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Current Affairs 21 January 2022 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

CONTENTS:

  1. The question of OBC reservation in local bodies
  2. The shift from Jakarta to Nusantara
  3. SC upholds OBC quota in NEET
  4. Amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules

The Question of OBC Reservation in Local Bodies

Context:

The apex court’s latest order in Rahul Ramesh Wagh v. State of Maharashtra &Ors. makes it mandatory that the principles laid down by the Supreme Court for providing reservation to OBCs in local bodies shall be followed across the country.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Historical Underpinnings of the Indian Constitution, Constitutional Provisions and Features), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About OBC reservation in local bodies
  2. What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?
  3. What do OBC leaders say now?
  4. About the SC Judgement on reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

About OBC reservation in local bodies

  • The Maharashtra government set up a 27 percent quota in local bodies for OBCs in 1994.
  • The 27 percent reservation was applicable to all urban (Municipal Corporations, Councils and Nagar Panchayat) and rural bodies (Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat) across the state.
  • In Maharashtra, the OBCs include the Denotified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category.
  • This quota for OBCs increased their representation in rural and urban local bodies.

What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?

  • As per the Mandal Commission report, the last caste-wise census was conducted in 1931 and it was later discontinued.
  • Based on the data from the 1931 census, the Mandal commission worked out the OBC population to be 52 per cent and recommended a 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in view of the SC judgment limiting reservation up to 50 per cent.
  • There was already a 22.5 per cent reservation for SC and ST categories.
  • The Mandal Commission report recommended 27 per cent reservation in government jobs and promotions along with others.
  • The report gave momentum to OBC leaders and the community’s demand for a caste-wise census of OBC.

What do OBC leaders say now?

  • There has been a mixed response from the OBC leaders to the SC verdict, with some welcoming it while others lamenting on losing reservation.
  • Some say it will pave the way for conducting the OBC census in the state.
  • So far, there was no data about the OBC population and our demand for the OBC census for the last 30 years have fallen on deaf ears.
  • With this SC order, the state has to conduct the census now.
  • Else, there will be no OBC reservation in the local bodies polls and the ruling parties will have to pay a huge price for it.

About the SC Judgement on reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

  • The SC said that even in other future elections to Maharashtra’s local bodies, be it mid-term or general elections, the State Election Commission has to “desist from notifying reserved seats for OBC category” until further orders of the Supreme Court.
  • The seemingly indefinite stay was ordered after the court came to know that the 27% reservation was introduced through the ordinance without any empirical data to substantiate the claim for or extent of reservation.
  • The court said a “triple test” has to be followed before deciding on the extent of quota to a category:
    1. Firstly, a dedicated Commission needs to be set up to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness as regards local bodies within the State;
    2. Secondly, there is a need to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the Commission, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth; and
    3. Thirdly, reservation should not exceed aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.
  • Though Maharashtra had set up a Commission in June 2021 to collect empirical data, the court noticed that the State did not wait for the panel to come up with a report.
  • The court noted in its order that setting up the Commission and collating contemporaneous empirical data to ascertain the extent of reservation required to be provided local body-wise were both mandatory.

-Source: The Hindu


The Shift From Jakarta to Nusantara

Context:

Recently, Indonesia’s Parliament approved a bill to relocate the country’s capital from Jakarta to a new city to be built on the island of Borneo, named as Nusantara.

Relevance:

GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is the problem with Jakarta? 
  2. What does the latest bill do?
  3. Why has it been named Nusantara?
  4. Have other countries recently shifted capitals?

What is the problem with Jakarta? 

  • In August 2019, President Joko Widodo first announced that the capital would be shifted from Jakarta, on the island of Java, which has served as the national capital since Indonesia’s independence, to a new city to be built in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, some 2,000 km northeast of Jakarta across the Java Sea. 
  • The city has suffered from a range of urban problems from overcrowding to pollution and possibly one of the world’s most congested roads.
  • One major concern about its long-term future was tied to the fact that the city, home to around 10 million people, stands on a swamp on the island of Java and has been slowly sinking.
  • Studies have forecast that the entire city could sink by 2050, while flooding is a recurring problem.

What does the latest bill do?

  • The bill has now given the green light to Mr. Widodo’s long-discussed move and outlined a plan to shift the capital in five stages.
  • The first stage, to be completed by 2024, will focus on basic infrastructure such as new roads to provide access to the site. The last stage will be finished in 2045.
  • The project is estimated to cost more than $30 billion.
  • A broader goal, is to bring greater economic activity to Kalimantan and reduce the dependence on Jakarta as well as the island of Java, which is at the centre of economic activity as well as national politics.
  • Government offices will all be moved to Nusantara.
  • If the current capital is suffering from pollution and flooding among other problems, environmental groups have, however, expressed concerns that the new project may end up bringing those problems to Kalimantan, a region known for its forests and biodiversity. 

Why has it been named Nusantara?

  • The name literally means “archipelago”, but also has a historical context referring to the entire region, including Indonesia and its neighbours in Southeast Asia.
  • The Planning Minister said Nusantara “is a unity concept that accommodates all of our diversity, whether in race, language, or ethnicity” and the hope was for the new capital to be reflective of that aspiration.
  • The name Nusantara dates back to Majapahit, a Hindu empire that was based in Java and ruled from the late 13th to the early 15th centuries.

Have other countries recently shifted capitals?

  • States have shifted capitals for a multitude of reasons throughout history, from reasons to do with the weather and the military to pride projects and just politics. Kazakhstan and Myanmar offer two recent examples.
  • In 1997, Kazakhstan shifted its capital from Almaty to Astana, like many new capitals, a planned city. Then Astana was itself renamed in 2019 to Nur-Sultan, in homage to long-term former President Nursultan Nazarbayev (currently facing the ire of protesters amid the recent unrest).
  • Myanmar in 2005 shifted its capital from Yangon to another planned city, Naypyidaw. Strategic reasons were cited as one possible explanation for the military regime’s decision.

-Source: The Hindu


SC Upholds OBC Quota in NEET

Context:

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) candidates in the All India Quota seats for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses, noting that “reservation is not at odds with merit” in open competitive examinations.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Historical Underpinnings of the Indian Constitution, Constitutional Provisions and Features), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. SC upheld OBC quota in NEET
  2. What is the All India Quota?
  3. The present situation of Medical Education and Healthcare workforce
  4. Constitutional Provisions regarding reservation
  5. Why is reservation needed in India?
  6. Indra Sawhney Case

SC upheld OBC quota in NEET

  • The court said an open competitive exam only ensures formal equality and does not end widespread ingrained inequalities in the availability of, and access to, educational facilities to certain classes of people, including the OBC.
  • The court said the “idea of merit” based on scores in an exam requires “deeper scrutiny”.
  • “While examinations are a necessary and convenient method of distributing educational opportunities, marks may not always be the best gauge of individual merit. If a high-scoring candidate does not use their talent to perform good actions, it would be difficult to call them meritorious merely because they scored high marks,” Justice Chandrachud reasoned.
  • The fortitude and resilience required to uplift oneself from conditions of deprivation are equally reflective of individual calibre and merit, the court said.
What is the All India Quota?
  • The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in a good medical college in any other state.
  • A student domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, for example, may be eligible for admission to a seat in a state government medical college in West Bengal, provided she scores high enough in the national merit list. If her score is not high enough for AIQ, she may still hope for admission under the state quota in her home state.
  • In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.

The present situation of Medical Education and Healthcare workforce

Regarding Medical Education
  • In the last six years, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56% and the number of PG seats by 80%. In the last six years, almost 180 new medical colleges have been established and now the country has more than 500 medical colleges (of which only around 290 are government colleges).
  • Medical education is the bedrock on which the needs of ‘human resources for health’, one of the major building blocks of any health system, are met.
  • Today’s health professionals are required to have knowledge, skills, and professionalism to provide safe, effective, efficient, timely, and affordable care to people.
Regarding Healthcare workforce
  • India’s availability of doctors per thousand population does come close to the World Health Organisation’s prescribed doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000 if we include all the registered allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic and unani doctors. But the number of doctors who practise is much lower.
  • It is also far lower than many countries including Russia, the USA, and all the European Union countries where the ratio is above 3 doctors per one thousand population. Unless we increase the ratio to the level of better performing countries on the health front, poor people in India will continue to suffer.
  • As a major impediment for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) there is a serious shortage of health workers, especially doctors, in some northern States.
  • Health workers are critical not just for the functioning of health systems but also for the preparedness of health systems in preventing, detecting and responding to threats posed by diseases such as COVID-19.
  • The doctor-population ratio in northern States is far short of the required norm, while the southern States, barring Telangana, have enough doctors in possession- hence, the healthcare workforce crisis has been aggravated by the imbalances within the country.
  • The problem of shortage of doctors and other support staff has been allowed to linger for the past several decades due to short-sighted policies of the institutions such as Medical Council of India

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 is reservation 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.

Indra Sawhney Case

Regarding cap on reservation quota

  • The Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India had ruled that the total number of reserved seats/places/positions cannot exceed 50% of what is available, and that under the constitutional scheme of reservation, economic backwardness alone could not be a criterion.
  • While 50% shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people.
  • It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the main stream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristic to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative.
  • In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.

Regarding Promotions

  • 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 validity of the 77th and 85th amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
  • 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.

It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.

  • Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions.
  • But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
  • The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.

-Source: The Hindu


Amendments To the IAS (Cadre) Rules

Context:

The Centre has proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules in order to exercise greater control in central deputation of IAS officials, which has often been at the centre of tussles between the Centre and the states.

Relevance

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Historical Underpinnings of the Indian Constitution, Constitutional Provisions and Features), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions:
  1. What is current rule on deputation?
  2. What are the proposed amendments?
  3. How are officers sent on central deputation today, and how could the amendments affect it?
  4. In cases of tussle, how often has the Centre has its way?

What is current rule on deputation?

  • Central deputation in the Indian Administrative Service is covered under Rule-6 (1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules-1954, inserted in May 1969.
  • It states: “A cadre officer may, with the concurrence of the State Governments concerned and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government or under a company, association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, which is wholly or substantially owned or controlled by the Central Government or by another State Government. Provided that in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government and the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.”

What are the proposed amendments?

  • Recently, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to various state governments that “… various state/joint cadres are not sponsoring adequate number of officers for central deputation, as part of the Central Deputation Reserve. As a result of this, the number of officers available for central deputation is not sufficient to meet the requirement at Centre.”
  • The letter proposed to insert an additional condition in Rule 6(1): “Provided that each State Government shall make available for deputation to the Central Government, such number of eligible officers of various levels to the extent of the Central Deputation Reserve prescribed under Regulations referred to in Rule 4(1), adjusted proportionately by the number of officers available with the State Government concerned vis-à-vis the total authorized strength of the State cadre at a given point of time. The actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central Government shall be decided by the Central Government in consultation with State Government concerned.”
  • To the existing condition that “in case of any disagreement… the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government”, the proposed amendment adds the words “within a specified time”.

How are officers sent on central deputation today, and how could the amendments affect it?

  • The Centre asks every year for an “offer list” of officers of the All India Services (IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service) willing to go on central deputation, from which it selects officers.
  • While Rule 6(1) says that in case of disagreement, the state shall give effect to the decision of the Centre, this has not been possible in several cases of conflict. Even the proposed amendment leaves the state with an escape route by stating that the number of officers to be sent on deputation shall be decided by the central government “in consultation with the State Government concerned”.
  • And while the Centre mandates the state governments to provide a list of officers, the officer too must be willing, with Rule 6(2) stating: “no cadre officer shall be deputed to any organisation or body of the type referred to in item (ii), except with his consent”. Item (ii) covers certain kinds of organisations.
  • In January 2021, a West Bengal-based lawyer, Abu Sohel, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking Rule 6(1) be struck down.

In cases of tussle, how often has the Centre has its way?

  • Usually, the states have had their way. Among the latest examples was a tussle involving Alapan Bandyopadhyay, an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, now retired and serving as Chief Adviser to West Bengal CM Banerjee. Last year, when he was due to begin an extension of three months after retiring as Chief Secretary, the Centre asked him to report on the day of his retirement. Bandyopadhyay did not do so, and the Chief Minister did not relieve him either.
  • In December 2020, the Centre asked that three IPS officers, who were in charge of security when BJP president J P Nadda’s motorcade was attacked outside Kolkata on December 10, allegedly by supporters of the Trinamool Congress, be sent on deputation to the Centre. The state refused, citing a shortage of IPS officers, and the Centre did not insist either.
  • Prominent examples in other states include a tussle between the Centre and the J Jayalalithaa government in 2001. In June 2001, a month after Jayalalithaa took oath, the state police’s CB-CID raided former chief minister M Karunanidhi’s home and arrested him along with his DMK colleagues. The following month, the Centre asked the state government to send three IPS officers on central deputation. Jayalalithaa refused, and wrote to other Chief Ministers for their support to protect the rights of the states.
  • In another tussle involving Tamil Nadu, IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was deputed to the CBI in 2014, but the state government refused to release her, and suspended her when she defied the state’s order and joined the CBI. She is today one of the members of the Lokpal.

-Source: Indian Express


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