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3rd December Current Affairs

Caste census

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

Bihar is planning to conduct State-specific caste-based exercise. This comes after a delegation of Bihar leaders led by CM had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to hold caste census in the country but later, the Central Government had refused to hold the same.

What’s the issue?

The Union government had 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.

Concerns associated:

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.

Paika Rebellion

(GS-I: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues)

In News:

Union Culture Minister recently made the following recommendation regarding the Paika Rebellion:

“The 1817 Paika rebellion of Odisha could not be called the first war of Independence, but considering it as the beginning of a popular uprising against the British, it would be included as a case study in the Class 8 National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) history textbook.”

Who are Paikas?

Recruited since the 16th century by kings in Odisha from a variety of social groups to render martial services in return for rent-free land (nish-kar jagirs) and titles.

They were the traditional land-owning militia of Odisha and served as warriors.

How did the rebellion begin?

When armies of the East India Company overran most of Odisha in 1803, the Raja of Khurda lost his primacy and the power and prestige of the Paikas went on a decline. So, they rebelled back.

The British were not comfortable with these aggressive, warlike new subjects and set up a commission under Walter Ewer to look into the issue.

The commission recommended that the hereditary rent-free lands granted to the Paikas be taken over by the British administration and this recommendation was zealously adhered to. They revolted against the British.

Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Bharamarbar Rai, the highest-ranking military general of King Khorda Mukund Dev II, led the Paikas to join the uprising.

However, the rebellion also had several other underlying causes – like the rise in the price of salt, abolition of the cowrie currency for payment of taxes and an overtly extortionist land revenue policy.

Outcome:

Although initially the Company struggled to respond they managed to put down the rebellion by May 1817. Many of the Paik leaders were hanged or deported. Jagabandhu surrendered in 1825.

Nationalist movement or a peasant rebellion?

The Paika Rebellion is one among the peasant rebellions that took place in India when the British East India Company was expanding its military enterprise. Because these uprisings violently clashed with European colonialists and missionaries on many occasions, their resistance is sometimes seen as the first expression of resistance against colonial rule — and therefore considered to be “nationalist” in nature.”

Dam Safety Bill 2019

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

The Rajya Sabha has passed the Dam Safety Bill, 2019.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 2 August, 2019.

Concerns raised:

The bill is too focused on structural safety and not on operational safety.

There is inadequate compensation to the people affected by dams.

There is need for an independent regulator as well as for a precise definition of stakeholders.

Many states say it encroaches upon the sovereignty of States to manage their dams, and violates the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution. They see it as an attempt by the Centre to consolidate power in the guise of safety concerns.

Why Centre is introducing this Bill?

Though the subject does not fall under the purview of Parliament, the Centre has decided to introduce this bill mainly because dam safety is an issue of concern in the country. And there are no legal and institutional safeguards in this regard.

Highlights of Dam Safety Bill, 2019:

The Bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.

The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.

The Bill provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.

The Bill provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government.

Significance:

The Bill will help all the States and Union Territories of India to adopt uniform dam safety procedures which shall ensure safety of dams and safeguard benefits from such dams. This shall also help in safeguarding human life, livestock and property.

It addresses all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, Emergency Action Plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, Instrumentation and Safety Manuals.

It lays onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

Need for:

Over the last fifty years, India has invested substantially in dams and related infrastructures, and ranks third after USA and China in the number of large dams. 5254 large dams are in operation in the country currently and another 447 are under construction.

In addition to this, there are thousands of medium and small dams.

While dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India, there has been a long felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure for ensuring dam safety.

The Central Water Commission, through the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), Central Dam Safety Organization (CDSO) and State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO) has been making constant endeavours in this direction, but these organizations do not have any statutory powers and are only advisory in nature.

This can be a matter of concern, especially since about 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old.

A badly maintained, unsafe dam can be a hazard to human life, flora and fauna, public and private assets and the environment.

India has had 42 dam failures in the past.

Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

(GS-I: Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies)

In News:

The deadline for completing projects under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) has been extended for all 100 participating cities to June 2023 due to the delays caused by COVID-19 and based on a NITI Aayog recommendation in August.

Smart Cities mission:

GoI launched the smart cities mission in 2015.

The cities were given five years to complete the projects under the mission, with the first set of Smart Cities expected to complete in 2021.

The objective is to integrate city functions, utilize scarce resources more efficiently, and improve the quality of life of citizens.

It is an innovative initiative under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.

Smart city is envisaged to have four pillars:

  • Social Infrastructure.
  • Physical Infrastructure.
  • Institutional Infrastructure (including Governance).
  • Economic Infrastructure.

Progress made under this scheme (as of June 2021):

Of the total proposed projects under this mission, 5,924 projects have been tendered, work orders have been issued for 5,236 and 2,665 projects are fully operational.

212 PPP projects worth Rs. 24,964 crore have been grounded/completed

70 Smart cities have developed. operationalized their Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) in the country.

Challenges ahead:

A lot of progress is desired in creating energy-efficient and green buildings.

Making Urban Bodies self-reliant.

The share of public transport is declining, it needs to be increased to meet the needs of increasing urbanization.

Rising air pollution, increase in road congestion due to an increase in urbanization.