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Here are the topics covered for 9th November 2023:
GS-2: SC on Temple Priests Vacancy, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana
GS-3: Genetically Modified Insects
GS-4: Ethics in the Realm of Online Gaming
Facts for Prelims: Reservation in Education, The Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness Program (LLLAP)
SC on Temple Priests Vacancy
- The Supreme Court of India, in a recent hearing, chose not to modify or vacate its interim order, Which imposed a status quo on the appointment of priests (Archakas) in temples in Tamil Nadu governed by traditional Agamas.
- This decision came as a response to a series of petitions alleging that the Tamil Nadu government was attempting to appoint individuals it considered “non-believers” as Archakas, which was seen as contrary to the Agamas, a post-Vedic scripture that conveys ritual knowledge.
Arguments Presented in the Court:
- Senior advocate representing the Tamil Nadu government, sought to have the stay order lifted, as it was having implications on the filling of 2,405 vacant Archakas positions in Agamic temples.
- Additionally, it was affecting the training of individuals who had completed courses at Archaka training schools, thus potentially hindering the performance of religious rituals in these temples.
State’s Perspective on the Issue:
- The State government had filed an urgent application requesting the vacation of the interim status quo order.
- The State contended that its appointments were a secular function within its purview and were made in accordance with the Agamas. The State’s intention was to allow all qualified Hindus, regardless of caste or creed, to be appointed as Archakas under the supervision of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.
- The petitioners against the State government argued that the government’s actions in appointing and transferring Archakas amounted to a takeover of the administration of the Agama temples.
- Several parties, including the All India Adi Saiva Sivacharyargal Seva Association, had filed petitions to challenge State government directives.
- These directives aimed to “train persons in the performance of poojas/ceremonies/rituals,” which was perceived as being contrary to the Agamas.
- The petitioners, on the other hand, argued that the State’s directives were in conflict with previous Supreme Court judgments that upheld the rights of religious denominations and emphasized the strict adherence to Agamas for the appointment of Archakas.
- The petitioners also requested the Supreme Court to form a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to identify Agamic temples in Tamil Nadu, stating that only specific denominations were traditionally entitled to perform rituals in these temples
- They accused the Tamil Nadu government of repeatedly attempting to infringe on the rights of these denominations.
- Out of approximately 38,000 temples in Tamil Nadu, only about 3,600, which have existed for over a thousand years, strictly adhere to Agamas and traditions in their rituals. In the remaining 35,000 temples, denominations do not have the right to conduct these rituals, according to the petitioners.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana
- The recent announcement by the Indian Prime Minister to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for an additional five years has significant implications for India’s food security and welfare policies. PMGKAY, initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic, provides free foodgrains to eligible ration card holders under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).
PMGKAY and Its Background:
- PMGKAY was launched in 2020 to provide 5kg of free foodgrains to eligible ration card holders.
- Initially set to expire in December 2022, it was extended till December 2023 and has now been prolonged for an additional five years.
- The government has allocated 1,118 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains from its central procurement pool, costing Rs 3.9 lakh crore.
National Food Security Act, 2013:
- The NFSA represents a shift from welfare-based to rights-based food security.
- It legally entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
- It includes two categories of ration card holders: Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH).
- The Act mandates the eldest woman of the household to be the head for issuing ration cards.
- AAY households receive 35 kg of food grains monthly, while PHH households receive food grains based on family size.
Merger of PMGKAY and NFSA:
- In January, PMGKAY was integrated with NFSA, providing all rations for AAY and PHH families at no cost.
- This merger eliminated the extra provisions introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, incorporating the free component of PMGKAY into NFSA.
- Addressing Immediate Food Security Needs: The extension ensures lower-income households have continued access to essential food supplies, addressing immediate food security concerns.
- Boosting Rural Economy: The procurement of food grains supports local farmers and agricultural communities, contributing to rural economic growth and stability.
- Social Cohesion: The program fosters a sense of community welfare, promoting social cohesion and collective responsibility towards those in need.
- Long-term Fiscal and Economic Concerns: The program’s extension incurs significant fiscal costs, potentially straining the government’s budget.
- Distortion in Market Dynamics: Providing free or highly subsidized food grains could disrupt market dynamics, impacting the agricultural sector and distorting prices.
- Dependency and Sustainability Issues: The perpetuation of free food grains may create dependency among beneficiaries, reducing the drive for self-sufficiency and alternative livelihood efforts.
- Competitive Populism and Policy Consistency: The extension may lead to competitive populist measures among political parties, potentially driving unsustainable policies and straining public finances.
- The PMGKAY extension offers relief and boosts the rural economy but poses fiscal, market, dependency, and political challenges. India must pursue a balanced approach with targeted subsidies, economic empowerment, and a gradual transition for sustainable and inclusive food security policies.
Genetically Modified Insects
- India’s bioeconomy currently contributes 2.6% to the country’s GDP. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) published the ‘Bioeconomy Report 2022,’ outlining a vision to increase this contribution to approximately 5% by 2030, which translates to a substantial growth of $220 billion in the span of eight years. Achieving this ambitious goal will necessitate significant investments and robust policy support.
- Funding for biotechnology in India has remained stagnant, with only a slight increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current allocation is a meagre 0.0001% of India’s GDP, which is insufficient for the sector’s growth and development.
- The lack of adequate funding not only hampers the growth of the bioeconomy but also affects pandemic preparedness efforts, where the DBT plays a crucial role. Attracting private funding is also essential for biotechnology research and development.
Uncertainty in Genetically Engineered Insects Guidelines:
Uncertainty of Purpose:
- The ‘Guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects’ released by DBT provide procedural roadmaps for creating GE insects but lack clarity on their intended purposes in India.
- While the guidelines highlight potential applications in areas like vector management, crop pest control, human health improvement, and environmental conservation, they do not explicitly state how GE insects can contribute to the broader bioeconomy.
Uncertainty for Researchers:
- The guidelines are applicable only to research and not for confined trials or deployment, making it challenging for researchers to determine the economic viability of their work.
- Deployment of GE insects would require approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), but there is no clarity on the criteria for such approval.
Uncertainty of Ambit:
- The guidelines offer standard operating procedures for GE mosquitoes, crop pests, and beneficial insects but do not clearly define what qualifies as ‘beneficial.’
- The lack of clarity regarding which insect modifications are considered beneficial hinders funders and scientists from investing in this research.
- The guidelines also fail to adequately address the potential misuse of genetic engineering for malicious purposes.
- The current guidelines for genetically engineered insects do not align with India’s aspirations for its bioeconomy. Ambiguities in the guidelines regarding the purpose, scope, and criteria for approval hinder research and investment in this field, making it imperative for the government to provide clearer policy direction to realise its bioeconomy goals.
Ethics in the Realm of Online Gaming
- The recent suspension of a Police Sub-Inspector (PSI) in Pune, Maharashtra, has shed light on the complex ethical considerations surrounding online gaming and the responsibilities of a law enforcement officer. This incident has sparked a debate on whether an officer’s engagement in online gaming during personal time raises ethical concerns.
Arguments In Favor of Officer’s Involvement in Online Gaming:
- Personal Freedom and Individual Rights: The officer, like any other citizen, has the right to participate in legal recreational activities during their personal time. Engaging in online gaming, using personal funds, is part of their discretionary spending and financial autonomy.
- Adherence to Legal Norms: If the online gaming activity is legally permissible and the officer complies with the law, their engagement falls within the framework of legal norms and should be respected as an aspect of individual autonomy.
- Mitigation of Stress: Online gaming, like any leisure activity, can serve as a stress-relieving tool, offering a mental escape and relaxation from the pressures of the job.
Violation of Organizational Standards:
- Breach of Code of Conduct: Engaging in online gaming without permission from the unit commander violates the established code of conduct within the Maharashtra State Police, indicating a disregard for institutional regulations.
- Conflict with Professional Norms: Ethically, the officer’s participation in online gaming during duty hours conflicts with the expected professionalism and ethical standards required within law enforcement.
Negative Public Image and Trust Implications:
- Public Perception and Trust Erosion: Media interviews discussing personal gaming victories while in uniform undermine public confidence in the officer’s professional integrity and the broader image of law enforcement, potentially eroding trust in the police force.
- Impact on Organizational Credibility: Ethically, such conduct damages the credibility and reputation of the entire police force, as the officer’s actions reflect on the institution, affecting its overall image and public trust.
- Role as a Public Figure: Ethically, as a law enforcement official, the officer is a public figure and is expected to serve as a role model, setting an example of ethical behavior and responsible conduct.
Broader Ethical Issues Revolving Around Online Gaming:
- Addiction and Mental Health: Concerns arise from the addictive nature of certain online gaming activities, potentially leading to compulsive behavior, neglect of responsibilities, and adverse effects on mental health.
- Financial Risk and Vulnerability: Individuals, particularly vulnerable demographics, might face financial risks, leading to debt or economic hardship due to excessive spending on gaming, raising ethical questions about responsible consumer engagement and corporate duty of care.
- Exploitation of Vulnerable Users: Ethical concerns emerge about the potential exploitation of susceptible users who may be lured into spending beyond their means, highlighting the need for protective measures and corporate social responsibility.
- Regulatory Ambiguity and Legal Definitions: The distinction between skill-based gaming and gambling lacks clear definitions, leading to regulatory ambiguity, ethical debates, and varied interpretations about the nature of these gaming activities.
- Corporate Responsibility and User Well-being: Gaming companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their platforms do not exploit users or foster addictive behaviors, prioritizing user well-being over profit motives.
- Impact on Social Norms: Ethical dilemmas arise regarding the normalization of excessive gaming behavior in society, potentially altering social norms and behaviors, particularly among younger demographics.
- Professional Code of Conduct: Law enforcement agencies should define permissible off-duty actions and professionalism standards.
- Ethical Training: Provide education to officers about how off-duty actions affect their image and public trust.
- Stress Management: Offer stress relief programs to help officers cope with job demands.
- Online Gaming Regulations: Clearly differentiate between skill-based gaming and gambling for uniform regulation.
- Corporate Responsibility: Prioritize user well-being over profits and prevent the exploitation of vulnerable users.
- Public Awareness: Raise awareness about gaming risks, especially addiction and financial vulnerability, to influence social norms and behaviors.
- In conclusion, addressing online gaming ethics requires a comprehensive approach involving standards, regulation, corporate ethics, and public awareness.
Facts for prelims:
Reservation in Education
- The Bihar Cabinet has approved a proposal to increase reservations in the State for SC, ST, OBC, and EBC to 65%, from the current 50% quota, surpassing the ceiling established by the Supreme Court.
- Reservation in India is an affirmative action system that grants specific groups preferential treatment in education, employment, and other domains.
- 1882: The concept of caste-based reservation was initially suggested by William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule in 1882.
- 1992: Judgment in the Indra Sawhney Case: Reservation should not exceed 50 percent. Reservation in promotions is not permissible.
- 2006: Judgment in the Nagaraj Case: The Supreme Court ruled that the state is not obligated to provide reservations in promotions to SCs/STs.
- 2018: Jarnail Singh vs. Lachhmi Narain Gupta: The Supreme Court ruled that reservation in promotions does not necessitate the state to collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of SCs and STs.
- Constitutional provisions: Article 15(4) & 16(4), 77th CAA, 1995 – Article 16(4A), 85th CAA, 2001 – Article 16(4A), 81st CAA, 2000 – Article 16(4B), Article 243D & 243T, Article 330, 332, Article 335.
The Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness Program (LLLAP)
- The Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness Program (LLLAP) has achieved significant outreach, reaching more than 600,000 individuals through 14 implementing agencies under the Designing Innovative Solutions for Holistic Access to Justice (DISHA) scheme, according to recent data.
- LLLAP is an initiative launched by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, with the primary objective of enhancing legal literacy and awareness among the general population.
- The program is designed to educate people about their legal rights, responsibilities, and entitlements, as well as to make them aware of the various legal mechanisms available for seeking redressal of grievances.
- The DISHA scheme, which spans a five-year period from 2021 to 2026, is introduced to advance the cause of improving access to justice. It focuses on designing and consolidating a range of initiatives to provide citizen-centric delivery of legal services.
Under the DISHA umbrella, several programs are being implemented at a national level, including:
- Tele-Law – Reaching the Unreached: This initiative aims to make legal services more accessible to underserved and remote areas by leveraging technology and enabling individuals to access legal advice and assistance through telecommunication channels.
- Nyaya Bandhu (Pro Bono Legal Services): Nyaya Bandhu focuses on providing free legal services to those who cannot afford legal representation. Legal professionals and volunteers offer their expertise to assist individuals in need.
- Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness Programme: LLLAP, as previously mentioned, works toward increasing legal awareness and literacy among the public, empowering them with knowledge about their legal rights and available remedies.
- The implementation of these programs aligns with the overarching goal of ensuring that legal services are more widely accessible and citizen-oriented, promoting justice and legal awareness throughout India.