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Insights Daily Current Events, 05 February 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 05 February 2015

Quotas do not hurt efficiency, says study

An independent study conducted on the impact of reservations in public sector jobs on productivity and efficiency has shown that the affirmative action did not reduce productivity in any sector but raised it in some areas.

  • The study measured the impact of reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) on productivity and efficiency in the Indian Railways between 1980 and 2002.
  • The Indian Railways being the world’s largest employer where affirmative action applies employs between 1.3 and 1.4 million people.

Important findings:

  • The study has found no negative impact on productivity and efficiency in any area, and some positive effects in some areas of work. Researchers note that positive effects are seen because Individuals from marginalised groups may be especially highly motivated to perform well when they attain decision-making and managerial positions, because of the fact that they have reached these positions in the face of claims that they are not sufficiently capable, and they may consequently have a strong desire to prove their detractors wrong.

There is 15 per cent reservation for the SCs and 7.5 per cent reservation for the STs at all levels, with additional reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Affirmative action/reservation in India:

INDIA’S experiment with affirmative action is the world’s oldest. It is an elaborate quota system for public jobs, places in publicly funded colleges—like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT)—and in most elected assemblies. These are filled by members of designated, disadvantaged groups.

  • The primary objective of the Indian reservation system is to increase the opportunities for enhanced social and educational status of the underprivileged communities and thus uplift their lifestyle to have their place in the mainstream of Indian society.
  • The two main intended beneficiaries are the people belonging to Scheduled castes and Schedules tribes.
  • Indian constitution itself enshrined this idea as a means to help both “scheduled” groups. Originally, the constitution noted that the policy would exist for a decade to see what progress would be made, but without spelling out how to measure it. The provision has been renewed without fuss every decade since.
  • By the late 1980s, after a commission of inquiry, backward non-scheduled Hindu castes, known collectively as the OBCs, some 27% of the population, also got quotas. The Creamy layer concept was introduced by the Sattanathan Commission in 1971, which directed that the “creamy layer” should be excluded from the reservations (quotas) of civil posts and services granted to the OBCs.
  • The Supreme Court in U.P Power Corporation Ltd. v. Rajesh Kumar case has held that the state must demonstrate backwardness, inadequacy of representation and maintenance of efficiency before providing reservation in promotions. Earlier, in 1992 it had termed such move as unconstitutional.

What the constitution says?

  • Article 16(4) of the constitution makes a special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • Article 46 of the Constitution states that “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
  • The 81st amendment was made to the Constitution that inserted clause (4B) in Article 16 to permit the government to treat the backlog of reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group.

There is also a bill pending bill which proposes to amend the Constitution to reserve 33 per cent of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women. Reservation is already given under 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment act.

The reservation system has received a mixed response from Indians since its inception. Although the intention for reservation is good, necessary and correct, improper implementation has made the people forget the real intention behind it. It is also being misused. The system which was brought in to end an unfair practice is itself becoming part of the problem rather than a solution.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.


Finance panel report not unanimous

With the finance commission member submitting a dissent note, it is now evident that the report of the 14th finance commission is not unanimous. The commission was headed by Y.V. Reddy.

  • The report was submitted in December 2014. No decision has been announced yet by the government on the report.
  • The commission has recommended a 42 per cent share of Central tax revenues for States for the period from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2020. The dissent note has recommended that the States share could be 38 per cent.
  • The recommendations of the previous panels were only for statutory transfers, but the present commission’s recommendation of 42 per cent is for total transfers of funds from the Centre to the States under all heads. Besides statutory transfers, it includes non-Plan funds and Plan allocations that the erstwhile Planning Commission made.

Previous experience:

The Third Finance Commission too had a dissent note, and the then Union government accepted it, rejecting one of the recommendations of the panel.

Finance Commission:

  • It is a constitutional body constituted under article 280 of the Indian Constitution by the President of India after every five years.
  • It is a quasi-judicial body consisting of a Chairman and four members appointed by the President and hold office during his pleasure.
  • It was formed to define the financial relations between the Centre and states.
  • They submit their recommendations to the president which are advisory in nature.

Functions of the Finance Commission:

  • Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between Centre and the States, to be divided as per their respective contributions to the taxes.
  • Determine factors governing Grants-in Aid to the states and the magnitude of the same.
  • To make recommendations to president as to take the measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the panchayats and municipalities in the state on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the state.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB,


Beneficial algal species discovered

Two new bloom-forming algal species were discovered recently off the west coast of India. These two species have excellent carbon capture properties — ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce global warming — and are also promising candidates for use as bio fuels.

The two species are:

  1. Ulva paschima Bast.
  2. Cladophora goensis Bast.

Some facts:

  • Both of the newly discovered species are endemic and bloom-forming.
  • As they are endemic, their cultivation is not going to cause any environmental harm. i.e., they are not bio invasive species.
  • Bloom forming indicates spontaneous growth. There is no need for fertilizers/pesticides or any expensive cultivation systems such as photobioreactors for their cultivation.
  • These can grow sporadically at shorelines and can sequester CO2.

These newly discovered algae have profound sequence differences from previously discovered algae.

Sources: The Hindu.


Cancer cases may rise sharply: WHO

A WHO report released recently shows that the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by about 70 per cent globally over the next two decades.
There were 14 million new cases.

Details of the report: the report says that

  • Over eight million people died of cancer in 2012, with 60 per cent of these deaths reported in Africa, Asia and Central and South America.
  • Cancer was among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally in 2012. According to the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, the estimated mortality every year is five lakh in the country.
  • Around one-third of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol use. Tobacco use is the most important risk factor, causing around 20 per cent of the global cancer deaths and around 70 per cent of global lung cancer deaths.
  • It said more than 30 per cent of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, which include tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diet, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from the household use of solid fuels.

Owing to the increasing cancer cases and the burden they put on the health budget, the Ministry of Health in India has rolled out cancer screening programmes.

Sources: The Hindu.


Indian firms need to do more to avoid climate change risks

According to a new report by CDP, an international NGO formerly called Carbon Disclosure Project lack of preparation leaves supply chains in Brazil, China, India and the U.S. more vulnerable to climate change risks than those in Europe and Japan.

What the report says?

The Report notes that:

  • Suppliers in India and Canada are not doing enough to manage climate change risks. Indian companies, in particular, demonstrate a low propensity to reporting on emissions.
    Despite the existence of dedicated ministerial departments for energy efficiency and renewable energy, a lack of policy direction is partly to blame.
  • Chinese and Indian suppliers deliver the greatest financial returns on investment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate the strongest appetite for collaboration across the value chain.
  • Where there is regulatory certainty around measurement and reporting, such as in Japan or France, high percentages of suppliers also disclose, even when they are not explicitly captured by regulation. Where the signals from government are weak or non-existent, such as in Brazil, China, India and the U.S., reporting levels are disappointing.
  • The percentage of suppliers implementing emission reduction initiatives has fallen.
  • There has been an encouraging increase in the number of suppliers making investments in low-carbon energy — up to 29 per cent of respondents who implemented emission reduction initiatives from 26 per cent last year.
  • While suppliers in France, the U.K., Spain and Germany are identified as the most sustainable and they have taken extensive measures despite comparatively low levels of exposure to climate risk, suppliers in China, Italy and the U.S. are found to be vulnerable.

Sources: The Hindu.