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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 08 December 2022

CONTENTS:

  1. The perils of undoing the framework of reservation
  2. Sharing false news-Arrest and remand

The Perils of Undoing the Framework of Reservation


Context:

The recent Supreme Court Judgement that upheld the validity of 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act has led to an emergent consensus for a social policy framed on the universal basis of deprivation stemming from economic backwardness.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota
  2. Reservation in India
  3. Open the gates for the most vulnerable
  4. Welfare entitlement and Universalism
  5. Way Forward

About Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota

  • The 10% EWS quota was introduced under the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019 for economic reservation in jobs and admissions to educational institutes for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
  • It was passed to help the poor who were not covered by the 50% reservation policy for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
  • It enables both the Centre and the States to make reservations for society’s EWS.
  • The EWS quota and the Court judgement that followed have shifted the discussion on the legacy of affirmative action based on caste in India.
  • The Supreme Court’s 50% rule, established in the Indira Sawhney decision in 1992, was “not inflexible.”
    • Furthermore, it only applied to the SC/ST/SEBC/OBC communities, not the general category.
    • The SC/ST/SEBC/OBC communities, for whom special provisions have already been made in Articles 15(4), 15(5), and 16(4), constitute a distinct category distinct from the general or unreserved category.

Reservation in India:

  • Background: To compensate for millennia of discrimination based on birth, the Indian constitution guaranteed SCs and STs not only equality of opportunity but also outcomes, with reserved seats in educational institutions, government jobs, and even seats in Parliament and State Assemblies.
  • Caste and no class criterion: Reservations were granted to groups listed in the Constitution’s Schedules based on their caste o
  • For example, the addition of the OBC category had no effect on the basis on which people were benefited; despite the “C” in “OBC” referring to “classes,” the OBC lists included castes and sub-castes.

‘Open the gates for the most vulnerable.’

  • Discourage caste-based reservations: While acknowledging caste as a historical source of injustice in the country, the Supreme Court emphasised that it could not be the sole determinant of backwardness and that the State should identify emerging forms of backwardness in an evolving society.
  • New determinants of backwardness: In order to move away from a caste-centric definition of backwardness, new practises, methods, and yardsticks must be continuously evolved.
  • Identifying genuine categories: The court held that the Constitution’s affirmative action principle obligated the state to “reach out to the most deserving” class, and that gates would be opened only to allow entry of the most distressed.
  • Any other inclusions would be a serious violation of the State’s constitutional duty,” the Court advised.
  • The court warned that a palliative policy based solely on historical injustice would result in a failure to protect the most deserving backward class of citizens.

Welfare entitlement and Universalism:

The new consensus, appears to be rooted in universalism, comes with a claim that every individual should get her due in welfare entitlement regardless of caste and ethnicity.

Background: Broadly, the inequality was found to have risen in India between 1990 and 2020, particularly in the early 2000s. This is more severe in case of wealth, followed by income and consumption inequality. The recent data shows that, on average, the upper class own wealth more than three times of Dalits and twice that of OBCs. This can be collectively attributed to the long history of institutional exclusion of certain caste groups.

  • The last two decades of jobless growth and increased economic insecurity has increased the demand for a universal social policy framed on the basis of economic backwardness.
  • Delegitimising caste as a basis for policy can further deepen the wealth inequality on caste lines.

Need for scrutiny: The collective disadvantage experienced by certain groups is unique to each of them, and their specific deprivations require specific resolutions. There is a need for proper analysis based on ground realities.

  • The group-based differences in economic and social outcome are not due to differential ambition, ability and effort. These are inherited inequalities-economic, cultural and social capital that are passed on to successive generations.

Wealth as a measure of inequality: The All India Debt & Investment Survey (AIDS-2019) released in 2021 shows the trend of deepening caste inequality in wealth in India.

  • Wealth is a better measure of economic status than income and consumption. Wealth, being a stock variable takes time to change whereas income/consumption is a flow variable that alter frequently.

Way Forward:

Caste-neutral policies is more unlikely to address the historical legacies of inequalities as they are insufficient to arrest the magnitude of the caste gap in wealth. Reservations cannot become a single tool to address caste-based inequality in India. There is a need to address the structural inequalities apart from focussing on improved access to education, jobs and income. Undoing the existing framework of reservation and substituting it with economic criteria will not only reverse the modest gains made so far but also deepen structural inequalities.

Hence a just society requires creating a level-playing field, altering the enduring legacy of inherited wealth and caste that block opportunities and life choices.

-Source: The Hindu


Sharing False News – Arrest and Remand


Context:

Recently a Political party’s spokesman was arrested for sharing a false claim about the expenditure involved in Prime Minister’s visit to Morbi in Gujarat, in the aftermath of the collapse of a bridge. The incident led to the death of 140 people.

Relevance:

GS II:  Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency & Accountability

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Fake News?
  2. How to deal with fake news?
  3. Does every instance of sharing false news require arrest and remand?
  4. Way Forward

What is Fake News?

  • Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers.
  • Usually, these stories are created to either influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers.
  • Combating fake news is a growing narrative of the technology platforms like Facebook, Google, the news media, the government and an informed citizenry.
  • Fake news affects free speech and informed choices of the subjects of the country, leading to the hijacking of democracy.
  • The advent of social media has decentralized the creation and propagation of fake news.

How to deal with fake news?

The current response to fake news primarily revolves around three prongs — rebuttal, removal of the fake news item and educating the public.

  • Rebuttal: It is a form of fact-checking wherein the fake news is debunked by pointing out errors like mismatch, malicious editing and misattribution.
  • Removal of Fake news: Technical companies like Facebook and YouTube uses algorithms to proactively remove fake news from their platforms.
  • It is impossible to completely ‘remove’ fake news even after rebuttal, given the decentralised nature of dissemination.
  • It may be possible to rebut fake news but the ‘fake news factory’ inspired by political agenda, will keep churning out similar stories to advance its chosen narrative.

Does every instance of sharing false news requires arrest and remand?

  • The claim was that a remarkable amount of money was spend on preparation and renovation of the bridge was false, the arrest of the spokesperson is in striking contrast to the fact that the promoters and executives of the company, whose negligence could have led to the tragedy, have not been detained so far.
  • In the above case, the political spokesperson could have been summoned for an inquiry rather than invoking a penal section for the offence of forgery attract prison terms of two to three years. It is one of those cases in which arrest is obviously avoidable

Way Forward:

The dissemination of fake news is indeed a formidable problem in times when social media are a major source of information. That those with a significant following on these platforms should exercise due care before sharing information they receive is also not in doubt.

However, it is important to examine the fact whether every instance of the dissemination of possibly false information should lead to arrest, unless grave consequences are likely to arise.  An official fact-check and a legal takedown may well meet the ends of justice.

-Source: The Hindu


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