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The Hindu Editorial

9-October-2023

1. A census for a new deal.

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

Context:

  • Caste and religion have been dominant factors in Indian politics for decades.
  • Bihar’s recent caste survey signifies a new political strategy within the existing paradigm.
  • Critics see it as a return to “Mandal versus Mandir” politics.

Importance of caste census:

  • To provide accurate and up-to-date data on the caste composition of the population.This data is essential for designing and implementing effective policies and programs to promote social justice and equity.
  • To identify and address the specific needs and challenges faced by different caste groups.For example, the census data can be used to identify caste groups that are lagging behind in terms of educational attainment, employment, and income.
  • To monitor the progress of social justice initiatives. The census data can be used to track changes in the socio-economic status of different caste groups over time, and to assess the effectiveness of government policies and programs.
  • To ensure fair and equitable representation in government and other institutions.The census data can be used to determine the appropriate representation of different caste groups in legislative bodies, government jobs, and educational institutions.

Issues raised:

  • The accuracy and reliability of the data.Some critics have questioned the accuracy of the census data, arguing that it may have been manipulated for political purposes.
  • The potential for social unrest. Some experts have warned that the caste census data could lead to social unrest, as different caste groups compete for resources and political power.
  • The impact on the Supreme Court’s 50% ceiling on reservations.The Supreme Court has set a 50% ceiling on reservations in government jobs and educational institutions. The caste census data could lead to demands for increasing reservations for OBCs and EBCs, which could challenge the Supreme Court’s ceiling.
  • The privacy concernsSome people have raised concerns about the privacy of the caste census data, arguing that it could be used to discriminate against certain caste groups.
  • Politicisation of data: Critics argue that caste census data can be used for political gains by the parties.

Conclusion: The issues raised by the caste census in Bihar are complex and multifaceted. It is important to have a thoughtful and informed discussion about these issues in order to ensure that the census data is used in a positive and constructive manner.

Question: Critically analyze the importance of the caste census as done in the state of Bihar, highlighting the issues it raises and the potential implications.

2. By not raising interest rates, RBI betrays its concerns about slowing growth

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy

Context:

  • The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to keep interest rates unchanged despite acknowledging the significant risk posed by “high inflation” to macroeconomic stability.

RBI keeping interest rates unchanged:

  • Inflation Concerns: RBI warns of the major risk posed by “high inflation” to macroeconomic stability.
  • Inflation Acceleration: CPI inflation increased significantly in the last quarter, reaching 7.44% in July and 6.83% in August.
  • Hoping for Relief: RBI hopes that lower LPG and vegetable prices will provide short-term relief from inflation.
  • Liquidity Management: RBI is prepared to use Open Market Operation sales of securities to manage excess liquidity.
  • Growth Concerns: RBI’s reluctance to raise rates reflects concerns about the fragile state of economic growth.
  • Data Reliability: Doubts about the accuracy of economic growth estimates and caution among economic forecasters.
  • Key Risks: Weak goods exports, uneven monsoon, and reduced kharif sowing pose risks to the RBI’s GDP growth projection.
  • External Vulnerabilities: The weakening rupee since the last policy meeting adds to concerns of importing inflation and external sector vulnerabilities if rates remain unchanged.

3. Revisiting the rail gauge debate

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy

Introduction

  • India’s railway network predominantly uses Broad Gauge (BG) with a width of 1.676 meters.
  • Metro rail systems, high-speed rail, and rapid rail transport systems in Delhi and other cities are being built on Standard Gauge (SG) with a width of 1.435 meters.
  • The debate on gauge choice in India dates back to the 1870s when Metre Gauge (1,000 mm) was introduced.

Standard Gauge (SG) Arguments

  • Universality: SG is favored due to its global prevalence in metro and high-speed rail systems, assuming they can be stand-alone.
  • Space Efficiency: SG is believed to require less physical space on roads and elevated structures.
  • Technology Availability: Argument for SG includes the availability of modern coach design technology.

Broad Gauge (BG) Counterarguments

  • Space Requirement: The land requirements for pillars on roads are the same for both SG and BG. Aerial space for elevated portions is not a significant issue.
  • Technology Independence: India has developed its own technology, e.g., the Vande Bharat series, reducing the need for foreign technology.
  • Cost Considerations: BG system cost may increase by 5%-7% with a 25% underground network but can be cheaper by around 10% per unit capacity.

Hollow Arguments Against BG

  • Turning Radius: SG has a slightly higher speed on curves, resulting in only a few seconds’ difference in commuting time, making the argument for BG’s larger turning radius less significant.
  • Throughput: BG’s throughput is comparable to SG due to train design factors.
  • Rolling Stock Replacement: Rolling stock has a relatively short lifespan and can be replaced easily.

Integration with Existing Rail Networks

  • The integration of new rail networks with existing ones is crucial, as the existing system carries billions of passengers and millions of tonnes of freight annually.
  • Integration prevents the creation of incompatible rail islands, allowing seamless movement of passengers and cargo.
  • Such flexibility is beneficial during emergencies and can improve overall patronage.

Conclusion

  • A re-examination of the gauge choice should consider the advantages of integrating new rail systems with the extensive existing network to create a more efficient and flexible railway system in India.

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