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Current Affairs 04 June 2024

  1. Supreme Court Reaffirms Promotion is Not a Fundamental Right
  2. Archaeologists and Sanskrit Scholars Decipher Rigveda for Historical Links
  3. Adani Group Accused of Mislabeling Coal Quality in 2014
  4. RudraM-II
  5. Sarcophagus
  6. Paraparatrechina neela


Context:

The Supreme Court of India has recently reiterated that promotion is not a fundamental right for government servants. The judgement emphasized that the Constitution does not prescribe any criteria for filling promotional posts, leaving this matter to the discretion of the legislature and the executive.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues related to Minorities), GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Important Judgements)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Constitutional Provisions on Reservation
  2. Reservation not a fundamental Right
  3. Arguments for applying reservation in promotions
  4. Pros and Cons of Reservation in Promotion
  5. Reservation Related Developments in India
  6. Way Forward

Constitutional Provisions on Reservation

  • Article 16(4) empowers the 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.
  • By way of the 77th Amendment Act, a new clause (4A) was added to Article 16, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented in services.

Reservation not a fundamental Right

  • It is a settled law, time and again reiterated by the Supreme Court, that there is no fundamental right to reservation or promotion under Article 16(4) or Article 16(4 A) of the Constitution.
  • Rather they are enabling provisions for providing reservation, if the circumstances so warrant (Mukesh Kumar and Another vs State of Uttarakhand & Ors. 2020).
  • However, these pronouncements no way understate the constitutional directive under Article 46.
  • Article 46 mandates that the state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and in particular SCs and STs.
  • However such provisions resulted in the ever-evolving jurisprudence of affirmative action in public employment.

Arguments for applying reservation in promotions

  • As there is a peculiar hierarchical arrangement of caste in India, it is obvious that SCs and STs are poorly represented in higher posts.
  • Denying application of reservation in promotions has kept SCs and STs largely confined to lower cadre jobs.
  • Hence, providing reservation for promotions is even more justified and appropriate to attain equality.
  • This judgment destabilises the very basis of reservation, when there is no direct recruitment in higher posts.
  • This delineation of the scope of reservation as at the entry level and in promotions will only lead to confusion in its implementation.
  • Now, by declaring that reservation cannot be claimed as a fundamental right is a dangerous precedent in the history of social justice.

Pros and Cons of Reservation in Promotion

Advantages of ReservationDisadvantages of Reservation
Enhances representation of historically disadvantaged groups (SC, ST, OBC) in higher positions within services.Raises concerns about potentially bypassing the most qualified candidates for promotion.
Fosters a more diverse and inclusive leadership, improving understanding of societal issues.May cause demotivation and frustration among general category candidates who feel overlooked.
Provides marginalized communities with opportunities to advance and compete at higher levels.The benefits may disproportionately aid the “creamy layer” within reserved categories, undermining the intended upliftment.
Helps address historical discrimination by providing support to overcome entrenched social and economic barriers.Reservations in promotions can disrupt seniority-based systems, impacting overall efficiency.

Reservation Related Developments in India

Mandal storm
  • Reservation in employment which was otherwise confined to SC and STs got extended to new section called the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • This was the basis of the recommendations of the Second Backward Class Commission as constituted, headed by B.P. Mandal.
  • The Mandal Commission (1980) provided for 27% reservation to OBC in central services and public sector undertakings.
  • This was over and above the existing 22.5% reservation for SCs and STs, was sought to be implemented by the V.P. Singh Government in 1990.
  • The same was assailed in the Supreme Court resulting in the historic Indra Sawhney Judgment.
Indra Sawhney case, 1992
  • In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion.
  • It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment.
  • On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.
The Constitution (Seventy-seventh Amendment) Act, 1995
  • In Indra Sawhney Case, the Supreme Court had held that Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India does not authorise reservation in the matter of promotions.
  • However, the judgment was not to affect the promotions already made and hence only prospective in operation, it was ruled.
  • By the Constitution (Seventy-seventh Amendment) Act, 1995, which, Article 16(4-A), was inserted.
  • It aimed to provide the State for making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State.
  • This was to be in favour of the SCs and the STs which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
  • Later, two more amendments were brought, one to ensure consequential seniority and another to secure carry forward of unfilled vacancies of a year.
M. Nagaraj case, 2006
  • The constitutional validity of Art 16(4A) was upheld by the Supreme Court in the M. Nagaraj v. Union of India 2006 case; however, State is not bound to make such reservations in promotions.
  • If the states seek to make reservation in promotions, then it must collect quantifiable data on three parameters
  • The backwardness of the class
  • The inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment;
  • The general efficiency of service would not be affected
Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta case, 2018
  • In Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta case of 2018, the Supreme Court held that reservation in promotions does not require the state to collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • The court upheld the argument that once various caste groups were listed as SC/ST, this automatically implied they were backward.
  • That judgment had, while modifying the part of the Nagaraj verdict which required States to show quantifiable data to prove the ‘backwardness’ of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community to provide quota in promotion in public employment, rejected the Centre’s argument that Nagaraj misread the creamy layer concept by applying it to SC/ST.
The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019
  • The 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) other SCs, STs and backward classes for government jobs and admission in educational institutions.
  • This is currently under challenge before the Supreme Court which has referred the same to a constitution bench.
  • This was a critical milestone to specifically include economic backwardness without social backwardness as is traditionally seen.
 Dr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs Chief Minister (2021)
  • Despite the Indra Sawhney ruling, there have been attempts on the part of many States to breach the rule by way of expanding the reservation coverage.
  • The Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act 2018, (Maratha reservation law) came under challenge before the Supreme Court.
  • This case was referred to a bench of five judges to question whether the 1992 judgment needs a relook.
  • Interestingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Indra Sawhney decision, and struck down Section 4(1)(a) and Section 4(1)(b) of the Act which provided 12% reservation for Marathas in educational institutions and 13% reservation in public employment respectively.
  • This judgment gave out a strong message that some State governments blatantly disregard the stipulated ceiling on electoral gains rather than any exceptional circumstances.

Way Forward

  • Assessing Current Representation: It is essential to evaluate the present representation of SC/ST/OBCs at various levels and departments. This data will help set specific targets for fulfilling reservation quotas.
  • Merit and Relaxation System: Advocate for a system that emphasizes merit while providing some relaxation in qualifying marks for SC/ST/OBC candidates in promotions. This ensures that qualified candidates from these communities have a better chance while maintaining acceptable competency standards.
  • Addressing Concerns: Acknowledge the issues related to unqualified candidates being promoted due to reservations.
  • Training and Mentorship: Propose robust training and mentorship programs for promoted SC/ST/OBC employees to bridge any skill gaps and ensure they excel in their new roles.
  • Temporary Measure: Highlight that reservations are a temporary measure aimed at achieving long-term social justice and equal opportunity in promotions.
  • Parallel Initiatives: Advocate for simultaneous initiatives that enhance education and access to resources for these communities, ultimately leading to a scenario where reservations might not be required.

-Source: Times of India



Context:

Archaeologists are collaborating with Sanskrit scholars to decipher the Rigveda, conducting research that aims to uncover potential relationships between the people of the Vedic age and the Harappan civilization.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) / Harappa Civilisation (3300 – 1300 BCE)
  2. The Vedic Age (1500 – 600 BCE)
  3. How Archaeologists are Establishing Relationships Between the Harappan and the Vedic Age?
  4. Evidence Supporting the Relationship

Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) / Harappa Civilisation (3300 – 1300 BCE)

  • Overview: The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Harappan Civilisation, was a prominent Bronze Age civilisation located in the northwestern regions of South Asia.
  • Historical Significance: The IVC is notable for being one of the three early civilisations of the Near East and South Asia, alongside ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was the most extensive of the three.
  • Geographical Spread: Its sites span from present-day northeast Afghanistan, across Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India.
  • Flourishing Areas: It thrived in the basins of the Indus River and along river systems near the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.
  • Urban Features: The cities were well-planned with baked brick houses, advanced drainage systems, water supply networks, clusters of large non-residential buildings, new handicraft techniques (such as carnelian products and seal carving), and metallurgical advancements (copper, bronze, lead, and tin).
  • Decline: The civilisation’s urbanisation might have been influenced by the gradual drying of the region’s soil. Eventually, the civilisation declined, and its population moved eastward and southward due to weakened monsoons and reduced water supply.

The Vedic Age (1500 – 600 BCE)

  • Historical Context: The Vedic Age marks the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age in Indian history, characterised by the composition of Vedic literature, including the Vedas, in northern India.
  • Timeline Position: This period falls between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and the beginning of the second urbanisation in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain around 600 BCE.
  • Literary and Cultural Evolution: The Vedic Age is divided into two periods:
    • The Rigvedic Period / Early Vedic Period (1500 – 1000 BCE)
    • The Later Vedic Period (1000 – 600 BCE)
  • Early Vedic Aryans: Initially, the early Vedic Aryans lived in the region known as Sapta-Sindhu, which encompassed areas around present-day Punjab.
  • Later Vedic Migration: During the Later Vedic Period, they gradually expanded eastward, occupying areas in eastern Uttar Pradesh (Kosala) and north Bihar (Videha).

How Archaeologists are Establishing Relationships Between the Harappan and the Vedic Age?

Recent Findings by NCERT:

  • The NCERT has recently updated the Class 12 History textbook based on DNA evidence from the 4,600-year-old remains of a woman, suggesting that the Harappans were indigenous to the region.
  • However, NCERT has included a disclaimer that further research is required to confirm this relationship.
  • Some historians propose that the Vedas could date back to 2,500 BC (4,500 years ago), aligning them with the Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC).

Current Archaeological Research:

  • Archaeologists are exploring the hypothesis that the Harappans and the Vedic people might have been the same.
  • Renowned archaeologist Vasant Shinde emphasizes the importance of understanding references in the Rigveda to correlate them with archaeological discoveries from Harappan sites.

Evidence Supporting the Relationship:

Rakhigarhi Excavations:

  • Excavations at Rakhigarhi in Haryana revealed ritual platforms and fire altars, which are also mentioned in Rigvedic texts as part of fire worship.

Saraswati River:

  • The Rigveda mentions the Saraswati River (modern Ghagghar-Hakra river) at least 71 times.
  • Archaeological excavations have found that many Harappan settlements were located along the banks of this river.

Animal Bones in Surkotada:

  • A set of animal bones discovered in Surkotada, Kutch, Gujarat, was studied by archaeo-zoologists.
  • Some researchers believe these bones belong to a domesticated horse, as referenced in Rigvedic texts.
  • Others argue that the bones could be from a wild ass, highlighting the need for further investigation.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A recent report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project alleges that in 2014, the Adani Group falsely labeled low-grade Indonesian coal as high-quality, inflating its value before selling it to Tamil Nadu’s power generation company, TANGEDCO. The reporting project is backed by billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist, George Soros.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Status of the Coal Sector in India
  2. Coal Quality and Gradation
  3. What is Clean Coal?
  4. Challenges Related to Coal for India

Status of the Coal Sector in India:

  • Coal, a naturally occurring combustible sedimentary rock, holds significant importance in India’s energy landscape.

Geographic Distribution:

  • India’s coal reserves are concentrated in the eastern and central regions, with major coal-producing states being Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
Types of Coal and Clusters:

Anthracite:

  • Carbon content: 80% to 95%
  • Limited quantities, primarily found in Jammu and Kashmir.

Bituminous Coal:

  • Carbon content: 60% to 80%
  • Predominantly found in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh.

Lignite:

  • Carbon content: 40% to 55%
  • High moisture levels
  • Found in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Jammu & Kashmir.

Peat:

  • Carbon content below 40%
  • Represents the earliest stage of the transformation from organic matter into coal.
Characteristics of Indian Coal

Ash Content and Calorific Value:

  • Indian coal typically has a high ash content and a lower calorific value compared to imported coal.
  • The Gross Calorific Value (GCV) of domestic thermal coal ranges from 3,500 to 4,000 kcal/kg, whereas imported thermal coal has a GCV of over 6,000 kcal/kg.

Environmental Impact:

  • The average ash content in Indian coal exceeds 40%, while imported coal has less than 10% ash content.
  • Burning high-ash coal leads to higher emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide.

Government Policies:

  • Since 1954, the Indian government has regulated coal prices to limit the use of high-grade coking coal for power generation.
  • To manage coal production, power needs, and pollution, the government advises using imported coal with lower ash and moisture content.
  • The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) in 2012 suggested blending 10-15% imported coal with Indian coal for power boilers designed for low-quality domestic coal.

Coal Quality and Gradation

Determining Quality:

  • Coal quality is measured by its Gross Calorific Value (GCV), which indicates the heat or energy released upon combustion.
  • As a fossil fuel, coal is composed of carbon, ash, moisture, and various impurities. Higher carbon content signifies superior quality or grade of coal.
Categories:
  • Non-coking coal: Graded by Gross Heat content.
  • Coking coal: Graded based on ash percentage.
  • Semi-coking coal: Graded based on ash and moisture percentages.
Grades:
  • Coal quality varies with 17 different grades from grade 1 (highest quality) yielding over 7,000 kcal/kg to the lowest grades yielding 2,200-2,500 kcal/kg.
Applications:
  • Non-coking coal: Utilized in thermal power plants, capable of providing adequate heat despite higher ash content.
  • Coking coal: Crucial for steel production, necessitates minimal ash content.

What is Clean Coal?

Definition:

  • Clean coal technologies aim to mitigate the environmental impact of coal energy production by increasing carbon content and reducing ash content.
Technologies:
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Captures CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants and stores them underground.
  • Coal Washing: Removes impurities before combustion, reducing emissions of ash, sulfur, and other pollutants.
  • Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD): Scrubs sulfur dioxide from exhaust gases.
  • Gasification: Converts coal into synthetic gas (syngas) that burns cleaner than coal.
  • Advanced Combustion Techniques: Enhances combustion efficiency to reduce emissions and boost energy output.
  • Challenges:
  • Coal Washing: Although it removes ash and moisture, the process is expensive and increases production costs.
  • Coal Gasification: Converts coal into gas using IGCC systems, which improve efficiency by generating both steam and syngas.

Coal Imports in India:

  • Import Policy:
    • The current import policy allows unrestricted coal imports under an Open General License.
  • Consumer Categories:
    • Steel, power, and cement sectors, along with coal traders, can import coal based on their commercial requirements.
  • Coking Coal in Steel Sector:
    • The steel sector primarily imports coking coal to supplement domestic availability and improve quality.
  • Non-Coking Coal Imports:
    • Other sectors like power and cement, as well as coal traders, import non-coking coal to meet their respective needs.

Significance of Coal for India:

  • Energy Source:
    • Accounts for 55% of the country’s energy needs, making it the most important and abundant fossil fuel.
  • Power Generation:
    • 70% of India’s power demand is met by thermal power plants, mostly powered by coal.
  • Energy Consumption Trends:
    • Over the past four decades, commercial primary energy consumption in India has increased by approximately 700%.
  • Per Capita Consumption:
    • Current per capita consumption is around 350 kilograms of oil equivalent per year, still lower than developed countries.

Challenges Related to Coal for India:

Environmental Impact:
  • Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
    • Coal mining and combustion contribute to air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and habitat destruction, necessitating the management of environmental impacts.
  • Addressing Environmental Impacts:
    • Balancing the need for energy security with addressing environmental impacts remains a significant challenge.
Health Risks:
  • Community Health Hazards:
    • Exposure to coal dust, particulate matter, and emissions from coal-fired power plants poses health risks to communities, leading to respiratory diseases and other health issues.
Social Challenges:
  • Land Acquisition and Displacement:
    • Acquiring land for coal mining often displaces communities, disrupting livelihoods and posing challenges for proper rehabilitation and resettlement.
  • Socio-economic Hardships:
    • Rehabilitation and resettlement efforts encounter challenges, with affected populations facing social and economic hardships.
Technology Adoption:
  • Limited Adoption of Clean Coal Technologies:
    • Despite advancements in technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), their widespread adoption in India is limited due to high costs and technical challenges.
Transition to Renewable Energy:
  • Balancing Energy Security and Renewable Transition:
    • India’s commitment to transitioning to renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions presents challenges for the coal sector.

Finding a Balance:

  • Striking a balance between ensuring energy security and meeting climate change mitigation objectives remains a significant hurdle.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight-tested the Rudra M-II Missile from a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

RudraM-II Missile System:

Overview:

  • The RudraM-II is an indigenously developed, solid-propelled air-launched missile designed for air-to-surface operations.
  • It is capable of neutralizing various enemy assets and enhancing India’s air security and defence readiness, acting as a ‘force multiplier.’
Performance Evaluation:
  • Tested with advanced range tracking tools, including electro-optical systems, radar, and telemetry stations.

Specifications:

  • Range: 300 kilometres
  • Speed: Up to Mach 5.5
  • Payload: 200 kilograms
  • Detection: Capable of identifying enemy radio frequencies and radar signals from over 100 km away.
  • Intended to replace Russia’s Kh-31 missile currently used in India’s Sukhoi fighter jets.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A sarcophagus fragment discovered beneath the floor of a religious center belongs to Ramesses II, one of the best-known ancient Egyptian pharaohs, according to a new study.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About Sarcophagi

Definition and Purpose:

  • A sarcophagus is a highly decorated coffin or a box-like container that houses a coffin.
  • Originally intended to be displayed above ground, they were sometimes entombed or placed in burial chambers.

Historical Usage:

  • Used to hold and protect the remains of important individuals throughout history, dating back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Rome, and Greece.
  • The term “sarcophagus” originates from the Greek words “sarx” (flesh) and “phagien” (to eat), literally translating to “eater of flesh.”
  • First used in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, the sarcophagus gained popularity across the ancient world.
  • Continued to be used in later European societies, often for high-status members of the clergy, government, or aristocracy.
Features:
  • Cultural Variations: Designs and details vary from one culture to another.
  • Material: Typically made of stone, with limestone being the most common. Other materials include granite, sandstone, and marble.
  • Decoration: Elaborately adorned with carvings, images, and inscriptions, often featuring the name of the deceased.
Archaeological Significance:
  • Sarcophagi are crucial artifacts for archaeologists and historians, providing insights into the art, culture, and beliefs of the societies that created them.
  • The carvings and inscriptions often contain valuable historical information.
  • Notable Example:
    • The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun is one of the most famous Egyptian sarcophagi.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Indian researchers recently discovered a new ant species named Paraparatrechina neela from Arunachal Pradesh’s remote Siang Valley.

About Paraparatrechina Neela:

Discovery:

  • Paraparatrechina neela is a newly discovered ant species found in the Siang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It belongs to the rare genus Paraparatrechina and is named “neela” to reflect its unique blue color, as “neela” means blue in many Indian languages.

Significance:

  • This discovery marks the first new species of Paraparatrechina in 121 years since the description of the previously known species, P. aseta (Forel, 1902), in the Indian subcontinent.
Features:
  • Size: A small ant with a total length of less than 2 mm.
  • Color: Predominantly metallic blue, except for the antennae, mandibles, and legs.
  • Head: Subtriangular with large eyes, and a triangular mandible featuring five teeth.
  • Distinctiveness: The species stands out for its distinct metallic blue color, unlike any other species in its genus.

-Source: The Hindu


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