GS (M) Paper-1: “Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.”
GS (M) Paper-1: “urbanization, their problems and their remedies.”
GS (M) Paper-2: “Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections”
Dalit rekha — go thus far and no further
- The final judge of status in a village is the caste that one is born into.
- Caste is a social fact, near indisputable, that confers prestige on some and disgrace on others.
- It is a tight spot that is impossible to escape since everyone knows your place in the caste ladder.
How does caste operate against dalits?
- They are separated from those above their station by notions of purity and pollution.
- More than three-fourths of the villages that belong to higher castes, consider them as unclean and off bounds.
- Those above won’t accept food or water from them, won’t let them into their houses, and certainly not let them touch their cookware. Physical contact with them is an absolute no-no.
- When it comes to physical contact with Dalits, no one is willing to concede an inch.
How do middle castes improve their status?
- Wealth and power can help fight the disgrace of low birth.
- The middle castes have for long used money to buy respectability, typically by giving up lowly occupations, hiring Brahmin priests to officiate in rituals and imitating the customs and manners of those above.
- But for Dalits this strategy does not work so well.
- In many villages nowadays dalits do not live in some ramshackle slum.
- The roads are of concrete. Houses of brick and mortar are beginning to replace mud huts.
- Everyone has access to electricity and piped water.
- Girls are not put to work but sent to school.
- Some of the men are still in farm work, but the majority has moved on to urban occupations.
- When their economic status improves they try to replicate the middle castes to improve their social status.
- The Dalits who have traditionally worshipped their own deities not build temples to a sanskritic deity and even invite a Brahmin priest do the honours.
- Sadly, education and money can take them this far and no further e.g. The Brahmin priest who performs rituals for them will expect fruit, flowers and money from a dalit but will not accept a cup of tea.
- The middle castes would not even hesitate to hurl a caste slur at them.
- In theory, a dalit can file a police complaint under the law banning atrocities against Dalits. But in practice, he would rather ignore and walk away.
Can urbanization be the solution?
- The most that Dalits can gain in the village through education, money and the Brahmin priest is reluctant respectability.
- Social acceptance will remain elusive.
- It is the anonymity of the city that offers an escape from this predicament.
- They have to move away from agriculture, which is already happening, and physically relocate from the village to urban centres. That appears to be the only ray of hope.
GS (M) Paper-3: “Infrastructure: Energy”
OIL as a blessing
Key role of crude oil prices in the economy
- The reduction in the crude oil prices have many positive impacts for the economy as India is hugely dependent on the oil imports for its energy needs.
- Almost 80% of India’s total domestic consumption of crude oil and petroleum products is met through imports.
- And about a fifth of its total import bill last year was accounted for by crude oil and petroleum products.
Contrast of crude oil prices under present and previous government:
- The prices has been moving up and down from $110 in May 2014, $115 in Mid-June, $100 in Sept, and $50 by Jan 2015.
- Since then it had been in the range of $ 67 and $ 28.
- In sharp contrast, the crude oil price stayed consistently above $100 a barrel between January 2011 and May 2014 during the Manmohan govt
- Lower crude oil prices has a positive impact on government finances in two significant ways.
- One, the burden of petroleum subsidies as a share of total subsidies comes down as it did to around 11 to 12% in the last couple of years, compared to over 30% when crude oil prices were riding high during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh government.
- Two, the government can raise duties on petroleum products even as crude oil prices decline, without any impact on retail prices or inflation.
- The Modi government utilised the opportunity and went beyond merely using the low crude oil prices for improving its finances but also took few baby steps to bring about the much-needed reforms in retail prices of petroleum products.
- Diesel prices were raised in small doses to remove the subsidy and are now linked to the market.
- Prices of kerosene and cooking gas too are being raised periodically so that they don’t need subsidies.
- All these moves have helped the economy and the government’s finances.
Two new initiatives:
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – aimed at providing subsidised cooking gas connections t0 50 million households below the poverty line over the next three years.
- A sum of Rs. 2,000 crore is allocated to start the scheme in the 2016 Budget.
- Benefits for various states- Uttar Pradesh has got 3.4 million gas connections, followed by 1.02 million in Bihar, 1.3 million in Madhya Pradesh and 1.2 million in Rajasthan.
- The scheme’s electoral dividends would be huge if it can be successfully implemented by the end of March 2019.
- Urja Ganga Project– aims to lay a 2539 km long pipeline across states of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha to connect & towns in these states with the National Gas Grid.
- The estimated cost for laying the pipeline is Rs 12,940 crore.
- Other benefits of the project will be creation of infrastructure in relatively backward regions, paving the way for supply of gas to at least three fertiliser plants in eastern India and a large number of small and medium enterprises.
Thrust behind these initiatives:
- Both the projects have been facilitated by the fact that prices of oil and gas have remained relatively low.
- If the prices had remained high as two years ago, the viability of these projects and their burden on government finances would have been more making the projects an unbearable financial burden and even unviable.
- It is largely due to the benign price regime, the government is able to go forward with such projects as these.
- Using low oil prices to launch projects which yields political dividends is a politically pragmatic move.
- Inevitably, this has helped the govt in showing higher macroeconomic numbers and a better show of managing the public finances.