khan and other leaders in 1929, the movement formally joined the Indian National Congress after they failed to receive support from the All-India Muslim League.
  • Members of the Khudai Khidmatgar were organised and the men stood out because of the bright red shirts they wore as uniforms, while the women wore black garments.

Why did the Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre happen?

  • Abdul Ghaffar Khan and other leaders of the Khudai Khidmatgar were arrested on April 23, 1930 by British police.
  • A respected leader well-known for his non-violent ways, Khan’s arrest spurred protests in neighbouring towns, including Peshawar.
  • Protests spilled into the Qissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar on the day of Khan’s arrest.
  • British soldiers entered the market area to disperse crowds that had refused to leave.
  • In response, British army vehicles drove into the crowds, killing several protesters and bystanders.
  • British soldiers then opened fire on unarmed protestors, killing even more people.

What was the aftermath of the Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre?

  • The British ramped up the crackdown on Khudai Khidmatgar leaders and members following the Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre.
  • In response, the movement began involving young women in its struggle against the British, a decision in line with tactics adopted by revolutionaries across the undivided India. Women were able to move undetected with more ease than men.
  • According to accounts by Khudai Khidmatgar activists, the British subjected members of the movement to harassment, abuse and coercive tactics adopted elsewhere in the subcontinent.
  • This included physical violence and religious persecution.
  • Following the recruitment of women in the movement, the British also engaged in violence, brutality and abuse of women members.
  • British also adopted their tactic of sowing divisions on religious grounds in the North-West Frontier Province as well, in an attempt to weaken the Khudai Khidmatgar.

Later on, for Khudai Khidtmatgar

  • The Khudai Khidtmatgar opposed Partition, a stance that many interpreted as the movement not being in favour of the creation of the independent nation of Pakistan.
  • Post 1947, the Khudai Khidmatgar slowly found their political influence decreasing to such an extent that the movement and the massacre 90 years ago in the Qissa Khwani Bazaar has been wiped out from collective memory.

– Source: Indian Express


EXPLAINED: HOW OIL PRICE CRASH IMPACTS SUGAR?

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

It is not only oil that has tumbled, with prices of West Texas Intermediate grade crude closing at an unprecedented minus $37.63 per barrel on April 20.

Why have global sugar prices also collapsed?

  • One reason for this collapse is the closure of restaurants, weddings and other social functions not taking place, and people avoiding ice-creams and sweetened cold beverages that might cause throat infections.
  • The impact of coronavirus-induced lockdowns on out-of-home consumption and institutional (as opposed to direct household) demand for sugar is obvious.

Is that the only reason?

  • Sinking crude prices appear an even bigger factor.
  • The juice from crushing sugarcane can be crystallised into sugar or fermented into alcohol.
  • When oil prices are high, mills — especially in Brazil — tend to divert cane for making ethanol (alcohol of 99%-plus purity) that is used for blending with petrol.

How will this affect India?

  • Dip in sugar consumption, together with higher Brazilian output, is bad news for both Indian sugar mills and cane farmers.
  • The current plunge in world prices, plus Brazil’s likely production surge, would upset these calculations.

What is the situation with respect to cane farmers?

  • Exports slowing down and not much domestic lifting of sugar by institutional consumers has significantly undermined the ability of mills to make cane payments.
  • Moreover, the industry’s problem is not from sugar alone. The lockdown has reduced offtake of alcohol, be it potable liquor or ethanol for blending with petrol.

Are other agri-commodities impacted?

  • Prices of corn, which is also used for making ethanol, fell to their lowest.
  • Likewise, palm oil, again a feedstock for bio-diesel, ended 7.5% lower at the Bursa Malaysia futures exchange.
  • Corn prices can, in turn, drag down other cereals, just as palm oil could to soyabean and other oilseeds.
  • They are all ultimately linked to oil, whose prices matter as much to petroleum companies as farmers.

– Source: Indian Express


CREATE GREEN WORKER POOLS, NOT GREEN ZONES

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

How can we minimise the risk while allowing work?

The government is following a geographic (zonal) approach. This is claimed to be a high-risk approach which can also prove ineffective.

A more effective, minimal-risk approach would be to create infection-free worker pools, by a strategic combination of antibody and PCR testing of workers in businesses that open up.

How is the Government going to segregate zones?

  • The government has demarcated three zones: green, orange and red.
  • The green zones are those where no new cases were reported over 28 days since the last case tested negative.
  • The orange zones are those with a few cases, and the red ones have a large number of cases.
  • The government suggests opening up the green zones first.

Concerns with this method

  • But these zones may have many asymptomatic cases, that is, infected people with no symptoms. The Delhi government found recently that 25% of those who tested positive had no symptoms.
  • If green zones are opened and 25% people are asymptomatic carriers, infections will spike.
  • If workers are together in factories, even with social distancing a single asymptomatic carrier can infect others, forcing the entire unit into quarantine.

Why would the alternative combined strategy of testing and opening up is better?

  • A lower risk method would be to create “pools of green workers” (rather than green zones) who are infection free.
  • Hence, if an industry wants to open (and all should be allowed, whether producing essential or non-essential goods) it should first identify its workers.
  • Those who have already recovered from the virus will have some immunity, hence they can be cleared to work. Antibody tests can be given to the other workers.
  • Some of those who test positive may still be infectious, others would have recovered, to identify the recovered, a PCR test can be given. Those testing negative can join the green workers.
  • This procedure will create a worker pool who can work without endangering others or themselves. They will not need on-site lodgings, since they will have some immunity, and can come from any zone, including red.

-Source: Indian Express

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