GS PAPER II NEWS

Maharashtra Reservation System

Why in News

Supreme Court unanimously declared a Maharashtra law which provides reservation benefits to the Maratha community, taking the quota limit in the State in excess of 50%, as unconstitutional.

Key Points


  • The Supreme Court found that there were no “exceptional circumstances” or “extraordinary situation” in Maharashtra which required the Maharashtra government to break the 50% ceiling limit to bestow quota benefits on the Maratha community.
  • The Supreme Court struck down the findings of the Justice N.G. Gaikwad Commission which led to the enactment of Maratha quota law and set aside the Bombay High Court judgment which validated the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018.
  • In fact, the Supreme Court held that a separate reservation for the Maratha community violates Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (due process of law).
  • Most importantly, the Supreme Court declined to re-visit the its 1992 Indira Sawhney judgment, which fixed the reservation limit at 50%.

Background of Maharashtra Reservation Law

  • In 1992, a nine-judge Bench of the court had drawn the “Lakshman Rekha” for reservation in jobs and education at 50%, except in “extraordinary circumstances”.
  • However, over the years, several States like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have crossed the Rubicon and passed laws which allows reservation shooting over 60%.
  • The five-judge Bench had decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over 50% limit to just Maharashtra.
  • The Bench had expanded the ambit of the case by making other States party and inviting them to make their stand clear on the question of whether reservation should continue to remain within the 50% boundary or not.
  • It was the statement of Indira Sawhney judgment that “50% shall be the rule, only in certain exceptional and extraordinary situations for bringing far-flung and remote areas population into mainstream said 50% rule can be relaxed“.
  • Justice Bhushan stated that appointments made under the Maratha quota following the Bombay HC judgment endorsing the State law would hold, but they would get no further benefits.
  • Students already admitted under the Maratha quota law would continue. Students admitted to postgraduate courses would not be affected since they were not given reservation.
  • The Bench had looked into the question whether the Constitution (One Hundred-Second Amendment) Act of 2018, which introduced the National Commission for Backward Classes, interfered with the authority of State Legislatures to provide benefit to the social and educationally backward communities in their own jurisdiction.

One Hundred-Second (102nd) Amendment Act of 2018

  • The 102nd Constitution amendment Act of 2018 inserted Articles 338B which provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.
  • It deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes.
  • It also added 342A which deals with power of the President to notify a particular caste as Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) and power of Parliament to change the list.

Background of National Commission for Backward Classes

  • There were the two Backward Class Commissions that were appointed in 1950s and 1970s under Kaka Kalelkar and B.P. Mandal respectively.
  • In the Indra Sawhney case of 1992, Supreme Court held that the government need to create a permanent body to entertain, examine and recommend the inclusion and exclusion of various Backward Classes for the purpose of benefits and protection.
  • Followed the direction of the Supreme Court, National Commission for Backward Classes Act was implemented in 1993 and constituted the National Commission for Backward Classes.
  • The National Commission for Backward Classes consists of five members including a Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson and three other Members appointed by the President.

Conclusion

  • It was concluded that the Parliament did not intend to take away from the States its power to identify their backward classes.
  • But they nevertheless upheld the validity of the Amendment Act.

GS PAPER II

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana

Why in News

The Prime Minister of India approved some additional food grains under the phase-III of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PKGKAY)

  • It is a food security welfare scheme launched by the Government of India in March 2020

  • It was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • It is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • It aims to feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System, to all the priority households.
  • Eligibility for the scheme: Beneficiary must be the ration card holders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana scheme.
  • It provides 5 kg of rice or wheat per person and 1 kg of dal to each family holding a ration card.
  • The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.

GS PAPER III

State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid­19

Why in News

According to the report of the State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19, the COVID-­19 has substantially increased informality in employment, leading to a decline in earnings for the majority of workers, and consequent increase in poverty in the country.

‘State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid­19’

  • The report of ‘State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid­19’, is published annually by Azim Premji University’s Centre for Sustainable Employment, Bengaluru.

Centre for Sustainable Employment

  • It is the center at Azim Premji University, which aimed to generate and support research in the areas of job creation, employment, and sustainable livelihoods.
  • It will publish an annual State of Working India report that offers new research, policy reflections, and vision documents on the state of work and workers in India.
  • It also suggests the measures to improve working conditions and job creation.

Highlights of Report

  • The report highlighted that 100 million jobs were lost nationwide during the April May 2020 lockdown. But most of them found work up to June 2020.
  • In context of income, “for an average household of four members, the monthly per capita income in Oct 2020 (₹ 4,979) was still below its level in Jan 2020 (₹ 5989)”.
  • In post-lockdown, nearly half of salaried workers had moved into informal work, either as self-employed (30%), casual wage (10%) or informal salaried (9%).
  • General category workers and Hindus were more likely to move into self-employment while marginalized caste workers and Muslims moved into daily wage work.
  • Education, health and professional services saw the highest exodus of workers into other sectors, with agriculture, construction and petty trade emerging as the top fallback options.
  • Of the decline in income, 90% was due to reduction in earnings, while 10% was due to loss of employment.
  • Monthly earnings of workers fall on an average by 17% during the pandemic, with self-employed and informal salaried workers facing the highest loss of earnings.
  • The richer households suffered losses of less than a quarter of their pre-­pandemic incomes. During the period of March to October 2020, an average household in the bottom 10% lost.
  • It is found that with increasing the COVID-19 cases, the number of job losses increases particularly in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Delhi.
  • 61% of working men remain employed while 7% lost their job and did not return to work.
  • In case of women, only 19% remained employed while 47% suffered a permanent job loss.
  • According to the report, with 230 million falling below the national minimum wage threshold of ₹ 375 per day during the pandemic, poverty rate has “increased by 15 percentage points in rural and nearly 20 percentage points in urban areas and 20% of those surveyed said that their food intake had not improved even six months after the lockdown.

Way Forward

  • Findings of the report are the serious concern of the absence of an inclusive social welfare architecture.
  • Among other ameliorative policy measures, the report calls for extending free rations under the Public Distribution System till the end of 2021, expansion of MGNREGA entitlement to 150 days, and a “Covid hardship allowance” for the 2.5 million Anganwadi and ASHA workers.

GS PAPER III

5G: Concern and Regret

Why in News

China expressed “concern and regret” at India’s move to not include Chinese telecommunication firms among the companies permitted to conduct trials for the use of 5G technology.

Key Points

  • External Affairs Minister stated at the Global Dialogue Series event in London, reiterated that it is “not realistic” to have good relations in other domains when there was tension on the border.

Background

  • Recently the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) gave permission to several Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to conduct 5G trials, and did not include Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE.
  • They stated that they have tied up with original equipment manufacturers and technology providers which are Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C­DOT.
  • The Reliance Jio Info COMM will conduct trials using its own indigenous technology.
  • In response of that, the Chinese Embassy situated at New Delhi expresses concern and regret about the decision.
  • China also stated that the exclusion of Chinese Telecommunication Companies from the trials would harm their legitimate rights and interests.

Indo-China tensions since 2020

  • On 5th May 2020, the LAC crisis were beginning with reports of tensions then starting in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake.
  • China’s actions have disturbed peace and tranquility, including leading to bloodshed in Galwan last June.
  • India has been very clear that peace and tranquility on the border areas is essential for the development of Indo-China relation.
  • The disengagement process was completed in some areas but one year on is still ongoing others, and both sides had not yet come to the de-escalation part.

India-UK Virtual Summit

  • Recently, India and UK conduct a virtual meet in the emergence of Covid-19.
  • They two adopted the ‘Roadmap 2030’ that will elevate bilateral ties to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.
  • They also discussed the Covid-19 situation and ongoing cooperation to combat the pandemic, including the successful partnership on vaccines.
  • The two launched Enhanced Trade Partnership, and announced their intent to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA), including consideration of an interim trade agreement to deliver early gains.
  • They also agreed to strengthen defence partnership, focusing on maritime and industrial collaboration.
  • They reaffirmed the benefits of closer cooperation in a free and open Indo-Pacific, recognizing their shared interest in regional prosperity and stability.
  • They agreed to significant new cooperation on Maritime Domain Awareness, which includes new agreements on maritime information sharing, an invitation to the UK to join India’s Information Fusion Centre in Gurgaon and an ambitious exercise programme which includes joint trilateral exercises.

Roadmap 2030

  • It will provide a framework for UK-India relations across health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence.
  • It will expand the UK-India health partnership to enhance global health security and pandemic resilience.
  • The two countries agreed to work together to ensure an ambitious outcome at COP26 and expand the UK-India partnership on tackling climate change.
  • They will cooperate closely to tackle threats to our shared security in all their forms.
  • They will also enhance migration relationship, to make it easier for British and Indian nationals to live and work in each other’s countries.

GS PAPER III

Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME)

Why in News

Recently the RBI announced measures to protect small and medium businesses and individual borrowers from the adverse impact of the intense second wave of COVID­19 buffeting the country.

Key Points


  • RBI Governor used an unscheduled address to announce a Term Liquidity Facility of ₹50,000 crore with tenor of up to three years, at the repo rate, to ease access to credit for providers of emergency health services.
  • Under the scheme, banks will provide fresh lending support to a wide range of entities, including vaccine manufacturers, importers/suppliers of vaccines and priority medical devices, hospitals/dispensaries, pathology labs, manufacturers and suppliers of oxygen and ventilators, and logistics firms.
  • These loans will continue to be classified under priority sector till repayment or maturity, whichever is earlier.
  • As a part of a “comprehensive targeted policy response”, the RBI unveiled schemes to provide credit relief to individual and MSME borrowers impacted by the pandemic.
  • The RBI also announced measures to protect small and medium businesses and individual borrowers from the adverse impact of the intense second wave of COVID-19 buffeting the country.
  • Resolution Framework 2.0 also unveiled for COVID-related stressed assets of individuals, small businesses and MSMEs.
  • It also expressed the central bank’s resolve to do everything at its command to ‘save human lives and restore livelihoods through all means possible.

Eligibility for new measures in MSME

  • Person who are eligible for these measures are:
  • Those with aggregate exposure of up to ₹25 crore, and
  • People who had not availed restructuring under any of the earlier restructuring frameworks), and
  • People whose loans were classified as ‘standard’ as on March 31, 2021.
  • Individual borrowers and small businesses who had already availed restructuring under Resolution Framework 1.0, are able to use this window to modify such plans to the extent of increasing the period of moratorium up to a total of two years.
  • Small businesses and MSMEs restructured earlier, lending institutions are permitted as a one-time measure, to review the working capital sanctioned limits, based on a reassessment of the working capital cycle and margins.

Credit Support

  • The RBI decided to conduct special three-year long-term repo operations (SLTRO) of ₹10,000 crore at the repo rate for Small Finance Banks for those who have been impacted adversely during COVID.
  • The Small Finance Banks (SFBs) would be able to deploy these funds for fresh lending of up to ₹10 lakh per borrower till October 31.
  • The SFBs are now being permitted to reckon fresh lending to smaller MFIs (with asset size of up to ₹500 crore) for on lending to individual borrowers as priority sector lending up to March 31, 2022.

State Governments

  • Maximum number of days of overdraft (OD) in a quarter is being increased from 36 to 50 days
  • The number of consecutive days of OD from 14 to 21 days.