News Information Bureau | 28th July 2020

What is Maratha Quota?.

The Supreme Court (SC) is set to commence the final hearing on the batch of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs-Article 136) against Maratha reservation in Maharashtra on a daily basis through video-conferencing.

  • The apex court will also hear a petition challenging admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses under the quota in the state.
  • The SLPs challenged the Bombay High Court (HC) decision, which upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the state’s Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
    • The SEBC Act provides for reservation of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for reservation of posts for appointments in public services and posts under the state.
  • Maharashtra is one of the few states which have more than 50% reservation.
    • Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Telangana also exceed the reservation cap.
    • Indra Sawhney case 1992 ruled that the total reservation for backward classes cannot go beyond the 50% mark.
  • Genesis
    • A group of aspiring medical students challenged the constitutional validity of an amendment to the SEBC Act, 2018allowing Maratha reservation for 2019-2020 admissions to MBBS courses.
    • In July 2019, the Bombay HC dismissed the petition.
    • The SC refused to stay the judgement and have, time and again, refused to put an interim stay on the quota.
    • Recently, the SC refused to grant interim stay on a plea by medical students, seeking a direction that the 12% quota not be made applicable for admissions in postgraduate medical and dental courses for the academic year 2020-21.
  • Marathas
    • It is a politically dominant community in Maharashtra comprising mainly peasants and landowners and forms nearly one-third of the population of the state.
      • Majority of the Chief Ministers of the state have been from this community since the formation of the state in 1960.
    • Marathas are mostly Marathi-speaking but not all Marathi-speaking people belong to the Maratha community.
    • Historically, they have been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large land-holdings.
    • While the division of land and agrarian problems over the years have led to a decline of prosperity among the middle class and lower-middle-class Marathas, the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.
  • Bombay High Court Ruling:
    • In July 2019, it ruled that the 16% quota granted by the state was not ‘justifiable’ and reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, as recommended by the 11-member Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission(MSBCC).
    • The limit of the reservation should not exceed 50% but in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporary data reflecting backwardness, the inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration.
    • While the backwardness of the community was not comparable with Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), it was comparable with several other backward classes, which find a place in the list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) pursuant to the Mandal Commission.
  • Findings of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission:

    • It surveyed about 45,000 families from two villages from each of 355 talukas with more than 50% Maratha population.
    • Social Backwardness:
      • 76.86% of Maratha families are engaged in agriculture and agricultural labour for their livelihood.
      • Nearly 70% reside in Kachha dwellings.
      • Only 35-39% have personal tap water connections.
      • During 2013-2018, total 13,368 farmers committed suicides and 23.56% of them were Marathas.
      • 88.81% of Maratha women are involved in physical labour for earning a livelihood, besides their physical domestic work.
    • Educational Backwardness:
      • 13.42% of Marathas are illiterate, 35.31% primary educated, 43.79% Secondary and Higher Secondary educated, 6.71% undergraduates and postgraduates and 0.77% technically and professionally qualified.
    • Economic Backwardness:
      • 93% of Maratha families have an annual income of Rs. 1 lakh, which was below the average income of middle-class families.
      • 37.38% of families were Below Poverty Line (BPL) against the state average of 24%.
      • 71% own less than 2.5 acres of land, whereas only 2.7% of big farmers own 10 acres of land.
    • The commission submitted its report on 15th November 2018 in which it established that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backwards and also established inadequacy of representation of the Maratha community in public employment in the state.
  • Existing Total Reservation in Maharashtra:
    • Following the 2001 State Reservation Act, the total reservation was 52%.
      • This included quotas for SCs (13%), STs (7%), OBCs (19%), Special Backward Class (2%), Vimukta Jati (3%), Nomadic Tribe B (2.5%), Nomadic Tribe C-Dhangar (3.5%) and Nomadic Tribe D-Vanjari (2%).
      • The quotas for Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes have been carved out of the total OBC quota.
    • With the addition of 12-13% Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state is 64-65%.
    • The 10% Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota is also effective in the state.


Why gold prices are rising despite weak demand at jewellery shops?

Recently, the gold prices crossed Rs. 50,000 per 10 grams after nine years in India.

  • Gold prices in India are dictated by international prices. India is the world’s second-largest gold consumer after China.
  • Why?
    • Global uncertainties triggered by Covid-19 pandemic, weak dollar, low-interest rates environment and stimulus programmes have increased the demand for gold.
    • Rising virus cases and USA-China tensions have also led to increase in the gold price.
  • Gold as Safe Haven:
    • Whenever stock markets, real estate and bonds fall across the world, investors turn to gold to park their funds. It is considered as a safe haven for investors during periods of uncertainties.
    • As gold is highly liquid and carries no default risk. It is scarce which has historically preserved its value over time.
      • Liquidity describes the degree to which an asset can be quickly bought or sold.
    • Further, supply growth of gold has changed little over time, in contrast to fiat money (paper currency), which can be printed in unlimited quantities to support monetary policy.
    • Gold is an integral part of wedding ceremonies in India. It is traditionally used as a hedge against inflation.
      • Global economies are considering stimulus to boost growth which may lead to increase in inflation further.
  • Return on Gold:
    • Historically, gold has generated long-term positive returns.
      • The price of gold has increased by an average 14.1% per annum since 1973 after Bretton Woods collapsed and the gold standard system of pegging the currency to gold ended.
        • Bretton Woods System was a fixed exchange rate system, under which gold was the basis for the US dollar and other currencies were pegged to the US dollar’s value.
    • Gold has surged nearly 40% in the last one year while the Sensex (benchmark index of Bombay Stock Exchange) showed a loss of 0.41% in the same period.
  • India’s Gold Market:
    • According to the World Gold Council (WGC), households in India may have around 24,000-25,000 tonnes of gold. Various temples across the country also hold sizable gold holdings.
    • The Reserve Bank of India bought 40.45 tonnes of gold in the financial year 2019-20, taking its total holdings of the gold to 653.01 tonnes.
      • It is a part of RBI’s forex reserves.
    • India’s gold demand in 2019 was 690.4 tonnes compared to 760.4 tonnes in 2018.
      • The demand has reduced in 2020 due to lockdown caused by pandemic.
    • Around 120-200 tonnes of gold are estimated to be smuggled into India every year.


India’s Eastern Most Part Generating Quakes At Two Different Depths: Study – Seismicity Study of Arunachal Himalaya

Recently, a study by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), pertaining to the exploration of the elastic properties of rocks and seismicity in Arunachal Himalaya, has revealed that the area is generating moderate earthquakes at two different crustal depths.

  • WIHG is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India.
  • The region has been placed into Seismic Zone V, thus most vulnerable to earthquakes.
  • The Study:
    • WIHG has installed 11 broadband seismic stations (connected through the Global Positioning System) along the Lohit River Valley of Arunachal Himalaya to understand the elastic properties of rocks and seismicity in the easternmostpart of India.
    • It used both teleseismic (earthquakes that occur more than 1000 km from the measurement site) and local earthquake data with the help of seismometers.
      • A seismometer is an instrument that responds to ground motions, such as caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions.
  • Latest Findings:
    • Two Different Crustal Depths: Low magnitude earthquakes are concentrated at 1-15 km depth, whereas slightly higher than 4.0 magnitude earthquakes are mostly generated from 25-35 km depth.
      • The intermediate-depth is devoid of seismicity and coincides with the zone of fluid/partial melts.
    • High Poisson’s Ratio: Extremely high Poisson’s ratio was also obtained in the higher parts of the Lohit Valley,indicating the presence of fluid or partial melt at crustal depths.
      • Poisson’s ratio is a measure of the Poisson effect that describes the expansion or contraction of a material in directions perpendicular to the direction of loading.
      • A high Poisson’s ratio denotes that the material exhibits large elastic deformation, even when exposed to small amounts of strain.
  • Significnace:
    • Underthrusting of the Indian Plate:
      • Himalaya is a result of collision between the Indian and the Eurasian plates about 50-60 million years ago. Due to continuous underthrusting of Indian plate beneath the Eurasian plate, stresses are increasing and accumulating progressively in the Himalayas.
        • The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia (a landmass consisting of the traditional continents of Europe and Asia), with the exceptions of the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian subcontinent, and the area east of the Chersky Range in East Siberia.
      • This process keeps modifying the drainage patterns and landforms and is the pivotal reason for causing animmense seismic hazard in the Himalayan mountain belt and adjoining regions, necessitating assessment and characterization of earthquakes in terms of cause, depth and intensity.
    • The Tuting-Tidding Suture Zone: TTSZ is a major part of the Eastern Himalaya, where the Himalaya takes a sharp southward bend and connects with the Indo-Burma Range.
      • This part has gained importance in recent times due to the growing need of constructing roads and hydropower projects, therefore emphasising the need for understanding the pattern of seismicity in this region.
    • Crustal Thickness: The crustal thickness in this area varies from 46.7 km beneath the Brahmaputra Valley to about 55 km in the higher elevations of Arunachal, with a marginal uplift of the contact.
      • This marginal uplift defines the boundary between crust and the mantle, technically called the Moho discontinuity.
      • The Moho discontinuity has been defined by the distinct change in velocity of seismological waves as they pass through changing densities of rock.


Hurricane Hanna hits Texas: How hurricanes are formed, how severe this one is?

Recently, Hurricane Hanna has made landfall (the point at which a hurricane reaches land) in Texas with life-threatening storm surge and strong winds.

  • Tropical cyclones are called hurricanes in the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
  • It has reached wind speeds of up to 90 mph and is expected to produce heavy rains across portions of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, which will result in flash flooding and isolated minor to moderate river flooding.
  • It has been categorised as a Category 1 storm on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS).
  • This year, an “above-normal” hurricane season is expected in the USA.
    • One reason for this is the warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, along with weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon.


  • It is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
  • Hurricanes typically form between 5 to 15 degrees latitude north and south of the equator.
  • Tropical cyclones or hurricanes use warm, moist air as fuel and therefore form over warm ocean waters near the equator. As NASA describes it, when the warm, moist air rises upward from the surface of the ocean, it creates an area of low air pressure below. When this happens, the air from the surrounding areas, which has higher pressure, enters this space, eventually rising when it becomes warm and moist too. As the warm and moist air continues to rise, the surrounding air will keep entering the area of low air pressure. When the warm air rises and cools off, the water in the air forms clouds and this system of clouds and winds continues to grow and spin, fuelled by the ocean’s heat and the water that evaporates from its surface. As such storm systems rotate faster and faster, an eye forms in the centre. Storms that form towards the north of the equator rotate counterclockwise and those that form south of the equator spin clockwise because of the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

  • It is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage.


Climate change: In a first, Scientists at WII track Pied Cuckoo’s migration pattern; details

Recently, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), has decided to study the migration of the Pied Cuckoo Bird (Jacobin Cuckoo or Chaatak), by tagging the bird with satellite transmitters.

  • The study will be conducted along with the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) and the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology.
  • IIRS is a constituent unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is headquartered in Dehradun.
    • This is the first study in the country that seeks to trace and observe the migratory routes of the pied cuckoo.
    • It aims to gather data and information on climate change and the monsoon.
      • Pied cuckoo is known for its close association with the monsoon in India.
      • Farmers have traditionally relied on the arrival of the pied cuckoo as a signal of arrival of monsoon and seed sowing.
    • It is part of a larger project called the Indian Bioresource Information Network (IBIN) funded by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which aims to put relevant Indian bioresources information online.
  • Benefit
    • Gathering information about the migratory route can be invaluable for research on climatic variations taking place in the world, especially since the species has such a close association with the monsoon.
      • It will give us information on the monsoon, changes in the monsoon and monsoon winds, erratic rainfall, seasonal fluctuations, water vapour pressure, etc.
    • The extent of the effect of ecologies changing can be seen in the movement of species from a less favourable region to a more favourable region.

  • Pied Cuckoo
    • It is a bird with black and white plumage (pied) with a fancy crest on the head. Its scientific name is Clamator jacobinus.It is found in Africa and Asia.
    • There are two types of pied cuckoos found in India.
      • In central and northern parts of India, pied cuckoos aremigratory, they are seen only from just before the monsoon to early winter.
        • It is believed that the pied cuckoos that come to the Himalayan foothills are from Africa.
        • They have high site fidelity, that is, they come back to the same location year after year.
      • Pied cuckoos are also found in southern India, but those are resident birds and not migratory.
    • The bird is primarily arboreal, which means that it mostly lives on trees. It is a brood parasite i.e. It lays its eggs in nests that belong to other birds.
    • It is one of the few species that come to India in the summer. Most other migratory species come in winter.
    • IUCN Status: Least Concerned.
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