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Here are the topics covered for 1st November 2023:
GS-2: Maratha Quota
GS-3: Stocktaking Climate Finance, International Solar Alliance, Coastal Adaptation Initiatives
Facts for Prelims: Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link project, Rohini Nayyar Prize
- The Maratha community in Maharashtra has been demanding reservation for decades. In 2018, the Maharashtra government passed a law granting 16% reservation to the Marathas in education and government jobs. However, the Supreme Court struck down the law in 2021, citing the 50% ceiling on total reservations set by the court in its 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict.
The Maratha reservation demand has its roots in the historical and social context of the Maratha community in Maharashtra:
- The Marathas, constituting around 33% of the state’s population, comprise various castes, including peasants and landowners.
- Historically, the Marathas were identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with substantial land holdings.
- However, due to factors such as land fragmentation, agrarian challenges, unemployment, and limited access to education, many Marathas have experienced social and economic backwardness. Despite these challenges, the community still plays a vital role in the rural economy.
- As a result of their socioeconomic difficulties, the Marathas have been advocating for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) category.
Timeline of the Maratha Reservation Demand:
- 2017: An 11-member commission, led by Retired Justice N G Gaikwad, recommended that Marathas should receive reservations under the SEBC category.
- 2018: The Maharashtra Assembly passed a bill proposing a 16% reservation for the Maratha community.
- 2020: The Supreme Court of India temporarily halted the implementation of the reservation and referred the case to the Chief Justice of India for a larger bench to review.
- The Supreme Court ruled against the Maratha reservation in 2021, citing the 50% cap on total reservations that had been set in 1992.
- The 12% and 13% reservations (in education and jobs, respectively) for the Maratha community had raised the overall reservation ceiling to 64% and 65%.
- The Supreme Court emphasized that the breach of the 50% limit could only be allowed in exceptional and extraordinary situations including remote and underprivileged populations. Such situations did not exist in Maharashtra.
- The court also stated that only the President has the authority to modify the central list of social and backward classes, and states can only make recommendations, not changes to this list.
- The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the 102nd Constitution Amendment, although there was a difference in opinion regarding its impact on states’ power to identify SEBCs.
- The Court highlighted that a separate reservation for the Maratha community violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (due process of law).
- 2022: In November 2022, following the Supreme Court’s endorsement of the 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), the state government stated that until the issue of the Maratha reservation is resolved, economically disadvantaged members of the community can benefit from the EWS quota.
- 2023: In October 2023, the Chief Justice of India said that a curative petition against the Supreme Court’s judgment holding the Maratha reservation law unconstitutional would be considered in due course. A curative petition is the last legal resort available to a party to challenge a Supreme Court judgment.
Constitutional Provisions for Quota
- Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution of India allow the government to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
- However, the total reservations under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) cannot exceed 50% of the total seats.
- The following are the categories of citizens who are eligible for reservation:
- Scheduled Castes (SCs)
- Scheduled Tribes (STs)
- Other Backward Classes (OBCs)
- Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)
- The way forward involves a careful balancing act to ensure that reservations benefit the most deserving and truly marginalized while not exceeding the 50% cap.
- A reevaluation of the quota and a reexamination of the social and economic conditions of the Maratha community is also needed, ultimately aiming for a more equitable and just society.
- The Maratha quota case is a complex issue with no easy answers.
- SC needs to balance the need to uplift disadvantaged communities with the need to ensure that reservations are not used to create a system of reverse discrimination.
Stocktaking climate finance
- The pressing need for developed nations to replicate the cooperative approach witnessed during the 2009-10 global financial crisis. Emphasizing the critical role of strong political will in addressing the challenges of climate finance.
- Anticipation of the upcoming focus on climate finance during COP 28 in Dubai.
The Role of Climate Finance:
- Highlighting the central importance of climate finance in sustaining trust within climate negotiations.
- Expectations of in-depth discussions on climate finance at COP 28.
- Establishing the connection between climate finance and the overarching global stocktake at COP, driven by the Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report.
- Delving into the repercussions of the current rise in global temperatures.
- Anticipating that both developed and climate-vulnerable countries will call for heightened mitigation efforts from developing nations.
- Acknowledging the counter-demand, which asserts that developed countries have fallen short of the $100 billion climate finance target.
Assessing Adequate Climate Finance:
- Exploring the mandatory obligation for developed nations to extend financial support to their developing counterparts as stipulated by the Paris Agreement.
- Highlighting the commitment made at the 2009 Copenhagen Change Conference, where developed countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020.
- Reflecting on the deep regret expressed by developed nations at COP 26 due to their inability to mobilise the targeted $100 billion, with only $79.6 billion raised.
- Analyzing the financial requirements outlined in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), with a particular focus on India’s situation.
Global Financing Mechanisms:
- Exploring the roles of international organizations such as the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund in the mobilisation of climate finance.
- Shedding light on the recent second replenishment of the Green Climate Fund and the contributions made by developed and developing nations, including voluntary contributions.
The Urgent Need for Action:
- Drawing parallels between the global financial crisis response in 2009-10 and the present climate finance scenario.
- Stressing the imperative need for political will, a sense of urgency, and global collaboration to effectively address climate finance challenges.
- Underscoring the collective responsibility of developed nations in safeguarding the global common resource: the Earth’s atmosphere.
- The challenges associated with climate finance demand immediate and concerted action from the international community. The commitment to address climate change must mirror the resolve demonstrated during the global financial crisis.
- As the world’s climate continues to change, strong political will and cooperation remain essential to meet the financial obligations outlined in international agreements and to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for all nations.
International Solar Alliance: “An Open Door Policy”
- India’s Minister for Power and Renewable Energy extended a warm invitation to China to become a part of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) during the inaugural session of the ISA Assembly. The ISA, comprising 116 member countries, emphasizes its open membership policy to all United Nations member states.
The Inclusivity of the International Solar Alliance:
- The ISA’s doors are open to all UN member states, underscoring the inclusivity of the organization. This statement was in response to questions about China’s absence from the alliance, despite being a global leader in solar panel production and supply. The ISA was formed in 2015, with India and France taking the lead.
Challenges and Diversification in Solar Manufacturing:
- Addressing the concerns about China’s absence from the ISA, India’s minister acknowledged that China accounts for a significant portion of the global solar panel manufacturing capacity, particularly in polysilicon wafers and above.
- He emphasized the need for diversification in solar manufacturing, particularly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries have now initiated their manufacturing facilities, reducing their dependence on a single source.
The ISA’s Global Mandate:
- The International Solar Alliance was established following the historic 21st meeting of the United Nations Conference of Parties in Paris, leading to the ‘Paris Agreement.’
- The ISA’s mission is to mobilize $1,000 billion in solar energy solutions by 2030 and provide energy access to one billion people through the installation of 1,000 gigawatts.
- This ambitious goal is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one billion tonnes annually. A key focus for the ISA is the expansion of solar panel installations in Africa, where investment in solar power is significantly lower compared to other regions.
India’s Shift in Solar Imports:
- India, once a substantial importer of solar panels from China, has shifted its focus towards domestic manufacturing and reduced solar panel imports.
- Instead, India has increased imports of solar cells to manufacture its panels and expand its role in the solar energy supply chain.
- The open invitation extended to China to join the International Solar Alliance underlines the organization’s commitment to a collaborative approach to address global challenges related to solar energy adoption.
- The ISA’s ambitious goals and efforts to boost solar investments in Africa reflect its determination to drive the global transition to clean and sustainable energy sources.
- China’s potential involvement could further strengthen the alliance’s efforts to achieve a sustainable and renewable energy future.
Coastal Adaptation Initiatives
- A recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has shed light on the importance of coastal adaptation measures. The study examined various regions worldwide, including Indian coastal areas, emphasizing the need for these initiatives. India’s coastal areas, such as Mumbai, Ghoramara, Puri, and the Konkan region, were categorized as having “moderate-to-high” levels of adaptation measures.
Key Findings of the Study:
Impact on Low-Lying Coastal Regions
- Approximately 11% of the global population resides in low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to flooding.
- These regions contribute about 14% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Regional Adaptation Disparities Worldwide:
- Nearly 50% of the surveyed regions showed substantial gaps in adaptation, often addressing individual risks rather than the root causes of vulnerability.
- Around 13% of case studies demonstrated high-to-very-high levels of adaptation, primarily in Europe and North America.
- Most other regions fell into the moderate category, including Australia and New Zealand.
Varying Adaptation Measures in Specific Indian Coastal Regions:
- Indian coastal regions, including Ghoramara, Konkan, Mumbai, and Puri, exhibited varying adaptation measures.
- Ghoramara had generic adaptation plans without state-agency-specific strategies.
- The Konkan region lacked adaptation plans and failed to address multiple coastal hazards.
- Mumbai’s adaptation strategies, despite having a climate action plan, were inadequate in assessing risks and addressing the needs of vulnerable residents.
- Puri, while having action plans, lacked sector-specific adaptation strategies and the identification of high-risk communities.
Coastal Adaptation: Definition and Benefit
- Coastal adaptation encompasses strategies and actions aimed at reducing the impact of natural hazards and climate change on coastal areas.
- These measures protect communities and infrastructure from rising sea levels, erosion, and extreme weather events. Coastal adaptation can result in various advantages:
- The study highlights the importance of coastal adaptation measures in various regions, including India. By addressing the challenges and embracing innovative strategies, coastal adaptation can play a pivotal role in safeguarding coastal communities, promoting economic growth, and protecting natural ecosystems in the face of climate change and natural hazards.
Fact for Prelims:
Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link project
- The Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link project is a 15-kilometre rail link connecting the towns of Akhaura in Bangladesh and Agartala in India.
- Of the total length, 5 kilometres is in India and 10 kilometres is in Bangladesh.
- It will significantly reduce the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka.
- Currently, the rail route from Agartala to Kolkata is around 1600 kilometres and takes 38 hours. Once the rail link opens, the travel time will be reduced to roughly 10 hours.
- The rail link will enable goods trains to reach the northeastern region via Bangladesh at a much lesser transportation cost.
- North Eastern region of India is currently landlocked and goods have to be transported through either Assam or West Bengal, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
- The rail link will also provide direct access between landlocked northeastern India and the Chittagong port of Bangladesh. This will open up new trade and investment opportunities for both countries.
Rohini Nayyar Prize
- The prize recognizes outstanding contributions to rural development, with a focus on empowering tribal women in rural areas.
- The prize includes a cash award of Rs 10 lakh.
- In addition to the cash prize, the recipient is presented with a trophy and a citation.
- The prize is presented in memory of the late economist-administrator Dr. Rohini Nayyar.
- The second Rohini Nayyar Prize was awarded to Deenanath Rajput, an engineer-turned-social worker, for his remarkable work in Bastar, Chhattisgarh.
- The prize was presented by N K Singh, Chairman of the Fifteenth Finance Commission.
- Deenanath Rajput, the prize recipient, shared insights into his work, highlighting his journey from a small team to a larger group of 52 people. His work includes providing agricultural extension services to women farmers and building cold storage infrastructure.