Re imagining the OBC quota
- Regardless of the political impulse that led the government to announce creation of a committee to look into sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC), it provides an opening to ensure social justice in an efficient manner.
- The biggest challenge India faces is that the groups perceived to be disadvantaged consist of a very large segment of Indian society, while public policies are highly limited in scope.
Some illustrative statistics are eye-opening:
- 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.
- While some of these claims may be aspirational rather than real, this totals a whopping 72%. Among the population aged 25-49, less than 7% have a college degree.
- By most estimates, less than 3% of the whole population is employed in government and public-sector jobs.A vast proportion of the population eligible for reservations must still compete for a tiny number of reserved and non-reserved category jobs.
- While the Supreme Court would not allow reservations to exceed 50%, frankly it does not matter.
- Whether available public sector jobs cover 1.5% of the population or 3%, these will only offer opportunities to a minuscule fraction of individuals in reserved categories.
- 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 encephalitis challenge
- It is a fact that U.P. has a problem: many of the children who died were being treated for acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), including Japanese encephalitis (JE).
- The BRD Medical College, with around 800 beds, provides tertiary health-care services to Gorakhpur and adjoining districts.
- It is the only tertiary hospital within a 300-km radius.
- On September 4, 2016, it was reported that 224 children had died of encephalitis in the hospital that year.
- This hardly made national news.
- The shocking fact is that if there was no alleged disruption of oxygen supply, the national media and policy experts would not be discussing Gorakhpur now.
India, Japan and U.S. present common front
- At a trilateral meeting in New York on Monday, Foreign Ministers of India, Japan and the U.S. endorsed one another’s position on key strategic issues in Asia.
- While India stood with the U.S. and Japan on the question of North Korea’s nuclear posture, it received support from the two on its position on the China-led One Belt, One Road project, a press release indicated.
- India’s Permanent Representative to the U.S. Syed Akbaruddin said climate change, terrorism, people-centric migration and peacekeeping will among the focus areas for India this year.
Gauging the status quo
- The recent BRICS Summit in Xiamen (China) suggests that BRICS may be going the way of quite a few other organisations.
- Little of consequence appears to have happened, or to have emerged, from the latest summit.
- Considering that this meeting was taking place in the shadow of significant global events, notably North Korea’s nuclear provocations and the U.S. response, other serious developments in Asia, including Afghanistan and West Asia, apart from issues of consequence elsewhere, the absence of any reference to these events in the Summit Declaration suggests that BRICS is clearly out of sync with current realities.
- Absence of any mention of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — even though Beijing sets such great store by it — is one.
Questions about the GST cess
- As part of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) reforms, a new levy called the GST Compensation Cess has been introduced to make good apprehended losses to States in the first five years of GST implementation.
- The Cess has been introduced through the GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017 and is levied on inter- and intra-State supply of notified goods such as aerated drinks, coal, tobacco, automobiles and the ambiguous category of ‘other supplies’.
- The proceeds of the cess will be distributed to loss-incurring States on the basis of a prescribed formula.
- The schedule to the Act mentions the maximum rates of the cess, which extend to 290%.
What is cess?
- A cess is a levy for a specific purpose.
- The quintessential feature of a cess is that it is levied for a ‘specific purpose’ and the proceeds are earmarked as such.
- Under Article 270 of the Constitution, a cess tax has special privilege as the proceeds can be retained exclusively by the Union and need not be shared with States.
- The object of granting this special status is to ensure expenditure for a specific purpose, as is evident from the Fourth Finance Commission Report.
How robots can save an ageing world
- Many doomsayers have argued that an ageing population poses a huge threat to economic growth.
- They believe that rich countries in the West are headed towards secular stagnation as the size of their young, working-age population shrinks rapidly due to low fertility rates.
- On the other hand, countries like China and India are predicted to enjoy much higher economic growth in the coming decades as more young people get added to their workforce due to favourable demographics.
Worries about ageing world:
The authors study data from 1990 to 2015 to gauge the impact of ageing on per capita gross domestic product. They find no evidence to confirm the commonly assumed negative relationship between an ageing population and per capita income.
- As a greater share of the population turns old and lives longer, fewer young people will be available to work and serve the needs of a larger population, which will depress per capita income.
- Economies with an ageing population actually witnessed an increase in per capita income.
- So, even when a country’s population ages and the size of its young, working population shrinks rapidly, it can compensate for the loss by adopting better technology.
- Technology improves productivity by allowing countries to do the same work using a smaller workforce, thus overcoming the effects of ageing.
The legal status of animals
- In 2015, a lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claimed that Naruto, an Indonesian crested black macaque, should be entitled to the rights of a self-portrait which the animal had accidentally clicked with the camera of David Slater, a nature photographer.
- In 2016, a federal court in San Francisco held that while protection under the law may be extended to animals, the same could not be said of copyright laws in which lie vested rights and ownership.
- PETA’s legal team said it would appeal the decision.
- On September 12, 2017, both the parties decided to settle the matter, with Mr. Slater agreeing to donate 25% of any future revenue from Naruto’s images to charities dedicated to the conservation of crested macaques in Indonesia.
- The federal court in the Naruto case has merely mirrored the premise that animals can only be objects or properties, but questions regarding the legal standing or legal personality of non-human persons remain unanswered.
- Ironically, the imperative of granting legal recognition through legal personality reveals both the obscurity and absurdity of extending identities to animals.
- Even if the courts were to accept limited person hood, we are still left with the reality that the process of recognition is confined to our communities and legal structures. The notion of autonomy and agency of animals will continue to fail.
- However, the case has pushed us to think over uncharted territories of human/non-human subjectivity in law.