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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 28th August 2020

Contents

  1. Members of Great Andaman tribe test positive
  2. SC: States can have sub-groups among SCs/STs
  3. Solar tariff in India unlikely to compete with Gulf
  4. Crude oil purchases from Chinese firms halted
  5. Borrow from RBI to bridge GST gap

MEMBERS OF GREAT ANDAMAN TRIBE TEST POSITIVE

Focus: GS-I Indian Society

Why in news?

Members of the Great Andamanese tribe, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), have tested positive for COVID-19.

Details

  • Great Andamanese are one of five PVTGs that reside in Andamans archipelago and this is one of the first cases of COVID-19 infections among the endangered PVTGs of the region.
  • Some members of the tribe travel between Port Blair and Strait Island and a few do odd jobs in the city – hence, opening up chances of infection.

Great Andamanese

  • The Great Andamanese are an indigenous people of the Great Andaman archipelago in the Andaman Islands.
  • Historically, the Great Andamanese lived throughout the archipelago, and were divided into ten major tribes.
  • Their distinct but closely related languages comprised the Great Andamanese languages, one of the two identified Andamanese language families.
  • The Great Andamanese were clearly related to the other Andamanese peoples, but were well separated from them by culture and geography.
  • Once the Great Andamanese were the most numerous of the five major groups in the Andaman Islands with an estimated population between 2,000 and 6,600 – But now, the Great Andamanese, heavily decimated by diseases, alcohol, colonial warfare and loss of hunting territory – numbers stand at just 59.
  • The tribal and linguistic distinctions have largely disappeared, so they may now be considered a single Great Andamanese ethnic group with mixed Burmese, Hindi and aboriginal descent.

Great Andamanese Anthropology

  • The Great Andamanese are classified by anthropologists as one of the Negrito peoples, which also include the other four aboriginal groups of the Andaman Islands (Onge, Jarawa, Jangil and Sentinelese) and five other isolated populations of Southeast Asia.
  • The Andaman Negritos are thought to be the first inhabitants of the islands, having emigrated from the mainland tens of thousands of years ago.
  • Until the late 18th century, the Andamanese peoples were preserved from outside influences by their fierce rejection of contacts (which included killing any shipwrecked foreigners) and by the remoteness of the islands.
  • Thus, the ten Great Andamanese tribes and the other four indigenous groups are thought to have diverged on their own over the course of millennia.

Current status

  • As of now, only two tribes (Jeru and Bo) remain in significant number; the Cari tribe was on its way to extinction.
  • There are still a few people (all elderly) with partial Kora and Pucikwar descent, but they identify themselves as either Jeru or Bo.
  • However, the cultural and linguistic identities of the individual tribes have largely been lost; their members now speak mostly Hindi or a mixed language, a Great Andamanese creole.
  • Although the Great Andamanese on Strait Island still obtain some of their diet from hunting, fishing and gathering, they now consume rice and other Indian food, and are dependent on support by the Indian government for survival.
  • They now practice some agriculture, and have established some poultry farms. Some of the Great Andamanese work in government jobs in the union territory’s capital Port Blair.

Recently in news:

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached the Bondas, a (PVTG) tribal community residing in the hill ranges of Malkangiri district in Odisha.

Click Here to read more about PVTG and Bondas

-Source: The Hindu


SC: STATES CAN HAVE SUB-GROUPS AMONG SCS/STS

Focus: GS-II Governance, Social Justice

Why in news?

A Supreme Court held that States can sub-classify Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Central List to provide preferential treatment to the “weakest out of the weak”.

Supreme Court’s views: ‘Struggle within castes’

  • There is a “caste struggle” within the reserved class as benefit of reservation are being usurped by a few, the court pointed out.
  • The State cannot be deprived of the power to take care of the qualitative and quantitative difference between different classes to take ameliorative measures.
  • This judgment is significant as it fully endorses the push to extend the creamy layer concept to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • The judgment records that “once a mortgage always a mortgage” cannot be pressed into service for submitting that once a backward class of citizens, always such a backward class.
  • “Citizens cannot be treated to be socially and educationally backward till perpetuity; those who have come up must be excluded like the creamy layer,” the judgment said.

With this, the Bench took a contrary view to a 2004 judgment delivered by another Coordinate Bench of five judges in the E.V. Chinnaiah case. The Chinnaiah judgment had held that allowing States to unilaterally “make a class within a class of members of the Scheduled Castes” would amount to tinkering with the Presidential list.

On ‘Tinkering with the list’

  • The Central List of Scheduled Castes and Tribes is notified by the President under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution.
  • The consent of the Parliament is required to exclude or include castes in the List. In short, States cannot unilaterally add or pull out castes from the List.
  • The Current judgment reasoned that sub-classifications within the Presidential/Central List does not amount to “tinkering” with it. No caste is excluded from the list.
  • The States only give preference to weakest of the lot in a pragmatic manner based on statistical data.
  • Preferential treatment to ensure even distribution of reservation benefits to the more backward is a facet of the right to equality.

Recently in news: Commission for sub-categorization of OBCs

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes.

Commission for sub-categorization of OBCs

  • G. Rohini Commission is constituted to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Central List.
  • The commission has been established under Article 340 of Constitution.
  • This is the first government-mandated exercise to quantify the skewed flow of benefits among different OBC communities and suggest steps to correct the imbalance.
  • The Commission had clarified its stand on fixing OBC quotas based on current representation in reserved seats, and not on social hierarchy.

Functions of the Commission:

  • The commission will examine extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among castes included in broad category of OBCs.
  • It will also take up exercise of identifying respective castes/sub-castes/communities synonyms in Central List of OBCs and classify them into their respective sub-categories.
  • It will work out mechanism, norms, criteria and parameters, in scientific approach, for sub-categorization within such OBCs.

History of Sub-categorization

  • The First Backward Class Commission report of 1955, also known as the Kalekar report, had proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs into backward and extremely backward communities.
  • In 2015, former National Commission for OBCs asked for sub-categorisation within OBCs into Extremely Backward Classes (Group A), More Backward Classes (Group B) and Backward Classes (Group C).
  • Presently, ten states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Jammu, have sub-categorised OBCs.
  • The criteria used by the states were various, including the ascribed status such as denotified, nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, the religion of a community, caste status before conversion to Christianity or Islam, and perceived status socially or traditional occupation.

Importance and Need of Sub-categorisation

  • Sub-categorisation of OBCs aims to ensure more equitable distribution of reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.
  • Sub-categorisation is important to ensure that dominant groups among OBCs do not corner all benefits.
  • Five-year data on OBC quota implementation in central jobs and higher educational institutions showed that a very small section has cornered the lion’s share.
  • In the past under article 340, Mandal commission was appointed had recommended 27% reservation for socially and educationally backward classes.
  • At present, there is no sub-categorisation and 27% reservation is a rigid and uniform entity.
  • This Commission will address the inefficiency in preventing large sections of the creamy layer from taking advantage of the quota system to the detriment of the poorer sections among their own caste groups in the past.

Article 340

The President may by order appoint a Commission to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India, and the difficulties under which they labour. The commission is mandated to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the union or any state to remove such difficulties and as to improve their condition.

-Source: The Hindu


SOLAR TARIFF IN INDIA UNLIKELY TO COMPETE WITH GULF

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • The per unit cost of solar power in India, considered among the cheapest in the world, is unlikely to cost less than what it is in Gulf countries, according to an analysis by an energy think tank.
  • This is primarily due to the lower cost of finance in the countries in the region along with factors such as cheaper land prices.

Details

  • India and other countries will struggle to secure the same low tariffs discovered in the Gulf auctions, it would be extremely difficult for the Indian market to replicate the combination of factors leading to low solar tariffs in the Gulf region.
  • India’s tariffs, some of the lowest in the world, are about twice that in the Gulf region.
  • To arrive at their figures, the authors used mathematical modelling and compared two kinds of projects in India that were typical of solar power installations in India and one project in Abu Dhabi as well as expert feedback from industry experts.

Favourable destination

  • India has for years being considered a favourable destination for solar projects and nearly 20 gigawatt of solar capacity is under installation currently.
  • According to the latest estimates, India has deployed about 87,000 MW of renewable energy capacity as of 2019, and has committed to achieving 450 GW of renewable energy capacity — a significant fraction of which is by solar — by 2030, according to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment.

-Source: The Hindu


CRUDE OIL PURCHASES FROM CHINESE FIRMS HALTED

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Indian state refiners have stopped buying crude oil from China-linked companies, three sources said, after New Delhi’s recent regulation aimed at restricting imports from countries that it shares a border with.

Details

  • Since the new order was issued, state refiners have been inserting a clause in their import tenders on new rules restricting dealings with companies from countries sharing a border with India.
  • Indian state refiners decided to stop sending crude import tenders to Chinese trading firms.

Background

  • India is the world’s third biggest oil consumer and importer and imports almost 84% of its oil needs.
  • China does not export crude to India but Chinese firms are major traders of the commodity globally.
  • Chinese companies also hold equity stakes in many oilfields across the globe ranging from the Middle East to Africa and the Americas and often submit competitive bids in crude import tenders by Indian state refiners.
  • India has surplus refining capacity. Most refiners are operating their plants at below capacity as COVID-19-related restrictions have dented fuel demand.

-Source: The Hindu


BORROW FROM RBI TO BRIDGE GST GAP

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The Centre acknowledged that States are likely to face a GST revenue gap of Rs. 3 lakh crore this year, as the economy may contract due to COVID-19.

Details

  • At the GST Council meeting, the Centre distinguished between the shortfall due to GST implementation itself — claiming that this is the portion “hardwired” into the compensation law — and that caused by the impact of COVID-19.
  • Alleging a “trust deficit” between the Centre and States, they asked why the former could not borrow money to compensate the States, adding that the proposed solution of borrowing by States should not be forced on them.
  • That law guaranteed States that they would be compensated for any loss of revenue in the first five years of GST implementation, until 2022, using a cess levied on sin and luxury goods.
  • However, the economic slowdown has pushed both GST and cess collections down over the last year, resulting in a 40% gap last year between the compensation paid and cess collected.

The 2 options presented to the council

  • A special window could be provided, in consultation with the RBI, so that the States can get this Rs. 97,000 (out of the 2.35 lakh crore States’ GST revenue gap in 2020-21 due to GST implementation ONLY and nothing else) crore at a reasonable rate of interest, and this amount can be repaid after five years through the collection of cess.
  • This entire gap of Rs. 2.35 lakh crore can be met by the borrowing by the States. There also, arrangement could be made with the RBI and certain facilities could be provided.
  • States have asked for seven working days to consider the detailed proposals.

-Source: The Hindu

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