Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – October 6

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Q.1 Mention the steps undertaken by the government to improve accessibility of electricity and discuss its outcome. Examine the  major issues being faced for ensuring increased accessibility of electricity in India. GS 3

Steps undertaken by government to increase accessibility of electricity earlier and its outcome

  • Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana launched in 2015, and the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, both had aimed to provide free electricity connections to the poor.
  • The Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), introduced two years ago to restructure the debt of State distribution agencies, has failed to make enough of a difference to this state of affairs.
  • The outcome is not surprising, given that UDAY has failed to address the root problem of populism in the pricing of electricity.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the Saubhagya scheme aims to make electricity accessible to every household by the end of 2018. Under the scheme, expected to cost a little over Rs.16,000 crore, poor households that have no access to electricity will be provided electricity connections free of cost.

Major issues faced while ensuring increased accessibility of electricity

  • A free electricity connection can ease the financial burden on the poor to some degree, but it will not address the recurring burden of power bills.
  • The aim of improving affordability would require that supply be increased drastically to lower the price paid by retail consumers.
  • The power generation utilities remain vastly under-utilized.
  • The plant load factor (PLF) of coal and lignite-based plants, an indicator of capacity utilization of power generation units, has dropped consistently over the decade from 77% in 2009-10 to 60% in 2016-17. This is due to demand for electricity from State distribution companies dropping in tandem with their deteriorating financial status.
  • Problem of populism in the pricing of electricity is also there.

Q.2 What is the Saubhagya scheme all about? Discuss. How will the beneficiaries be identified? Is it a scheme that entails subsidy payout? GS 3

About Saubhagya scheme

  • Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya aims to provide electricity connections to over 40 million families in rural and urban areas.
  • The scheme funds the cost of last-mile connectivity to willing households to help achieve the goal of lighting every household by 31 December 2018.
  • The scheme will help India, the world’s third-largest energy consumer after the US and China, to help meet its global climate change commitments as electricity will substitute kerosene for lighting purposes.

How will the beneficiaries be identified?

The beneficiaries for free electricity connections will be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.

Is it a scheme that entails subsidy payout?

No, the scheme does not entail subsidy payout.

  • With no subsidy component for monthly electricity consumption, the Gram Panchayat and public institutions in the rural areas will be authorised to carry out billing and collection tasks which have been pain points for the discoms.
  • States have also been provided with an incentive of 50% of their loan being converted to grants, if the electrification targets are met by 31 December 2018.

Q.3 The Supreme Court of India dismissed the plea to end the practice of burning the effigy of Ravana, a demon king in the epic Ramayana, on eve of the Dussehra festival. Discuss India’s position on religion and its constitutional validity. Explain the pros and cons of Courts interfering in the matter of religion. (GS2)

Answer –

India’s position on Religion

  • India has no state religion,
  • State doesn’t discriminate between religions,
  • State cannot impose any tax to promote a religion or to maintain religious institution,
  • Religious instructions cannot be imparted in educational institution run by state funds and
  •  In educational institutions recognized by the state and receiving aid from the government, religious instructions cannot be compulsorily given to an unwilling students.

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution

  • Articles 25 to 28 states make India a secular state.
  • 42nd Amendment inserting the word “secular” make the assertion firmer.
  • The Article 25 states that every individual is “equally entitled to freedom of conscience” and has the right “to profess, practice and propagate religion” of one’s choice.
  • Practicing religion or the act of propagating it should not, however, affect the “public order, morality and health.”
  • The Article doesn’t put any restriction on the government when it comes to making any law to regulate “economic, financial, political or other secular” activities, which may be associated with religious practice.

Why should court interfere in religious matter?

  • The Indian society has cultivated different cultures from times immemorial and has been home to majority of the world religions.
  •  Though important, it is not an absolute right and is subject to various restrictions.
  •  The restrictions are- Public order, morality, health, social welfare, social reform, regulations of non-religious activity associated with religious practice.
  • Upholding secularism in the broader manner, religion in Indian Constitution is not defined by its integral parts.
  • Since Indian constitution does not define what can be termed as “integral parts of religion”, the matter ultimately comes to judiciary to interpret on a case-to-case basis.
  • The constitution itself mark the need to interfere with Article 25 (1) :Practicing religion or the act of propagating it should not, however, affect the “public order, morality and health.”
  • The constitution is above religion, and not vice-versa.

Why court shouldn’t interfere in religious matters?

  • The whole point is to give the freedom of practice one’s religion bar courts to interfere.
  •  It is unfortunate that the courts have become the peacemaker of what constitutes true religion.

Criticism on Court’s Interference

  • The judges have virtually assumed the theological authority to determine which tenets of faith are ‘essential’ to any faith”.
  • The Indian state have started acting like an agent for the reform and management of religions and its institutions.

What is the way out?

  • At this point, it’s difficult to stand by a decision that does judiciary has the right or proficiency to decide what is essentially religious.
  •  It has become the case of judicial overreach and thus to undermine the spirit of the religious freedom clauses written in the Constitution, and is by no means being violative of it.
  • The battle for gender justice, individual rights, animal rights and non-discrimination cannot be waged on haphazard orders and require much greater attention.
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