Current Affair – May 6, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Maratha quota law unconstitutional: SC

A fivejudge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court  unanimously declared a Maharashtra law, which provides reservation benefits to the Maratha com­munity taking the quota li­mit in the State in excess of 50%, unconstitutional.

Judgement

  • There was no “exceptional circum­stances” or “extraordinary situation” in Maharashtra, which required the State go­vernment to break the 50% ceiling limit to bestow quota benefits on the Maratha community.
  • The Marathas are in mainstream of the national life. It is not even disputed that Marathas are a politically dominant caste,”
  • It struck down the findings of Jus­tice M.G. Gaikwad Commis­sion, which led to the enact­ment of  Maratha quota law and set aside the Bom­bay High Court judgment which validated the Maha­rashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018.
  • A separate re­servation Maratha community violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (due process of law).

Indira Sawhney

  • It declined to revisit 1992 Indra Sawhney judg­ment.
  • The judgment of Indra Sawhney has stood the test of time. The ceiling of 50% with the ‘extraordinary circum­stances’ exception, is the just balance — what is termed as the ‘Goldilocks so­lution’ — i.e. the solution containing the right balance that allows the State sufficient latitude to ensure mea­ningful affirmative action to those who deserve it and at the same time ensures that the essential content of equality,”

Past judgments on a ceiling for quotas

M.R. Balaji vs State of Mysore (1962):

  • The special provision for backward classes, should not normally exceed 50%.
  • The order earmarking 68% of seats in engineering, medical and other technical courses was a “fraud” on the Constitution. However, it added that it would not attempt to lay down in an inflexible manner what the proper percentage of reservation should be.
  • The presumption behind the 50% rule was that equality of opportunity was the norm, and any special provision for socially and educationally backward classes or reservation for backward classes in public employment was an exception.

Kerala vs. N.M. Thomas (1975)

  • It disagreed with the proposition made in Balaji judgement.
  • It said the special measures in favour of backward classes in Articles 15 and 16 were not exceptions to the rule. On the contrary, these were an emphatic way of ensuring equality of opportunity.
  • The 50% norm in Balaji was only a rule of caution and does not exhaust all categories.

Indra Sawhney (1992)

  • Even though most judges agreed that reservation was not an exception to the equality norm, the court ultimately laid down the 50% limit.
  • It cited Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s opinion in the Constituent Assembly that reservation should be “confined to a to a minority of seats” and  fixed the maximum permissible quota at 50%.
  • It said that the strict rule could be relaxed in extraordinary situations given the country’s great diversity.
Source: The Hindu

Comprehen­sive targeted policy res­ponse by RBI

  • RBI has announced mea­sures to protect small and medium businesses and indi­vidual borrowers from the adverse impact of second wave of CO­ VID­19.
  • Measures are also aimed at alle­viating any financing con­straints for healthcare infrastructure and services, as well as small borrowers who may be facing distress due to a sudden spike in health expenditure.

Measures taken by RBI

Healthcare:

  • A Term Liquidity Facility of ₹50,000 crore with tenor of up to 3 years, at the re­po rate, to ease access to credit for providers of emer­gency health services.
  • Under the scheme, banks will provide fresh lending support to a wide range of entities, including vaccine manufacturers, importers/ suppliers of vaccines and priority medical devices, hospitals/dispensaries, pathology labs, manufactur­ers and suppliers of oxygen and ventilators, and logis­tics firms.
  • These loans will continue to be classified un­der priority sector till repay­ment or maturity, whichev­er is earlier

Individual and MSME

  • Resolu­tion Framework 2.0 for COVID related stressed as­ sets of individuals, small bu­sinesses and MSMEs. 
  • These categories of borrowers whose aggregate exposure of up to ₹25 crore, who had not availed restructuring under any of the earlier restructuring fra­meworks (including under last year’s resolution frame­ work), and whose loans were classified as ‘standard’ as on March 31, 2021, were eligible for restructuring.
  • Individual borrowers and small busi­nesses who availed restructuring under Resolution Framework 1.0, lenders have been permitted to use this window to modify such plans to the extent of in­creasing the period of mora­torium and/or extending the residual tenor up to a total of two years.
  • RBI decided to conduct special 3 year long­term repo operations of ₹10,000 crore at the repo rate for Small Fi­nance Banks. The SFBs would be able to deploy these funds for fresh lending of up to ₹10 lakh per borrow­ er. This facility would be available till October 31,2021.
Source: The Hindu

Disinvestment of IDBI

  • Cabinet gave in-principal ap­proval for strategic disin­vestment along with transfer of management control in IDBI Bank. It is in line with the Budget announce­ment.

Share in IDBI

  • The central government and LIC together own more than 94% equity of IDBI Bank.
  • LIC is  currently the promoter of IDBI Bank with management control and has a 49.2% stake.

Decision on disinvestment

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the strategic sale of IDBI Bank.
  • The extent of respective shareholding to be divested shall be decided at the time of structuring of transaction in consultation with the RBI.
  • The Budget 2021-22 had announced the privatisation of public sector banks (PSBs) as part of a disinvest­ment drive to garner ₹1.75 lakh crore.
  • The Centre expects the strategic buyer will infuse funds and new technology for development of the bank’s business potential.
Source: The Hindu

State of Working India 2021: One Year of Co­vid­19

  • State of Working India 2021: One Year of Co­vid­19’, a report brought out annually by Azim Premji Un­iversity’s Centre for Sustain­ able Employment, Bengaluru, has been released.
  • This year’s report covers the period March 2020 to December 2020.
  • It dwells on the impact of one year of COVID­19 on employ­ment, incomes, inequality and poverty.

Report Findings

  1. The COVID­19 pandemic has substantially increased infor­mality in employment, lead­ ing to a decline in earnings for the majority of workers, and consequent increase in poverty in the country.
  2. Employment: 100 million jobs were lost nationwide during the April-­May 2020 lockdown. Though most of these workers had found em­ployment by June 2020, about 15 million remained out of work
  3. The fallback op­tion varied by caste and reli­gion. General category workers and Hindus were more likely to move into self­ employment while marginal­ised caste workers and Mus­lims moved into daily wage work.   Income: For an average household of four members, the monthly per capita income in Oct 2020 (₹4,979) was still below its level in Jan 2020 (₹5,989).
  4. Post lockdown, nearly half of sala­ried workers had moved into informal work, either as self­ employed (30%), casual wage (10%) or informal sala­ried (9%).
  5. Sectors: Education, health and professional services saw the highest exodus of workers into other sectors, with agriculture, construction and petty trade emerging as the top fallback options.
  6. Labour share in GDP: It fell by 5%, from 32.5% in the second quarter of 2019­-20 to 27% in se­cond quarter of 2020­21.
  7. Even though most workers were able to go back to work, they had to set­tle for lower earnings. The study has found a clear correlation between job losses and the COVID­19 case load.
  8. Inequality: While the poorest 20% of households lost their entire incomes in April­May 2020. The richer households suf­fered losses of less than a quarter of their pre­pandem­ic incomes
  9. Households coped with the loss of in­come by decreasing their food intake, selling assets and borrowing informally. Genderwise: Women and younger workers were more affected. During the lock­down and in the post ­lock­down months, 61% of work­ing men remained employed while 7% lost their job and did not return to work. But in the case of women, only 19% remained employed while 47% suffered a perma­nent job loss, “not returning to work even by the end of 2020”.
  10. Poverty: With 230 million falling below the national minimum wage threshold of ₹375 per day during the pandemic, poverty rate has increased by 15% in ru­ral and nearly 20% in urban areas,”.

The fallback op­tion varied by caste and reli­gion. General category workers and Hindus were more likely to move into self­ employment while marginal­ised caste workers and Mus­lims moved into daily wage work.

Recommendations: 

  • These findings are a se­rious cause for concern in the absence of an inclusive social welfare architecture.
  • Extending free ra­tions under the Public Distri­bution System till the end of 2021.
  • Expansion of MGNRE­GA entitlement to 150 days.
  • “Covid hardship allo­wance” for the 2.5 million Anganwadi and ASHA workers.

Households coped with the loss of in­come by decreasing their food intake, selling assets and borrowing informally.
Source: The Hindu

Rafale

The sixth batch of three Rafale fighee jets arrived in India. With this, the IAF has received 20 of the 36 jets contracted from France.

Features of Rafale jet

  • The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach.
  • Multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes.
  • Comparison with China’s J20
    • While China’s J20 Chengdu jets are called fifth generation combat jets, compared to 4.5 generation Rafale, the J20 have no actual combat experience.
    • Whereas the Rafale is combat proven, having been used by the French Air Force for its missions in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. It has also been used for missions in Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria.
    • Rafale can also carry more fuel and weapons than the J20.
      Each aircraft has 14 storage stations for weapons.
  • The jets come with one of the most advanced Meteor air-to-air missiles. The 190-kg missile has a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) of over 100 km, traveling at a top speed of Mach 4. The F16 jets, used by Pakistan, carry the AMRAAM missile, which has a BVR of 75 km. Rafale can also outperform F16 in dogfights.
  • The Rafale jets also come with SCALP, the air-to-ground cruise missile with a range over 300 km. It is a long-range deep strike missile.
  • The MICA air-to-air missile on Rafale is for both, close-quarter dogfights, and for BVR.
  • At the last-minute, India has also asked for HAMMER (Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range), which is an air-to-ground precision guided missile produced by French conglomerate Safran, and can be used against bunker-type hardened targets within the range of 70 km.

Comparison with China’s J20
·         While China’s J20 Chengdu jets are called fifth generation combat jets, compared to 4.5 generation Rafale, the J20 have no actual combat experience.
·         Whereas the Rafale is combat proven, having been used by the French Air Force for its missions in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. It has also been used for missions in Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria.
·         Rafale can also carry more fuel and weapons than the J20.

Basic Rafale Specifications:

  • Wing span: 10.90 m
  • Length: 15.30 m
  • Height: 5.30 m
  • Overall empty weight: 10 tonnes
  • External load: 9.5 tonnes
  • Max. take-off weight: 24.5 tonnes
  • Fuel (internal): 4.7 tonnes
  • Fuel (external): up to 6.7 tonnes
  • Ferry Range: 3,700 km
  • Top Speed: 1.8 Mach at high altitude
  • Landing ground run: 450 m (1,500 ft)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft
Source: The Hindu

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