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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 23rd February, 2016

  • February 24, 2016
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Feb 2016, National, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 23rd February, 2016

 

NATIONAL

 

TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure. 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

 

Reservation: Why Jats want a quota?

  • The Jats’ demonstrations for their inclusion on the list of the OBC castes in Haryana are echoing others including the Patels’ agitation, which resulted in reportedly 10 deaths in August last year, a toll similar to the present one in Haryana where 16 people have died so far.
  • The Gujjars in Rajasthan, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh as well as the Marathas in Maharashtra are similarly mobilised.

Dominant castes demand backward tag:

  • One common thing among the above stated castes is that they all demand their caste inclusion under the list of backward castes.
  • The above castes, contrary to their demand, represent some of the dominant castes present in India.
  • N. Srinivas, the pioneer of Indian anthropology in the 1950s, defined the dominant castes as those that are demographically important and own a lot of land.
  • The Jats, Marathas and Patels are certainly dominant, but their mobilisation tells us something about structural problems in the Indian economy.

 

Unfavourable agricultural conditions:

  • The above mentioned dominant castes do not see their future in agriculture because of the attraction exerted by the city and because of the crisis in village India.
  • The 2014-15 Economic Survey showed that the wages of rural India were increasing at 3.6 per cent only (when the inflation rate was above 5 per cent), against 20 per cent in 2011.
  • Those who had land next to big cities could sell it to developers and even became rentiers sometimes.
  • But most of the migrants who left their village to try their luck in the city are disappointed by the job market.
  • In contrast to the middle class inhabiting urban centres for generations, they have not received the kind of English-medium education that gives access to the services, the sector (especially in IT) offering opportunities.
  • While they have sometimes run heavy debts to get some private, not-so-good education, they have to fall back on unskilled jobs.

Private jobs earn less:

  • Private jobs are uncertain and badly paid.
  • In the private sector, the average daily earnings of the workers was Rs 249 in 2011-12, according to the Labour Bureau, and those of the employees at large, Rs 388.
  • By contrast, in the public sector, the figures were respectively almost three times more at Rs 679 and Rs 945.
  • Recently, the Seventh Pay Commission recommended an increase of the minimum monthly salary from Rs 7,000 to Rs 18,000.

 

Need for a government job:

  • Understandably, the young Jats, Patels, Kapus and Marathas who do not find good jobs in the private sector fall back on the government.
  • The search for government jobs among these castes is also influenced by their particularly skewed sex ratio.
  • Parents of girls prefer grooms with stable income those with government jobs are often their preferred choice.
  • With fewer girls compared to boys in these castes, there is competition in the marriage market.

 

Era of fewer government jobs:

  • There are fewer government jobs these days.
  • There were 19.5 million jobs in the public sector in 1992-93 when India’s population was 839 million.
  • While there are 1.2 billion Indians now, the number of jobs in the public sector has shrunk to 17.6 million.
  • In states that have aggressively implemented the liberalisation policy, government jobs have almost disappeared.
  • For instance, the government’s share in employment in Gujarat is only 1.18 per cent whereas it is 16 per cent in Kerala.

Why governments are opposing reservation to such dominant castes?

  • The dominant castes want to be counted as Other Backward Classes (OBC) to benefit from job reservation.
  • But governments are wary to accept to the demand since the decision may alienate those already in the OBC list.
  • The existing OBC castes, no less politically influential, fear that the dominant castes may corner the quotas if included in the list since the latter are richer and better educated.
  • Moreover, the judiciary will probably not allow quotas to exceed the 49 per cent limit imposed by the Supreme Court on reservation.

Way ahead:

  • Reservations are a way to positively discriminate different sections of the society to ensure their development.
  • However this discrimination should not be solely on the basis of caste, as this might affect the unity and integrity of the country which the constituent assembly dreamt of.

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically examine the reservation policy of India with special reference to the apex court judgements.
  • Should caste based reservations be allowed in India? If no, what can be other indicators for providing reservations in India. Substantiate.

 

Related Articles on Reservation:

http://iasbaba.com/2015/09/iasbabas-daily-current-affairs-3rd-september-2015/

http://iasbaba.com/2016/02/india-radio-agitation-jat-community/

 

ENVIRONMENT

TOPIC:  General Studies 3

  • Biodiversity, Environment and Disaster Management

 

A tale of Kudremukh – Western Ghats

Kudremukh—

  • A mountain range and name of a peak located in Chikkamagaluru district, in Karnataka, India
  • Also the name of a small hill station cum mining town situated near the mountain, about 48 kilometres from Karkala and around 20 kilometres from Kalasa
  • The name literally means ‘horse-face’ (in the Kannada language) and refers to a particular picturesque view of a side of the mountain that resembles a horse’s face

 

Karnataka’s 3rd highest peak after Mullayangiri and Baba Budangiri

The Kudremukh National Park in the Western Ghats

  • A part of the world’s 38 ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity, a UNESCO world heritage site; notified as a National Park in 1987
  • More than 630 sq km area of montane grasslands and tropical rainforests— forms the largest protected block within the Western Ghats
  • Home to unique, threatened and endangered biodiversity including lion-tailed macaques, tigers, Malabar civets and great pied hornbills
  • Origin of the rivers Tunga, Bhadra and Netravati, from the heart of the park, sustaining millions of rural people in south India
  • Provision of invaluable ecosystem services- Water Security, Nutrient Recycling, Climate Regulation and Carbon Sequestration

Destruction by Mining

1969—48 sq km of pristine forests right in the middle of Kudremukh was leased to a gigantic strip mining operation called the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL)

  • KIOCL used to send iron ore through pipes running through districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada and converted to pellets at their plant in Panambur
  • These pellets were exported to countries like China, Iran, Japan, etc. by ships

 

Consequences:

Destruction of Kudremukh’s natural resources

  • To provide access for giant earth moving machines
  • Blasting was taken up in earnest to loosen the soil
  • To get the iron ore to the pellet plant in the port city of Mangalore, a 67 km pipeline was laid through the forest, with a road created to service it. Everyday iron ore, in the form of slurry, was pumped downhill to the pellet plant.  The slurry pipe is prone to breakage, and in the year 2000 alone, it broke four times, spilling an estimated 4000 tonnes of concentrated iron ore into crystal clear rainforest streams

Massive habitat fragmentation

  • Habitat fragmentation: The single largest threat to biodiversity and biological integrity
  • With Kudremukh and its surrounding forests comprise one of the largest blocks of tropical rainforests in the Western Ghats and harbour many rare and endemic species including the lion tailed macaque and great pied hornbill.

 

Heavy Sedimentation-Siltation

  • Massive siltation of the rivers and reservoirs (hill slopes are steep)
  • High Sediment Discharge- The topographic and rainfall characteristics in combination with the open cast mining of low grade iron ore and other land-surface disturbances (one of the highest for any open cast mining operation in the world; reduced the water holding capacity of the Bhadra Reservoir, which was designed to have a lifespan of 180 years)
  • Every monsoon, over 100,000 tonnes of loose soil are washed down from the slopes and into the river, depositing iron ore laden silt on the fields of farmers cultivating downstream, and finally emptying into the Bhadra Reservoir.

 

Low-grade iron ore

Generates a vast amount of waste, known as tailings

Kudremukh & tailings dams breaching:

  • Iron ore content is just 30%, the remaining 70% of waste mud had to be dumped somewhere-which happened to be the forested Lakya Valley, across which a tailings dam was constructed, which now contains over 150 million tonnes of iron ore tailings and is a disaster waiting to happen.
  • In 1994 it developed a serious crack thereby, leading to evacuations as far away as 45 km downstream, and emergency repairs that were carried out.

Mask of being a ‘green’ company

  • KIOCL went on a massive tree-planting spree, planting some 8 million saplings of exotics like Eucalyptus and Acacia on 2000 acres of natural grasslands, in the name of ‘compensatory afforestation’ (What do you mean by this-Put your grey cells to work!)
  • These invasive alien species thus start spreading and gradually starts replacing the native plants (here: the native species in the shola forests)

Post the end of the lease in 1999— Company continued operations under temporary permits, using legal subterfuges

Supreme Court’s landmark Judgment—

  • Recognised that this opencast strip mining operation in the middle of the mountainous nature reserve was an environmental abomination
  • Report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the State Legislature- In their report tabled in the Legislative Assembly in July 2009, it has recommended disciplinary action against senior officials for their failure to recover the fine of Rs. 139 crores imposed on KIOCL for destroying forests.
  • Ordered the closure of the mine by December 2005, stating: “By destroying nature, environment, man is committing matricide, having in a way killed Mother Earth. Technological excellence, growth of industries, economical gains has led to depletion of natural resources irreversibly. Indifference to the grave consequences, lack of concern and foresight has contributed in large measures to the alarming position. In the case at hand, the alleged victim is the flora and fauna in and around Kudremukh National Park, a part of the Western Ghats”.
  • Remarkable—

As what was closed down was no two-bit operation but a massive, government-owned, export-oriented, profit making mining operation of the Kudremukh Iron Ore Mining Company Limited (KIOCL), one of the (so called) ‘Mini Ratna PSUs’.

  • Upheld the recommendations of its own central empowered committee-Ordered the State and Central governments to
    • Complete the termination of mining operations by the end of 2005;
    • Implement an eco-restoration plan for the mine-damaged area at cost to KIOCL;
    • Completely evict all KIOCL equipment, building and machinery from government forest and revenue land;
    • Transfer all the lease area and standing infrastructure to the State government.

Post-Assessment (Order of Mining to be ceased)—

  • Documented significant improvements in water quality
  • Reduction in silt load levels in the Bhadra river

 

A mere wishing star— Violation of the Law

Disregarding the Supreme Court judgment, KIOCL (with support from local politicians and officials) has continued to encroach on large areas that now belong to the government

Noticed— The company was fined Rs. 130 crore for its violations of forest laws by the Comptroller and Auditor General; penalty endorsed by the State Public Accounts Committee

What happened— Fine hasn’t been collected and no eviction has been done yet 

In the meanwhile,

KIOCL has leased its buildings to a private luxury resort called Alva’s Kudremukh Nisargadhama

Illegality of the matter—Leasing out something that is not your own- KIOCL does not own the land it has leased to the resort

Contempt of Court—The apex court(December 2006 judgment), had rejected KIOCL’s plea to use its existing infrastructure for promoting eco-tourism; the ‘leasing’ of property to Alva’s luxury resort thus amounts to blatant contempt of the court’s orders

Against Rules— Mandatory environmental and forest clearances have not even been obtained for its establishment; transgressed several conservation laws

All tourism infrastructure be moved out of national parks and sanctuaries—WHY?

Establishment of such resorts and townships within the heart of the park will entail

  • Development of infrastructure such as approach roads, electrical lines, water and sewage lines, buildings, and swimming pools and the like
  • Will result in resource consumption, waste generation, vehicular traffic, pollution and other disturbances — all of which pose a chronic threat to the ecological integrity of the park

Therefore, the court in its interim orders in Ajay Dubey v. National Tiger Conservation Authority insisted that all tourism infrastructures be moved out of national parks and sanctuaries that constitute tiger reserves within the next five years

Preserving the ecological marvel

  • There is a need to protect the entire 281-acre enclave owned by KIOCL-must be acquired by the forest department and merged into the surrounding Kudremukh National Park.
  • Before the planting or healing of the wounds of the forest begin, the mined slopes will have to be carefully studied and, in some cases, may have to be stabilized to prevent landslips-Can be achieved through standard geo-technical practices such as soil nailing and geo-meshing, which do not require the moving of large amounts of earth

 

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