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22nd January Current Affairs

50% Reservation Limit

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

A UPSC aspirant has approached the Supreme Court seeking to quash the final result dated September 24, 2021 declared by UPSC for Civil Services Examination 2020 to the extent it violates the 50% reservation ceiling.

What’s the issue?

It has been argued in the petition that UPSC has recommended 34.55% candidates for appointment against the general category and 65.44% against the reserved category, completely sabotaging the merit of the general category candidates.

In this regard it has further been contended that only 40% of seats have been marked for appointment against the general unreserved quota, which is in violation of the 50% ceiling of reservation (as held by in Indra Sawhney vs UOI reported in (1992) Supp. (3) SCC 217).

Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India, 1992:

A nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney case (famously known as the Mandal Commission case) imposed the ceiling of 50% on total reservation.

The Supreme Court while upholding the 27% quota for backward classes, struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher castes.

SC in the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries should not exceed 50% of India’s population.

The concept of ‘creamy layer’ also gained currency through this judgment and provision that reservation for backward classes should be confined to initial appointments only and not extend to promotions.

Why 50%?

The Other Backward Classes, as identified by the Mandal Commission, make up about 52% of India’s population according to the 1931 Census. The court, however, did not deal with the question of population while ruling that although reservation was fine, it must be capped.

Tamilnadu’s case:

The state’s Assembly passed the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 to keep its reservation limit intact at 69%.

The law was subsequently included into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution through the 76th Constitution Amendment passed by Parliament in 1994.

How the Quad can help climate action?

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

The Quad, which was born in response to a natural calamity, the tsunami of 2004, are unified in saving the planet from environmental degradation.

Efforts by Quad in this regard:

In the first-ever in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad (held in the US in 2021), the nations pledged to fight the climate crisis and partner on emerging technologies.

Focus on increasing the Indo-Pacific region’s resilience to climate change by improving critical climate information-sharing and disaster-resilient infrastructure.

Building a new technical facility through the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure to provide technical assistance in small island developing states and setting up a Climate and Information Services Task Force.

What needs to be done?

The Quad can drive inclusive energy transition in technology, manufacturing, and finance.

They can provide much-needed technology expertise required to achieve the energy transition goals set under frameworks such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and OSOWOG (One Sun One World One Grid).

India is well-placed to provide manufacturing infrastructure to build these technologies. To take over from China as the “world’s factory”, it will have to mirror its advantages of large-scale production at low costs.

Funding: Quad has a role and an opportunity to drive capital investments towards helping developing nations to move towards sustainable forms of energy.

Significance and the need for Quad’s presence and involvement:

Through concerted efforts and tangible strategies, the Quad nations are strategically placed to make an impact not only on their own problems, but also those of the entire planet. The time has come for them to lead the path to a truly sustainable future.

What is Quad grouping?

The quadrilateral security dialogue includes Japan, India, United States and Australia.

All four nations find a common ground of being the democratic nations and common interests of unhindered maritime trade and security.

Genesis:

The grouping traces its genesis to 2004 when the four countries came together to coordinate relief operations in the aftermath of the tsunami.

It then met for the first time in 2007 on the sidelines of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

The intention was to enhance maritime cooperation between the four nations.

Significance of the grouping:

Quad is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest.

Members share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security.

It is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the US and should not be seen in an exclusive context.

What are China’s views on the Quad?

There is a general understanding that the Quad would not take on a military dimension against any country. The strategic community in China, nevertheless, had branded it an emerging “Asian NATO”.

Notably, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s “Confluence of Two Seas” address to the Indian Parliament gave a fresh impetus to the Quad concept. This recognised the economic rise of India.

Rooftop solar scheme

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has allowed households to get rooftop solar panels installed by themselves or by any vendor of their choice and a photograph of the installed system for distribution utility is sufficient to avail benefits or subsidy under the Rooftop solar scheme.

Details:

Earlier under the rooftop solar scheme, the households were required to get that from the listed vendors only to avail the benefits and subsidy under the scheme.

About the scheme:

Implemented by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Presently under implementation is the Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar Scheme (Phase II): It aims to achieve a cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW from Rooftop Solar Projects by the year 2022.

This scheme is being implemented in the state by distribution companies (DISCOMs).

Under this scheme the Ministry is providing a 40% subsidy for the first 3 kW and 20% subsidy beyond 3 kW and upto 10 kW of solar panel capacity.

The residential consumer has to pay the cost of rooftop solar plant by reducing the subsidy amount given by the Ministry as per the prescribed rate to the vendor.

The major objective of the programme includes:

  • To promote the grid-connected SPV rooftop and small SPV power generating plants among the residential, community, institutional, industrial and commercial establishments.
  • To mitigate the dependence on fossil fuel based electricity generation and encourage environment-friendly Solar electricity generation.
  • To create an enabling environment for investment in the solar energy sector by the private sector, state government and the individuals.
  • To create an enabling environment for the supply of solar power from rooftop and small plants to the grid.

Benefits of rooftop solar:

An alternative source of electricity to that provided by the grid.

Environmental benefits: It reduces the dependence on fossil-fuel generated electricity.

Ability to provide electricity to those areas that are not yet connected to the grid — remote locations and areas where the terrain makes it difficult to set up power stations and lay power lines.

What is the potential for rooftop solar in India?

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has pegged the market potential for rooftop solar at 124 GW.

Challenges associated:

Variability in supply because of variations in efficiency of the solar panels and sunlight.

Additional cost for storage facilities.

Residential areas also come with the associated issues of use restrictions of the roof — if the roof is being used for solar generation, then it cannot be used for anything else.

The subsidised tariffs charged to residential customers undermine the economic viability of installing rooftop solar panels.

Sri Ramanujacharya

(GS-I: Art and Culture)

In News:

PM Narendra Nodi is all set to unveil the world’s second-largest statue (Statue of Equality) in Hyderabad on February 5.

Details:

The 216-foot-tall statue of 11nth-century social reformer and saint, Ramanujacharya will be in a sitting position.

What is the Statue of Equality?

The world’s second tallest statue in a sitting position is made up of ‘panchaloha’, meaning a combination of five metals i.e. gold, copper, silver, brass and zinc.

The inner sanctorum deity of Sri Ramanujacharya is built of 120 kilos of gold. This commemorates the 120 years the saint spent on earth.

About Sri Ramanujacharya:

Born in 1017 CE in Tamil Nadu.

He is the most respected Acharya in the philosophy of Sri Vaishnavism.

He was also referred to as Ilaya Perumal which means the radiant one.

His philosophical foundations for devotionalism were influential to the Bhakti movement.

He is famous as the chief proponent of Vishishtadvaita subschool of Vedānta.

He wrote influential texts, such as bhāsya on the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, all in Sanskrit.

What is Vishishtadvaita?

It is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy. It is non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone exists, but is characterized by multiplicity.

It can be described as qualified monism or qualified non-dualism or attributive monism.

It is a school of Vedanta philosophy which believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity.