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GS-1


Reimagining the OBC quota: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • The biggest challenge India faces is that the disadvantaged groups consist of a very large segment of Indian society, while public policies are highly limited in scope.

How is the Job to Claimants ratio?

  • The National Sample Survey (NSS) data from 2011-12 show that about 19% of the sample claims to be Dalit, 9% Adivasi, and 44% OBC.
  • Among the population aged 25-49, less than 7% have a college degree.
  • Less than 3% of the whole population is employed in government and public-sector jobs.

How accurate is the data from SECC?

  • The government must drastically increase availability of government jobs and college seats or it must reduce the size of the population eligible for these benefits.
  • Hence, the only viable option is to reduce the size of the eligible population, possibly along the lines of sub-categorization proposed by the government.
  • The media and claimants to the coveted OBC status such as Jats, Kapus and Patels are busy arguing over the merits of this proposal and no attention is paid to the practical challenges facing sub-categorization

How credible is the data?

  • The Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) when releasing poverty and deprivation data from the SECC in 2015 found that about 4.6 million distinct caste names were returned
  • For nearly 80 million individuals, caste data were believed to be erroneous.
  • As a way of appeasing the OBC lobby, it was decided that the BPL census would incorporate caste information.
  • Losing this opportunity would leave us hanging for another 10 years without good data for undertaking sub-categorization of OBC quota or evaluating claims to OBC status by groups like Jats and Patels.

What can be done to eliminate caste based segregation?      

  • A broader issue, however, focusses on whether we want to radically rethink our approach to affirmative action
  • The present policies focus on preferential admission to colleges and coveted institutions like IITs and IIMs
  • The India Human Development Survey of 2011-12 found that among families where no adult has completed more than Class X, 59% children from the forward castes was able to read a simple paragraph while the proportion is only 48% for OBCs, 41% for Dalits and 35% for Adivasis.
  • Improving quality of education for all, including those from marginalized groups, must be a first step in addressing caste-based inequalities.
  • It would make even less sense if his children are also able to obtain preferential treatment using the same caste certificate.
  • The use of the OBC quota must be limited to once in a person’s lifetime, allowing for a churn in the population benefitting from reservations.

Linking the Aadhaar card

  • Linking the Aadhaar card to use of benefits makes it possible that individuals use their caste certificates only once, spreading the benefits of reservations over a wider population.
  • The present move by the government to rethink OBC quota creates a wedge that could potentially be used to ensure that we have better data on caste-based disadvantages for future discourse.
  • Increased attempts at linking benefits to Aadhaar allow us with an option to ensure that reservation benefits are not captured by a few.

GS-2


Rohingya have terror links: Centre: (The Hindu)

Context

The current crisis of the Rohingya refugees is getting aggravated day by day and India as a country which has always maintained a humanitarian stand has not taken any positive stand on this issue, till now.

Why is the Government refraining from lending a helping hand?

  • The Centre told the Supreme Court that the Rohingya were a serious threat to national security with links to terror outfits, such as the Islamic State, and those in Pakistan and other countries.
  • The government said that any indulgence shown by the highest court would encourage the influx of illegal migrants into our country and thereby deprive the citizens of India of their fundamental and basic human rights

What has been Supreme Court’s take on this?

The court has said that it would see the legal position, whether Indian judiciary has any jurisdiction and if yes, then what kind of jurisdiction it is.  

Gauging the status quo: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Brief Overview of the article

The article majorly talks about two issues.

1)      BRICS- recent summit, scope etc.

2)      Bilateral meetings between India and China, and India and Russia that took place on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.

3)      The road after Doklam.

BRICS

The Xiamen Declaration– significant exclusions, inconsequential inclusions.

  • Absence of any mention Belt and Road Initiative. China, either thinks that BRICS could make no material contribution to BRI, or it did not want to strike a discordant note with India.
  • The declaration is inconsequential as the global issues of relevance were absent.
  • There was no mention of the recent significant global events like North Korea’s nuclear provocations, US response, other significant events in Afghanistan, west Asia etc.
  • The reference to Pakistan based terrorist organization was a mere reiteration of text of the Heart of Asia 2016 declaration.

Limited scope of BRICS

  • It seems that China sees little use of BRICS to achieve its geo-political and geo-economic objectives.
  • BRICS has no relevance for China as far as issues like North Korea, South-China sea, freedom of navigation are concerned.
  • Brazil and South Africa are increasingly becoming peripheral to the aims and objectives of BRICS.
  • Russia is currently more preoccupied with establishing its supremacy in Eurasia.
  • However, the summit provided an opportunity for leaders to meet and conduct business; PM Modi called for coordinated action for creating a safer, healthier and equitable world.

Bilateral meetings

  • The emphasis during PM Modi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have been on the restoration of ties between the two countries to levels that existed in the past.
  • Discussions also centred on ways to boost bilateral trade and investment, especially in the oil and natural gas sectors.
  • The meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was significant as it came after the over two-month-long stand-off at the Doklam Plateau.
  • The convergence between the two countries on international terrorism at the BRICS Summit seems to have led to a thaw for the time being.
  • Assurances emanating from the meeting, and the adoption of a low-key approach, were aimed at enhancing mutual trust.
  • The intention seemed to be to establish ‘new ways’ to prevent future incidents such as Doklam, and concentrate on essentials needed to establish better relations.
  • However, relations between India and China are unlikely to show any marked improvement in the near, and perhaps even in the medium, term.
  • For the present, avoidance of a conflict will remain the principal objective on both sides, with China no doubt looking for an expansion of opportunities for trade.
  • The key watchwords would, hence, be peace and tranquillity.

The road after Doklam

  • It would take much longer for trust to return.
  • Trust between the two countries had begun to be affected as India moved closer to the U.S., strengthened its relations with countries like Japan and Vietnam and participated in multilateral defence exercises which appeared to have an anti-China slant.
  • China is likely to view India’s actions with even greater suspicion than hitherto.
  • Although, Mr. Xi observed that China and India are “each other’s opportunities and not threats”; India and China “need to show to the world that peaceful co-existence and win-win cooperation is the only right choice for the two countries”, India needs to be cautious.
  • For the moment, China is anxious to maintain peace on its border with India, as China has lately been sensing opposition to its policies from many other countries, apart from a host of problems in its neighbourhood.

From naysayer to leader: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

As US President Donald Trump appears before the United Nations General Assembly this week for the first time and outlines his controversial worldview, the Indian delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has an opportunity to build on the new pragmatism in Delhi’s multilateral diplomacy.

A change in foreign policy in recent times-A more proactive assertion

  • India’s foreign policy has been  based  more recently on a clear sense of its priorities, an integrated view of regions, and a more vigorous effort directed at confidently pursuing multiple relationships simultaneously and making a global impact.
  • Not alienating from the use of soft power, India under the Modi government has emphasized the use of soft power in Indian foreign policy, as evidenced by the International Day of Yoga and its links with the country’s culture and heritage.
  • Another “innovation” is related to the Indian diaspora. While their achievements have long been broadly appreciated, India under the Modi government has been more direct thus far in engaging with overseas Indians.
  • A ‘neighbourhood first’ policy- The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping – meant to advance motor vehicle movement, water power management, and inter-grid connectivity – and the common SAARC Satellite, which India has decided to proceed with despite Pakistan’s objections, are the two examples in this regard.
  • There has also been a more explicit link made between diplomacy and national development efforts, with India working hard to leverage its international relationships to bring resources, technology and best practices to further its own development such as through the Make in India initiative
  • India has tried to engineer stronger partnerships with Japan and Israel .
  • In last decades, head of the state never thought of visiting Canada, Australia and Islands of South Pacific. It was for the first time South Pacific gained prominence in India’s foreign policy calculations
  • India’s global outreach to clinch India the coveted membership of Missile Technology Control Regime(MTCR),NSG,etc shows India’s interest  in a more assertive role for itself that seeks to make it a leading power.
  • India’s firm stand at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the food-stockpiling issue, central to India’s food security, stood out. After vetoing the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement in Geneva, India made the U.S. climbdown on the food-stockpiling issue. Even the head of the U.N.’s International Fund for Agricultural Development backed the veto, saying the real choice for India in Geneva was between “feeding” its citizens and “creating jobs” for wealthy economies.
  • India’s policy on climate change under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From being the naysayer, India played a key role in generating consensus in the Paris talks on climate change at the end of 2015. When Trump turned the US policy on climate change upside down, Modi reaffirmed India’s support for the Paris accord and promised to work with other leading powers
  • Another huge success experienced this year was the sharp upsurge in ties with the U.S., elevating the strategic partnership to unprecedented levels.
  • India’s expanding relations with ASEAN and East Asia under Act East Policy are yielding rich dividends.
  • However, China continues to be a challenge that India will have to contend with in the coming years. China’s growing political, military and economic prowess make it increasingly assertive in areas where India’s interests are involved. Beijing’s support for Pakistan, notably with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that crosses territory claimed by India, the DOKLAM issue, the granting of stapled visas to people from Arunachal Pradesh,etc have led to a further straining of ties.

The need for a new pragmatism in multilateral diplomacy

The era of knee-jerk interventionism by the western countries such as US and allies that followed the end of Cold War may be winding down, thanks to the declining political support in the West for meddling in other people’s affairs.

Some instances at UN where India’s change in stance was evitable are as follows:

  • India, for the first time, abstained from voting on a resolution on Palestine adopted at the UN rights body that calls for accountability by parties involved in  conflict in Gaza.
  • Israel thanked India for not voting on an “anti-Israel bashing” UNHRC resolution, which sources said was a result of Tel Aviv’s sustained talks with the Indian leadership over the past year
  • The rise of India has encouraged the US and its European allies to put commercial and geopolitical imperatives above proclaimed concerns on human rights and non-proliferation.
  • India’s thinking on global issues has in recent years moved away from defensiveness to claims of leadership. Nothing illustrates this better than India’s policy on climate change under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From being the naysayer, India played a key role in generating consensus in the Paris talks on climate change at the end of 2015
  • The NDA government has also mobilised multilateral pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting cross-border terrorism but has run into resistance from China, Islamabad’s ally.
  • Finding common ground on specific issues with the US, China, Japan, Europe and Russia in smaller plurilateral fora has indeed become an important part of India’s multilateral diplomacy.
  • This was demonstrated by the trilateral engagement with the top diplomats of US and Japan on the one hand and the BRICS foreign ministers on the other by the Indian foreign minister on the sidelines of UN talks.

Conclusion

India has the opportunity to build on the new pragmatism in Delhi’s multilateral diplomacy. The NDA government has over the last three years begun to chip away at the ideological posturing that has long been the hallmark of India’s UN diplomacy. Advancing this transition to realpolitik at the UN should be Swaraj’s main political objective in New York.


GS-3


Norms eased for fund raising by REITs, InvITs: (The Hindu)

Context:

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has relaxed the guidelines for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs)

What do REITs and InvITs do?

  • REITs allow investors to invest in real estate
  • InvITs allow one to invest in infrastructure projects.

Which guidelines have been relaxed by SEBI?

  • SEBI has decided to allow REITs and InvITs to raise capital by issuing debt securities
  • It has also given approval to the REITs to lend to an underlying holding company or a special purpose vehicle (SPV).
  • SEBI has also allowed single-asset REITs on similar lines as InvITs
  • The regulator has amended the definition of ‘valuer’ for both REITs and InvITs.
  • This step is expected to broaden the scope of fundraising by REITs and InvITs

How Tez works: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • Google’s entry into India’s payment wallet app market

What is Google Tez?

  • Google Tez is a mobile wallet based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform built by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

How does it work?

  • It permits users to transfer money without the recipient’s bank account details.
  • The UPI ID of the recipient is used as a proxy for the account number and IFSC code, thereby simplifying the money transfer.

How is it different from digital wallets?

  • Tez does not require money to be stored in the app to make digital payments.
  • It works as an extension of one’s bank account; so, unused money remains in the bank, earning interest.
  • Each transaction is initiated by the sender entering his UPI pin with the additional security of existing phone locks.

How can you transfer money using Tez?

  • Can be used on an Android or an iOS device
  • Users have to sync their wallets with their Google account, and the mobile number linked to it.
  • Access to the wallet from the app drawer is protected by a Google PIN and by security settings on the device, such as passcodes, fingerprints and pattern locks.
  • Integration of one’s bank account with the wallet is done via SMS
  • Integration will not be completed if the phone number associated with the account does not match
  • Non-Resident Indian (NRI) account is not supported for this feature.
  • Users without a UPI id will have to create one and enter a secure UPI pin.

What are the other features included?

  • Users also have the option of making transfers to bank accounts by entering the account number of the recipient and the related IFSC code.
  • Payments can be made by using the camera to scan a QR code, or entering the phone number of the recipient.
  • The app automatically identifies contacts who have successfully registered with the Tez database.
  • A fourth alternative is the ‘Cash Mode’ that allows quick transfers with nearby Tez users without sharing phone numbers.
  • Cash Mode can be used to pay as well as receive money from devices within its range.
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