(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
The Union government last week told the Supreme Court that the caste-based data enumerated in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 was “unusable”, but in 2016, the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India had informed the Standing Committee on Rural Development that 98.87% of the data on individual caste and religion was “error free”.
Why the data is “unusable” according to the government?
The government had said that the total number of castes surveyed in 1931 was 4,147, while the SECC figures show that there are more than 46 lakh different castes. Assuming that some castes may bifurcate into sub-castes, the total number can not be exponentially high to this extent.
The entire exercise was corrupted because the enumerators had used different spellings for the same castes. In many cases the respondents, the government said, had refused to divulge their castes.
How have caste details been collected so far?
While SC/ST details are collected as part of the census, details of other castes are not collected by the enumerators. The main method is by self-declaration to the enumerator.
So far, backward classes commissions in various States have been conducting their own counts to ascertain the population of backward castes.
What kind of caste data is published in the Census?
Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes. Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.
What is SECC 2011?
The Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 was a major exercise to obtain data about the socio-economic status of various communities.
It had two components: a survey of the rural and urban households and ranking of these households based on pre-set parameters, and a caste census.
However, only the details of the economic conditions of the people in rural and urban households were released. The caste data has not been released till now.
Difference between Census & SECC:
The Census provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
Since the Census falls under the Census Act of 1948, all data are considered confidential, whereas all the personal information given in the SECC is open for use by Government departments to grant and/or restrict benefits to households.
Pros of caste census:
The precise number of the population of each caste would help tailor the reservation policy to ensure equitable representation of all of them.
There is a possibility that it will lead to heartburn among some sections and spawn demands for larger or separate quotas.
It has been alleged that the mere act of labelling persons as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate the system.
Punjab’s desertification in 25 years
(GS-III: Disaster Management)
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee, constituted to study water table depletion, has recently said that the state will turn into a desert in the next 25 years if the present trend of drawing water from underground aquifers continues.
This is a prediction that has been made before – over two decades ago, a study on water table depletion in Punjab (The State of the World Report, 1998) had projected almost the same time frame of 25 years, saying aquifers in Punjab could be depleted by 2025.
How alarming is the water situation in Punjab really?
Out of 138 blocks in Punjab, 109 have already gone into the ‘dark’ or over-exploited zone, which means groundwater extraction is more than 100 per cent here.
Two fall under the ‘dark/critical’ zone (groundwater extraction is 90 to 100 per cent), while five are under semi-critical (groundwater extraction 70 to 90 per cent) zone.
This means that around 80 per cent blocks of the state have already dried up and four per cent are on the verge of it.
Water availability at 3 to 10 meters, which needs a centrifugal pump to extract water, is the most desirable, but currently, water is available at 20 to 30 meters, or more than 30 meters down, in around 84 per cent of Punjab.
Reasons for this scarcity:
More water is being drawn than it is being replenished. The rate of water extraction in Punjab is 1.66 times against the rate of replenishment.
Because of the adoption of a faulty cropping pattern. Paddy crop hampers water recharging because of the puddling method used to prepare fields for transplanting.
What needs to be done?
Farmers must be incentivised to choose cropping patterns that require less water, and go for drip irrigation or other water management mechanisms to save our only available deeper aquifers.
Anti-defection law, for independent legislators
(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)
Independent MLA from Gujarat’s Vadgam constituency, Jignesh Mevani, has pledged support to the Congress party, saying though he has not formally joined the Congress, he has joined the party’s ideology. Hence, provisions of the Tenth Schedule do not apply in this case.
Relevance: the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution:
Popularly known as the anti-defection law.
It specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by legislators invites action under the law.
It was added to the Constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act.
It includes situations in which an independent MLA, too, joins a party after the election.
The law covers three scenarios with respect to shifting of political parties by an MP or an MLA. These include:
Matters related to disqualification:
Under the anti-defection law, the power to decide the disqualification of an MP or MLA rests with the presiding officer of the legislature.
The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made.
Last year, the Supreme Court observed that anti-defection cases should be decided by Speakers in three months’ time.
However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. Exceptions:
The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.
On being elected as the presiding officer of the House, if a member, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office, he won’t be disqualified.
(GS-I: The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country)
28th September is the birth anniversary of revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
Key facts about him:
Bhagat Singh was born in 1907 in Lyallpur district (now in Pakistan), and grew up in a Sikh family deeply involved in political activities.
In 1923, Bhagat Singh joined the National College, Lahore which was founded and managed by Lala Lajpat Rai and Bhai Parmanand.
In 1924 in Kanpur, he became a member of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), started by Sachindranath Sanyal a year earlier.
In 1928, HRA was renamed from Hindustan Republican Association to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
In 1925-26 Bhagat Singh and his colleagues started a militant youth organization called the Naujawan Bharat Sabha.
In 1927, he was first arrested on charges of association with the Kakori Case accused for an article written under the pseudonym Vidrohi (Rebel).
In 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai had led a procession to protest against the arrival of the Simon Commission. The police resorted to a brutal lathi charge, in which Lala Lajpat Rai was severely injured and later succumbed to his injuries.
To take revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh and his associates plotted the assassination of James A. Scott, the Superintendent of Police.
However, the revolutionaries mistakenly killed J.P. Saunders. The incident is famously known as Lahore Conspiracy case (1929).
Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt threw a bomb on 8 April, 1929 in the Central Legislative Assembly, in protest against the passing of two repressive bills, the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Dispute Bill.
The aim was not to kill but to make the deaf hear, and to remind the foreign government of its callous exploitation.
Both Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt surrendered thereafter and faced trial so they could further promote their cause. They were awarded life imprisonment for this incident.
However, Bhagat Singh was re-arrested for the murder of J.P. Saunders and bomb manufacturing in the Lahore Conspiracy case.
He was found guilty in this case and was hanged on 23rd March, 1931 in Lahore along with Sukhdev and Rajguru.
Every year, March 23 is observed as Martyrs’ Day as a tribute to freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru.
The burden of climate change on children born today
(GS-III: Conservation and pollution related issues)
A study was recently published by Researchers on the impact of climate change on children born today.
The study is based on data from the Inter-sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP).
How was the study carried out?
The ISIMIP data were used alongside country-scale, life-expectancy data, population data and temperature trajectories from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Children born today will be hit much harder by extreme climate events than today’s adults.
During his or her lifetime, a child born in 2021 is likely to experience on average twice as many wildfires, two to three times more droughts, almost three times more river floods and crop failures and about seven times more heat waves compared to a person who is, say, 60 years old today.
What needs to be done?
Under a scenario of current “insufficient” climate policies, dangerous extreme heatwave events, which affect about 15% of the global land area today, could treble to 46% by the end of this century.
Countries are able to follow through with their climate policies as decided under the Paris Climate Agreement, this effect could be limited to 22%, which is just seven percentage points more than the global land area that is affected today.
Weincrease climate protection from current emission reduction pledges and get in line with a 1.5-degree target, we will reduce young people’s potential exposure to extreme events on average by 24% globally.
What is the Inter-sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP)?
This is a community-driven climate-impacts modelling initiative that assesses the differential impacts of climate change.
Initiated by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and has since grown to involve over 100 modelling groups from around the world.
Who is involved?
NGO’s, Private sector, Policy-/decision -makers.
How is it carried out?
ISIMIP is organised into simulation rounds, which are guided by a focus topic. For each round, a simulation protocol defines a set of common simulation scenarios based on the focus topic. Participating modelling groups are provided with a common set of climate input data, and other data (in some cases unique to one sector) necessary to ensure cross-sectorally consistent impacts simulations.