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Daily Current Affairs 29.4.2022(Russian roulette with gas supplies, Meritorious candidates can get general seats: SC, Centre’s employment survey finds addition of four lakh jobs)

Daily Current Affairs 29.4.2022(Russian roulette with gas supplies, Meritorious candidates can get general seats: SC, Centre’s employment survey finds addition of four lakh jobs)

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1. Russian roulette with gas supplies

Why is Gazprom cutting off its supplies to the two NATO countries? How has the EU responded?

Russian energy company Gazprom has announced that it has “completely suspended gas supplies” to Poland’s PGNiG and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz citing their failure to pay in roubles.

Poland, which gets 40% of its natural gas from Russia, has been working on alternatives for many years. However, Bulgaria which is heavily dependent on Russia for gas needs to urgently look for alternatives.

These disruption in supplies would fuel inflation and damage economic activity, with strong possibilities of energy rationing and even a major recession in the continent’s industrial powerhouse, Germany.

The story so far: Russian energy company Gazprom has stopped gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland citing their failure to pay in roubles. In a statement on April 27, it announced that it has “completely suspended gas supplies” to Poland’s PGNiG and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz. Poland and Bulgaria have accused Russia of breach of contract, according to which payments were to be made in euros and dollars only. Towards the end of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree that from April 1, “unfriendly foreign buyers” would have to pay for gas supplies in roubles. He had also added that defaults would result in suspension of contracts.

How will the stoppage of gas supplies affect Poland and Bulgaria?

The gas cuts do not immediately put the two countries in any dire trouble. Russian gas deliveries to both Poland and Bulgaria were anyway expected to end later this year. Poland, which gets 40% of its natural gas from Russia, has been working on alternatives for many years. In the immediate scenario, however, it will lose out on the five billion cubic metres of gas it was set to get from Gazprom. It will likely make up for it with supplies from Germany. Bulgaria, which gets 77% of its natural gas from Russia, has a bigger problem. While its energy minister has said that the country has enough reserves for another month, it needs to urgently look for alternatives, with additional supplies via pipelines from Greece being a distinct possibility.

Why has Russia targeted Poland and Bulgaria with this move?

Poland has been a major gateway for supply of military hardware to Ukraine. It also confirmed earlier this week that it will be sending tanks to Ukraine. Just hours before Gazprom’s action, it had announced a fresh set of sanctions against the company and other Russian businesses and oligarchs. As for Bulgaria, after a new liberal government took office last fall, it has cut many of its old ties to Moscow. Not only has it supported the West’s sanctions against Russia, it has also hosted Western fighter jets at a new NATO outpost on its Black Sea coast. It is also a major producer of non-NATO weapons that it’s considering sending to Kyiv.

Will other countries be hit with similar stoppages?

Russia supplies gas via pipelines to 23 countries in Europe. Among EU members, so far, only Hungary has officially agreed to make rouble payments, with the rest rejecting the demand. However, even if no other country agrees to Russia’s rouble payment mechanism, there won’t be any further cuts in supplies at least until the second half of May, which is when the next tranche of payments are due. Meanwhile, according to reports, four European buyers have already started making gas payments in roubles, while 10 European companies have opened accounts with Gazprombank to make rouble payments.

How have the EU, Poland, and Bulgaria reacted to the gas supply suspension?

The 27-member European Union has described Russia’s decision as “blackmail” and accused Moscow of trying to divide the West over its support for Ukraine. “It comes as no surprise that the Kremlin uses fossil fuels to try to blackmail us,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, adding, “Today, the Kremlin failed once again in his attempt to sow division amongst member states. The era of Russian fossil fuel in Europe is coming to an end.”

Describing Russia’s move as blackmail, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said, “We will not succumb to such a racket.” The Polish Prime Minister has informed his country’s Parliament that he believes Poland’s support for Ukraine — and the new sanctions imposed by Warsaw on Tuesday — were the real reasons behind the gas cutoff.

What could happen if Russia shuts gas supplies to more countries?

Europe’s natural gas comes from only three sources: Russia, Norway and Algeria. Until the Ukraine invasion, Russia accounted for almost 40% of Europe’s gas imports.

While the dependence on Russian gas varies from country to country — ranging from 94% for Finland to 11% for the Netherlands — there is little doubt that disruption in supplies would fuel inflation and damage economic activity, with strong possibilities of energy rationing and even a major recession in the continent’s industrial powerhouse, Germany.

What has been the EU’s strategy to reduce dependence on Russian gas?

Europe’s energy mix comprises of oil (43%), natural gas (24%), nuclear energy (14%), and hydroelectric (4%), with renewables such as wind and solar making up the rest. With climate change a major political issue in Europe, coal — of which there are abundant reserves on the continent — is off the table, and given public hostility to nuclear energy, EU is left with natural gas as the cleanest source of energy. So, for the short-term, the EU is preparing for the heating requirements of the coming winter by tanking up on its gas storage facilities at 80-90% capacity and substituting Russian supplies, as much as possible, with piped gas from Norway and North Africa. But these won’t be adequate to reduce Russian dependence to zero. So, the longer-term strategy is centred on importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. and the Middle East.

Will it be feasible for Europe to transition from Russian natural gas to LNG?

It will be tough challenge, primarily because it is easier and cheaper to transport natural gas via pipeline. LNG requires massive facilities and container ships that require huge capital investments. And yet, over the past decade, the EU has beefed up its LNG infrastructure, building several large terminals. Nonetheless, LNG transported from the U.S. by container ships would be much more expensive than Russian gas received via pipeline. Achieving strategic autonomy, as it were, by replacing Russian gas with American LNG would mean higher prices for the average European consumer, who is currently the primary beneficiary of cheap Russian gas that he uses for household heating purposes.

How will the gas suspension impact Russia?

Western analysts believe that Russia has taken a gamble by cutting off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. The Russian economy is heavily dependent on gas exports, deriving 40% of its revenue coming from it. If the move forces more EU countries to pay for gas in roubles, it will help shore up its currency and offer some relief for its sanction-hit economy. But at the same time, it could also backfire, if it ends up accelerating the decoupling of the energy ‘partnership’ between Europe and Russia. Since it is difficult to reroute piped natural gas to different markets, Russia, which doesn’t have elaborate storage infrastructure, may well find itself desperate for buyers as well as hard currency, let alone buyers ready to pay in roubles.

2. Meritorious candidates can get general seats: SC

‘They need not get OBC quota benefit’

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that Other Backward Class (OBC) candidates are required to be adjusted against the general category when they prove more meritorious than the last of the general category candidates appointed.

The court said that in such circumstances, the appointments of OBC candidates could not have been considered against the seats available in the reserved category.

The top court said that consequently, after considering their appointments in the general category, the seats meant for the reserved category were required to be filled in from and amongst the other remaining reserved category candidates on merit.

A Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna relied on various verdicts of the top court including Indra Sawhney vs Union of India of 1992, popularly called Mandal Commission verdict, while dealing with a case of two OBC category candidates for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. jobs.

Relying on the verdicts, the top court accepted the arguments of senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a quota candidate, that the reserved category candidates having obtained more marks than the last candidate in general category candidates will have to be adjusted against the general category quota and they were required to be considered in the general category pool, thereby the remaining candidates belonging to the reserved category were required to be appointed against the quota meant for reserved category.

The court said by insertion of two OBC candidates into the general category, two general category candidates already appointed shall have to be expelled and/or shall have to be removed, and it may unsettle the entire selection process.

Reservation System in India – Historical Background

Pre-Independence Period

  • In India, the reservation system dates back to the 2nd century B.C., when the higher class received additional benefits.
  • William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule came up with the idea of a caste-based reservation system in 1882.
  • British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald introduced the Communal Award in 1933, which prepared the ground for a reservation that exists today.
  • Separate electorates were established for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans, and Dalits.
  • Mahatma Gandhi was against the communal award, but B.R. Ambedkar was in favor of it.
  • The Poona Pact was signed to remedy the situation. The country would be divided into a single Hindu electorate, with seats reserved for Dalits.

Post-Independence Period

  • By virtue of constitutional provisions, reservations were first allowed only for SCs and STs after independence.
  • Later, the Parliament amended the Constitution which gave the government the authority to make particular arrangements for the social and economic advancement of the poor.

Reservation

  • Reservation is the process of assisting persons who have been subjected to historical injustice in areas such as education, scholarship, and employment.
  • It is a type of affirmative action based on quotas. Constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations control it.
  • In India, the reservation system encompasses a range of efforts such as reserving seats in legislatures, government posts, and enrolling in higher educational institutions.

Reason for Reservation

Reason for Reservation

  • Lack of Jobs and security and prestige in government employment.
  • In India, the educational system fails to adequately prepare graduates to engage in the economy. In addition, there is a scarcity of an entrepreneurial climate that favors employment creation rather than job hunting.
  • Reservations, according to the different communities, are a solution to their rural hardship, particularly the agricultural crises.
  • Many of the agitations are the result of a few people mobilising a large number of people for political gain.

Constitutional Provisions

Constitutional Provisions related to Reservation in India

  • The Preamble advocates for “social, economic, and political fairness.” The goal is to create a society that is free of discrimination. It entails giving priority to the weaker members of society.
  • Part XVI of the Constitution deals with the reservation of SC and ST in Central and State legislatures.
  • Articles 15(4) and 16(4) allowed state and central governments to set reservation seats in government services for members of the SC and ST communities.
  • Articles 330 and 332 provide for particular representation in the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies, respectively, by reserving seats for SCs and STs.
  • Every Panchayat is required by Article 243D to reserve seats for SCs and STs.
  • Every municipality is required by Article 233T to reserve seats for SCs and STs.
  • According to Article 335 of the constitution, the claims of STs and STs must be taken into account in conjunction with the administration’s efficacy.

Reservation in Promotion

Reservation in Promotion

  • Article 16 (4) confers the power on the state to provide reservation for the backward classes only at the entry-level i.e., at the time of recruitment into public employment and not subsequent to requirement.
  • The parliament enacted the 77th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1995 when the Supreme Court struck down the reservation in promotion. Parliament has introduced Article 16 (4A) that confers the power on the state to provide reservation in promotion in favor of SCs and STs communities in the opinion of the state these two communities are not adequately represented in public employment.
  • The 81st Amendment Act, 2000 included Article 16 (4B), which allows the state to replace unfilled SC/ST seats in the next year, effectively nullifying the 50% reservation ceiling on total vacancies for that year.

Reservation in Education

Reservation in Education

  • Article 15 (4) was introduced by the 1st Amendment Act, 1951. It confers the power on the state to make special provisions in favor of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.
  • This provision has a wider scope than the benefits that can be extended to the backward classes in the form of reservation of seats in higher education institutions, scholarship, hostel facilities, fee concession, etc.
  • Article 15 (5) was introduced by the 93rd Amendment Act, 2005. It confers the power on the state to provide by law reserving seats in favour of backward classes of citizens in educational institutions including private educational institutions whether aided or unaided by the state by excluding minority educational institutions.
  • This provision had been made use by central and state governments to extend reservation to backward classes including not more than 27% seat reserved in favour of OBC in educational institutions such as IIT, NIT, IIM but not in research oriented institution such as Indian Institute of Science, Bhabha Atomic Research Center etc.

Reservation for Economic Weaker Section

Reservation for Economic Weaker Section

  • Article 15 (4) and Article 16 (4) was introduced into the constitution by the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019.
  • It confers the power on the state to provide by law 10% reservation in jobs and admissions in education institutes in favour of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) to promote the welfare of the poor not covered by the 50% reservation policy for SCs, STs and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
  • Qualification Criteria:
  • Whose entire family’s annual income is less than Rs. 8 lakhs.
  • Don’t have more than 5 acres of farmland.
  • Do not own a residential apartment with a square footage of 1000 square feet or more.
  • Do not own a residential plot with a size of 100 yards or more in notified municipalities, or 200 yards or more in non-notified municipalities.

Commissions Related

Commissions Related to Reservation

Mandal Commission:

  • Aim: To determine the criteria for defining India’s “socially and educationally backward classes”.
  • According to the Mandal Commission, approximately 52% of India’s population is OBC, hence 27% of government positions should be designated for them.
  • 11 indicators of social, educational, and economic backwardness have been created by the panel.
  • The Commission has identified backward classes among non-Hindus.
  • It has developed a list of 3,743 other backward classes (OBC) castes across India, as well as a list of 2,108 “depressed backward classes” castes.

SR Sinho Commission:

  • Reservations in government positions and education should be granted to the poor in general, and a constitutional amendment is required to do so.
  • The panel found that non-income taxpayers in the general group were economically backward, comparable to OBCs.
  • Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) children should be entitled for subsidised health care and government housing assistance, as well as soft loans for higher education, scholarships, and coaching for central and state civil service tests.
  • The commission proposed the establishment of a National Commission to provide financial assistance to EBCs.

Reservation for Women

  • 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill introduced in the Parliament for the one-third of reservation of seats for women in Parliament and the State legislatures. It may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
  • Clause in the Bill: Reservation shall cease to exist after fifteen years from date of implementation.

Special Reservation Policy of Tamil Nadu Government

  • Tamil Nadu is the only state in India that provides for reservation of 69% of the seats in public employment and educational institutions being reserved in favour of backward classes of citizens.
  • It was declared unconstitutional and void by the Supreme as it violated the vertical reservation rule laid down by the Supreme Court.
  • In 1994, 69% reservation policy of the Tamil Nadu Government passed in the form of enactment by the state legislature was placed under the 11th schedule of the Constitution.
  • Article 31B states that any enactment that is placed under the 11th schedule of the constitution cannot be challenged before a court of law.

Reservation by Different Groups

Reservation by Different Groups

Maratha Community:

  • In November 2018, the Maratha community was given the reservation under the Maharashtra State Socially and Educationally Backward Act.
  • Reservation Increased: 12-13% (in education and jobs) to 64-65%.
  • Later it was declared unconstitutional.

Patels Community:

  • The Patels from Gujarat also demanded that the SC/ST quotas be abolished.
  • They have been protesting since 2015, seeking to be classed as OBC. The movement has occasionally devolved into violence, resulting in property destruction.
  • The Gujarat government attempted to attract them by allocating a 10% quota to the community. However, it was declared unconstitutional and void by the Gujarat High Court.

Jats Community:

  • Similarly, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has struck down the Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institutions) Bill. which was seeking for the reservation for Jats in Haryana.

Judicial Pronouncement

Judicial Pronouncement related to Reservation

  • Smt. Champakam Dorairajan v. State of Madras (1951) case: The court ruled in this instance that caste-based reservations are in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution (1). Article 15(1) prohibits the state from discriminating against citizens solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, or any combination of these factors.
  • As a result, the First Constitutional Amendment was enacted. Article 15 (4) was added by the Parliament and inserted reservation provisions.
  • Devadasan v Union of India case 1964 and M R Balaji v State of Mysore case 1963: The court ruled in several decisions that public administration efficiency is critical. The court also ordered the government to keep the reservation at 50%.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the 27% quota for backward classes in the Indra Sawhney case of 1992, but overturned a government notification reserving 10% of government positions for economically backward groups among the higher castes.
  • The Supreme Court also supported the concept that the total number of people eligible for reservations should not exceed 50% of India’s population.
  • The term “creamy layer” was coined as a result of this decision. According to the Court, the creamy layer of OBCs shall be eliminated from the list of reservation beneficiaries.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in P.A. Inamdar & Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra that the state cannot impose its reservation policy on minority and non-minority unaided private colleges, including professional colleges.
  • In I.R. Coelho vs State of Tamil Nadu, 2007 case Supreme court held that all those enactments that were placed under the 9th schedule before the emergence of the doctrine of basic structure on 24th April 1973 shall continue to enjoy immunity from judicial review.
  • But all those enactments which were placed under the 11th schedule on or after 24th April, 1973 are subjected to judicial review. Thus, the Tamil Nadu reservation policy has been challenged before the Supreme Court and court is yet to give his decision.
  • While upholding the constitutional legality of Article 16(4A), the Supreme Court declared in M. Nagaraj v. Union Of India (2006) that any such reservation scheme must meet the following three constitutional elements in order to be constitutionally valid:
  • Collect quantitative statistics about the class’s backwardness.
  • Demonstrate its lack of representation in government jobs.
  • Make no concessions in terms of administrative efficiency.

Arguments in favour

Arguments in favour of Reservation

  • In India, caste-based reservation is a requirement due to historical neglect and injustice to backward communities.
  • Reservation creates a level playing field.
  • Reservations have not harmed administration efficiency, but have improved quality, according to a study. The best example is Indian Railways, where the number of SC/ST staff is higher, and the results are better.
  • Recent studies on Panchayats have found that reserving seats for women has a good impact.
  • It has the potential to increase women’s political representation. It allows for the number of women in parliament to be flexible.
  • For EWS Category: According to the government, the modification was necessary to help EWS who are not protected under existing reservation programmes, which, according to statistics, make up a sizable portion of the country’s population.
  • It may progressively erase the stigma associated with reservation, because reservation has historically been linked to caste, and those who enter through the reservation are frequently looked down upon by the upper caste.

Arguments against

Arguments against the Reservation

  • India is a multi-caste civilization with several different castes. Expanding the reserve policy could be used as a political tool by political parties. A reservation is merely a temporary and limited remedy to issues of historical injustice.
  • Reservation affects the country’s economic growth rate by reducing the effectiveness of its labour force.
  • Reservation agitations, as they did at the Mandal Commission’s time, may provoke social upheaval.
  • The total efficiency of government positions and educational quality may be jeopardised if the reservation ceiling is raised above 50%. Furthermore, it has the potential to wreak havoc on these industries in the long run.

3. Centre’s employment survey finds addition of four lakh jobs

Union Labour Minister says ‘rising trend in employment in organised sector’

Over four lakh jobs were created in firms with 10 or more workers in nine selected sectors in October-December 2021, according to the Labour and Employment Ministry’s third Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) report released on Thursday.

The Ministry’s establishment-based survey, which covered 10,834 units in the third round, found employment had increased from 3.1 crore in July-September 2021 to 3.145 crore in the next quarter. The survey covered manufacturing, construction, trade, transport, education, health, accommodation and restaurants, IT/BPOs and financial services that accounted for 85% of the employment in units with 10 or more workers, the report said. The survey does not include units that were established after 2013-14.

The manufacturing sector accounted for 39% of the units, followed by education (22%). Overall 23.55% of the units provided on-the-job training to workers, while the number was higher for health sector units (34.87%). At the same time, the nine sectors reported 1.85 lakh vacancies, with 81,846 in manufacturing, 47,076 in health and 39,014 in education. The report stated that 86.5% of the vacancies were “in the process of being filled up”. About 4% of the vacancies remained due to “non-availability of requisite skilled workers”.

Releasing the findings, Labour and Employment Minister Bhupender Yadav said in a tweet that the the third round report of QES had shown “a rising trend in employment in organised sector”.

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