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[op-ed snap] Agriculture can alleviate employment woes

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need of focusing on the farming reforms for job growth and sustainable income opportunities for farmers


NEWS

CONTEXT

If only agriculture can be turned economically viable and ecologically sustainable, it can easily take away much of the pressure the country faces in creating additional employment.

Worsening Employment Situation in India

  • IN March 2018, an estimated 2.5 crore people, more than the population of Australia, applied for about 90,000 positions in the Indian Railways.
  • In 2015, over 23 lakh candidates, including 22 lakh engineers and 255 PhD holders, had applied for 368 posts of peon in the Uttar Pradesh state secretariat.
  • This is borne by the fact that India’s unemployment rate rose to a 45-year high during 2017-18.

Divergence in Economic Growth and Employment

  • India’s economy has been on a growth trajectory in the past four years – growing at an average exceeding 7 per cent per annum — the failure to provide jobs to millions of people is a clear-cut pointer that relying on a higher GDP is not the answer to creating more jobs.
  • A higher GDP does not translate into more employment opportunities.

Is migration from agriculture area to cities good?

  • Many economists term the migration from agriculture to be a welcome sign.
  • Going by the World Bank prescription,which was doled out back in 1996, India was directed to go for a population shift, translocating 40 crore people from rural to urban areas in the next 20 years, by 2015.
  • However, these 40 crore people being forced to migrate from the villages are ‘agricultural refugees’.
  • In the absence of alternative employment opportunities, these millions are swarming into the cities looking for menial jobs.
  • The general understanding is that those moving out of agriculture will be automatically absorbed by the manufacturing sector.
  • It was primarily for this consideration that the National Skill Development Policy aimed at reducing the population involved in agriculture from 52 per cent to 38 per cent by 2022.
  • But the reality is that during the period, agriculture saw an unprecedented rate of migration; manufacturing, too, slumped, causing a loss of 5.3 crore jobs.

The solution lies in agricultural reforms

  • Agriculture is the biggest employer, employing 52 per cent of the population as per the 2011 Census.
  • The resolution of the monumental employment crisis that India faces actually lies in the crop fields.
  • If only agriculture can be turned economically viable and ecologically sustainable, it can easily take away much of the pressure the country faces in creating additional employment.
  • it requires is a paradigm shift in economic thinking, which begins by first treating agriculture as an economic activity.
  • Making farm livelihoods economically sustainable should be the first step towards achieving the objective of ensuring gainful employment for marginalised communities.
  • Once agriculture becomes economically viable, it will reignite the rural-based industry, and in the process trigger a reverse migration.

Way Forward

  • Only agriculture has the ability to reboot the economy. The increased demand a refurbished agriculture will create will be phenomenal, leading to a spurt in industrial production.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] Re-imagining Delhi

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Note important features of Delhi Exceptionalism and ways to resolve the long standing crisis.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The battle over the legislative and executive control of the National Capital Territory of Delhi remains unresolved.

Court’s Verdict

  • The split verdict by a two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan has, in essence, affirmed the power of the Union government (through the office of the lieutenant governor) over the elected state government on crucial matters.
  • The Centre remains the cadre-controlling authority in Delhi and the Delhi Anti Corruption Branch cannot investigate central government officers.
  • The two judges, however, differed on whether the state government can manage cadre below the rank of joint secretary and the matter will now be referred to a larger bench.

Factors responsible for the conflict

  • The State government  has been choosing spectacle and agitation over quiet and patient negotiation.
  • The Centre, through successive LGs and the home ministry, has tried to hobble a government with an impressive mandate using Delhi’s constitutional peculiarity.
  • It’s legally a Union Territory with an elected government whose powers are circumscribed.
  • Both the current Union and Delhi governments enjoy impressive mandates. Unfortunately, instead of using their opportunity to bring in a much-needed redefinition of the division of powers, they have passed the buck to the courts.
  • Delhi’s exceptionalism, the power imbalance in favour of the Centre, emerges from the needs of a national capital — the seat of government and power, the nerve centre of administration.

Approaching Solution

  • It is only through a mature politics that the root cause of the over-politicisation of governance.
  • The courts are limited by the letter of the law, by the contours of the distribution of powers laid down in the Constitution and previous judgments.
  • Delhi needs is a bold re-imagination of the skewed federal contract that currently determines its executive and legislative boundaries.
  • The tussle between the Centre and state, between the people and the law, can only be addressed through a new idea of statehood, one which recognises that sovereignty ultimately derives from the people.

Conclusion

A mature discussion between stakeholders that looks beyond short-term political gains holds the potential to resolve the embedded contradiction.

Delhi Full Statehood Issue

Why only bureaucrats on information panels, asks SC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CIC, SIC

Mains level: Implementation of the RTI Act


News

  • The Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions, the country’s apex bodies entrusted to uphold the citizen’s right to information, have been bastions of government employees and their retired counterparts.
  • The apex court has found that “official bias” in favour of bureaucrats and government employees was evident from the very beginning of the process for their appointment.

Getting ‘Eminent Persons’ onboard

  1. The court raised concerns over how government employees or retired ones had consistently been found “more competent and more suitable” than eminent persons from other walks of life.
  2. The Right to Information Act of 2005 law was enacted to ensure accountability in governance.
  3. The act itself requires people from varied domains to man the Commissions.
  4. The apex court directed the government to look beyond bureaucrats and appoint professionals from “all walks of life,” including eminent persons with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism as Information Commissioners.

Preventing Official bias

  1. Parliament intended that persons of eminence in public life should be taken as Chief Information Commissioner as well Information Commissioners.
  2. Many persons who fit the criteria have been applying for these posts.
  3. However, a strange phenomenon which we observe is that all those persons who have been selected belong to only one category, namely, public service, i.e., they are the government employees.
  4. In fact, the selection committee, which shortlists candidates for appointment, is itself composed of government employees.
  5. Official bias in favour of its own class is writ large in the selection process.

Other issues with RTI Mechanism

  1. The Supreme Court concluded that the entire RTI mechanism has been choked by rising pendency and growing number of vacancies of Information Commissioners.
  2. Now, the Supreme Court has, for the first time, put the government on a deadline as far as filling vacancies in the Commissions.
  3. The court directed that the process of appointment should commence at least one or two months before the retirement is due.

Back2Basics

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  1. The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorized quasi judicial body, established in 2005.
  2. It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
  3. The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
  4. CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

India’s city compost policy needs overhauling

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance| Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SBA, Policy on Promotion of City Compost

Mains level: Solid Waste Management in India


News

Background

  • The Swachh Bharat Mission had committed to ensuring that all organic waste produced in Indian cities is processed into making compost by October 2019.
  • However it doesn’t seem likely, currently, not even 5 per cent of organic waste generated by cities is converted into compost.

Policy on Promotion of City Compost

  1. To meet the ambitious target, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers had announced a Policy on Promotion of City Compost in February 2016.
  2. It aimed to promote city compost with punch line ‘Compost Banao, Compost Apnao’.
  3. But the lack of an appropriate market and ineffective implementation didn’t give this much-needed practice the desired popularity.

Potential for city compost

  1. India currently produces close to 1.5 lakh tonnes of solid waste every day and its biodegradable fraction ranges between 30 per cent and 70 per cent for various Indian cities.
  2. This means there is a huge potential for compositing, the most natural form of processing wet waste.
  3. Uncontrolled decomposition of organic waste in dumpsites also leads to emission of potent greenhouse gases.
  4. So, it is imperative that necessary actions be taken to promote appropriate disposal mechanisms for solid waste management.

Policy Paralysis

  1. The policy on promotion of city compost was rolled out to facilitate its marketing through fixed MDA of Rs 1,500.
  2. This subsidy was to reduce the selling price of compost for farmers.
  3. It required agreements amongst municipal body, compost manufacturer and compost marketer, including fertiliser companies.
  4. But, unlike the predictions that the new financial incentives will boost promotion and production of compost, it did not prove to be a game-changer.
  5. The high manufacturing and selling cost of the compost, questionable product quality, no direct incentive/subsidy to farmers and lack of knowledge among other concerns, ensured city compost didn’t become a popular option for farmers.

Other Bottlenecks

  1. The money allocated for MDA subsidy in the last three years is so meager that it could not meet the requirement of even 2 per cent of the SBM’s target.
  2. In addition, the process to claim MDA is so tedious that most manufacturers and fertiliser companies have not received any payment under it.
  3. A firm producing chemical fertilizers and its dealers are unlikely to be enthusiastic about selling organic compost till there is a legal mandate. The current policy has subsidy but no legal targets.
  4. They are just “supposed to” co-market fertilisers with city compost in a way that there are 6-7 bags of urea and 1-2 bags of city compost.

Way Forward

  1. To create a demand for quality compost, it is necessary to ensure that robust waste management systems are developed in cities, with source-segregation and promotion of decentralized waste management at its heart.
  2. We need a much more serious policy to scale up production and consumption of city compost.
  3. It should support other factors such as by reforms in terms of fertilizer control order norms, stringent targets for fertilizer companies etc.
Swachh Bharat Mission

WHO issues new international standard for music devices

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: “Make Listening Safe” Initiative

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has issued a new international standard for the manufacture and use of musical devices.

 “Make Listening Safe” Initiative

  1. The standard for safe listening devices was developed under WHO’s “Make Listening Safe” initiative by experts from WHO and ITU.
  2. It suggested that half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through the following public health measures:
  • Sound allowance function: software that tracks the level and duration of the user’s exposure to sound as a percentage used of a reference exposure
  • Personalized profile: an individualized listening profile, based on the user’s listening practices, which informs the user of how safely (or not) he or she has been listening and gives cues for action based on this information
  • Volume limiting options: options to limit the volume, including automatic volume reduction and parental volume control
  • General information: information and guidance to users on safe listening practices, both through personal audio devices and for other leisure activities

Why such move?

  1. The aim behind the move is to prevent young people from going deaf.
  2. Nearly 50 per cent of people aged 12-35 years are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.
  3. Over five per cent of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children); impacting on their quality of life.
  4. The majority live in low- and middle-income countries.
  5. It is estimated that by 2050, over 900 million people or 1 in every 10 people will have disabling hearing loss.
  6. Hearing loss which is not addressed poses an annual global cost of $750 billion.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

NASA’s Opportunity Rover

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Opportunity and Spirit Rovers

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


News

  • NASA has announced the end of the Opportunity rover’s mission.
  • Opportunity rolled out on to the Martian surface in 2004, 20 days after its twin, Spirit, had landed on the other side of the Red Planet.
  • Over the next 14 years, it got successes that made it one of the most overachieving explorer robots ever built.

Spirit and Opportunity Rovers

  1. Spirit and Opportunity were identical, golf-cart-sized, solar-powered rovers.
  2. Spirit landed at Gusev Crater; Opportunity followed, landing on the opposite side of Mars at Meridiani Planum.
  3. Contact with Spirit was lost in March 2010, and the mission was declared over in May, 2011.
  4. Opportunity worked on Mars for over 14 years, longer than any other robot. Both rovers were originally supposed to have only 90-day missions.
  5. Opportunity travelled 45.16 km on the surface of Mars, more than any other rover.
  6. Its equipment have been compromised by the storm, which struck while the rover was at a site called Perseverance Valley.

Finding Water

  1.  Haematite-rich small spherules, concretions nicknamed “blueberries” as photographed by Opportunity provided evidence of a watery ancient environment.
  2. Foremost among Spirit and Opportunity’s many science discoveries: Mars was likely wetter and warmer in the past.
  3. These conditions could have served as a cradle for life on Mars at a time when life first emerged on Earth.
  4. Opportunity was the first rover to identify and characterize sedimentary rocks on a planet other than Earth.
  5. Opportunity found white veins of gypsum, a sign of water that travelled through underground fractures.
  6. It also discovered clay minerals that formed in neutral-pH water.

Importance of the mission

  1. For over 14 years, Opportunity encountered challenges that called for skill and innovation to overcome.
  2. It drove in reverse, negotiated loose surfaces, sand traps, and slopes as steep as 31 degrees.
  3. The rover demonstrated reliable Mars-Earth communication.
  4. Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 rovers is build upon their lessons.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Least Available Depth Information System (LADIS) Portal

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: LADIS Portal

Mains level: Enhancing transport with the help of Inland Waterways


News

  • Moving a step ahead towards ensuring optimum use of National Waterways, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) launched a new portal LADIS – Least Available Depth Information System.

Least Available Depth Information System Portal

  1. IWAI has designed LADIS to facilitate the day to day operations of inland vessels plying on National Waterways and to avoid any hindrance in service and operation.
  2. It will enhance credibility and efficiency of information sharing to achieve seamless operations on National Waterways, besides pre-empting problems that may occur during movement of vessels.
  3. LADIS will ensure that real-time data on least available depths is disseminated for ship/barge and cargo owners so that they can undertake transportation on NWs in a more planned way.
  4. The portal being hosted on IWAI’s website iwai.nic.in has been developed in-house.
  5. Initially LAD information will be available for NW-1, NW-2, Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route and NW-3, along with the date of survey.

Utility of the Portal

  1. An assured depth of waterway is required for seamless movement of vessels.
  2. If real time information is made available regarding LADs in stretches of various NWs, it will help transporters by guiding them on the suitability of time of movement.
Inland Waterways

[op-ed snap]It’s a wage crisis

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issue that government  should focus on wage issue along with jobs crisis.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The debate around unemployment has gained prominence as suggested that uneployment is highest in last 45 years.

Change in wage structure since Independence

  • Low or zero marginal productivity in farms, self-employment or subsistence wage employment — has been India’s labour market shock absorber since 1947.
  • This shock absorber no longer works because Indians born after 1991 expect a living wage (that meets aspirations) rather than a minimum wage (that keeps mind and body together).
  • These higher wage expectations can only be met by transitioning people to higher productivity sectors, geographies, and firms.

Issues with current debate reagrding lack of Jobs

  • Indian who wants a job has a job but they don’t get the wages they want or need because
    • They work in unviable sectors (48 per cent of our labour force on farms generates only 13 per cent of the GDP)
    • unviable firms (our 6.3 crore enterprises only translate to 19,500 companies with a paid-up capital greater than Rs 10 crore)
    • unviable entrepreneurship (50 per cent of our labour force is not self-employed but self-exploiting),
    • unviable geographies (2 lakh of our 6 lakh villages have less than 200 people).

Wage Comparison within country and with other economies

  • High wages need a complex ecosystem of high productivity firms and individuals: IT firms employ only 0.7 per cent of India’s labour force but produce 7 per cent of India’s GDP.
  • A waiter in Chicago with skills similar to a waiter in Jaipur makes 20 times higher wages because of the productivity of the customers eating at the restaurant,
  • India’s 20 million manufacturing SME’s have at least 25 times lower productivity than Germany’s 200,000 mittelstand (SMEs).
  • GDP of 114 million Maharashtrians is more than 204 million people in Uttar Pradesh because Maharashtra is more formalised, industrialised, financialised, urbanised and skilled.
  • the GDP of 1.2 billion Indians till 2019 was lower than 66 million Britons because socialism — capitalism without competition and bankruptcy — led to nutty economics after 1947.
  • in the 1980s that India’s public sector steel industry employed 10 times more people to produce half the steel of South Koreans.

Changes and reforms in employment and wage structures

  • Six million new registered enterprises after GST and 30 million new social security payers in three years.
  • New monetary policy committee and fiscal discipline have blunted inflation from 8.33 per cent in 2014 to 2.19 per cent.
  • Our new bankruptcy law has started recycling assets of Rs 14 lakh crore.
  • Digital payments have exploded from 0.1 million the month before demonetisation to 650 million last month.
  • Infrastructure spending has doubled in the last five years accompanied by qualitative improvements in air connectivity, ports, highways and railways.
  • India has more than a crore new individual tax filers since demonetisation with a 45 per cent increase in returns with incomes below Rs 10 lakh last year.

Way Forward

  • The impatience of our young is changing India and her politics. And thankfully, our democracy means that the Chinese communist party strategy articulated in the 1980s — fill their stomachs but empty their minds — will not work in India.
  • India’s youth don’t aspire to replace self-exploitation with the patronising pessimism of loan-write offs, subsidies or income without work.
  • They recognise that a hard day’s work in a formal job provides dignity, strength, identity and purpose in addition to living wages.

 

 

 

 

 

[op-ed snap]Towards an efficient transport infrastructure

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various Infrastructure related schemes

Mains level: This newscard analyses initiative taken in improving Transport Infrastructure and overall impact of such initiative on growth.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The recent headway made in developing transport infrastructure will prove to be the biggest enabler for growth.

Growth in transport Infrastructure

  • At the highest ever pace of construction,  more than 35,000 km of national highways have been built in four and a half years.
  • World-class expressways such as the Eastern Peripheral Expressway and Western Peripheral Expressway or engineering marvels such as the Dhola Sadiya Bridge and Chenani Nashri Tunnel.
  • The Bharatmala Pariyojana is unique and unprecedented in terms of its size and design, as is the idea of developing ports as engines of growth under Sagarmala.
  • The development of 111 waterways for transport, FASTags, the promotion of alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, biofuels, and electricity, as well as innovative modes of travel such as seaplanes and aeroboats.

Implications of Transport Infrastructure Growth

  • An efficient transport infrastructure is the biggest enabler for growth.
  • Bharatmala and Sagarmala programmes y will improve both penetration and efficiency of transport movement on land and water, respectively.
  • They will help connect places of production with markets more efficiently, help reduce logistics costs, create jobs and promote regionally balanced socio-economic growth in the country.

Connectivity with the neighboring countries

  • Our road and sea transport networks are being developed for providing better, seamless and more efficient access not just within the country, but also to our neighbouring countries using an optimal mix of roads and waterways.
  • Afghanistan and beyond through Chabahar, or Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand through upcoming highways and waterways.

Priority areas in the development of transport infrastructure

  • Priority is also on improving the overall convenience and on-road experience of the road users.
  • This involves ensuring their safety, reducing congestion and pollution levels and providing roadside amenities.

Ensuring safety on road

  • Priority to rectifying accident black spots through engineering means,
  • Employing road safety features at the design stage for highways,
  • Conducting road safety audits, setting up driver training and post-trauma care centres as well as generating awareness.

 Addressing other concerns Such as Pollution and Traffic congestion accessibility to difficult areas

  • Ring roads, expressways and bypasses are being constructed around many big and small cities and towns to beat traffic congestion and reduce pollution.
  • Innovative solutions like seaplanes, ropeways, aeroboats and double-decker buses are being actively explored for adoption. These will bring down the traffic pressure and congestion on roads.
  • Seaplanes have already been tested, and trials are soon to be conducted on aeroboats.
  • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed with Austrian ropeway company Doppelmayr for building ropeways through congested cities and hilly areas.
  • Promoting alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol, biofuels and electricity.
  • The concept of ‘waste to wealth’ is being employed for generating alternative fuels.
  • Giving priority to the greening of roads and FASTag-based electronic toll collection, which will prevent congestion at toll plazas and bring down pollution.

Creating Employment Opportunities

  • Development of transport infrastructure will also create huge employment opportunities in the country, improving the socioeconomic condition of people.
  • In the roads sector, training is being given in construction-related trades,
  • While under Sagarmala, training is being provided in job opportunities that can come up in the maritime sector, in the factories that are slated to be built in port areas, the service industry, fisheries, tourism and many more.
  • the total number of seafarers employed in Indian and foreign ships has grown by 35% this year.

Managing water resources and clean rivers

  • Implementation of  over 260 projects in the area of sewerage infrastructure, industrial pollution control, solid waste management and riverfront management.
  • what we need is to manage our water resources well using innovative ideas.

Conclusion

  • India’s growth story should no longer be impeded by a lack of efficient transport infrastructure, and the fruits of this growth should reach everyone in the remotest part of the country.

 

[op-ed snap] Stress points of democracy

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing much

Mains level: The newscard comprehensively explains instances of weakening of democratic values and institutions around the world and in India.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Steady undermining of institutional and knowledge structures  are posing a threat to the world and in India. In this election year in India, there is  need to keep a sharper eye on the weakening of institutions.

Examples Around the world

  • Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan are constantly projected as the faces of authoritarianism.
  • Many democratic leaders reveal a similar authoritarian streak, which adds to democracy’s woes.
  • International institutions such as the World Bank are facing the heat today for not conforming to the prescriptions of certain powerful members.
  • Brexit, and the Brexit debate, in the U.K. and Europe are enough examples of democracy going awry.
  • The U.S., which prides itself as a leading democracy is failing. Under President Donald Trump, arbitrary decision-making has replaced informed debate.
  • The decision of the U.S. to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, determination to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, even risking an extended shutdown of the U.S. government are someof indication of erosion of democracy.

Situation in India

In a pluralistic, multi-party federal system, disdain for democratic conventions and the violation of well-entrenched behavioural patterns are causing irreversible damage to the polity.

Instances of the decline of democratic convention

  • Centre-State relations are already under strain, and face the threat of still greater disruption.
  • There have been  unhealthy exchanges between the Prime Minister and some Chief Ministers which involve accusations such as fomenting riots and running extortion rackets.
  • Those in authority deem all information not acceptable to them as nothing but disinformation. Those opposed to the government, on the other hand, insist that the government suffers from a lack of probity.
  • The current  exchanges between the ruling dispensation and the Opposition over the purchase of Rafale aircraft are an example.
  • The Central government has effectively rejected a report by the well-regarded National Sample Survey Office — which showed that unemployment in 2017-18 was at a 45-year high — without giving any valid reason for doing so.
  • doubts are being raised about the validity of the government’s revised GDP estimates.
  • With regards to Reserve Bank of India (RBI), there has been perceived attempt to reduce its functional independence, to compel it to fall in line with the views of the government.
  • The Interim Budget announced on the eve of the 2019 general election clearly breaches certain long-settled conventions, by including many substantial measures that ordinarily would form part of a regular Budget.

Virtual Collapse of CBI

  • Touted as India’s premier investigation agency, its reputation has of late suffered a near mortal blow, mainly on account of internecine quarrels, as also external interference in its internal affairs.
  • Created out of the Delhi Special Police Establishment in 1963, the agency was earlier headed by persons with impeccable integrity and ability.
  • Over time, the quality of the CBI leadership and the tribe of proven investigators has witnessed a decline, which has impacted the image of the organisation.
  • The choice of Director, following the Vineet Narain case, by a committee headed by the Prime Minister, with the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition as the other members, has hardly helped the CBI maintain a reputation for independence.
  • The recent  drama between the Director and his No. 2, reflects the lack of institutional culture in the organisation.
  • Supervisory officers, who come and go, are most often not in a position to provide proper guidance to investigating officers.

Change in the work culture of CBI

  • Earlier the CBI used to carry out arrests of so-called accused persons only as a measure of last resort.
  • Iits investigating officers’ skills have declined, it is increasingly resorting to peremptory arrests, often on very slender evidence.
  • In many instances, the CBI has also been resorting to pressure tactics while questioning individuals,
  • CBI has even resorted to intimidatory tactics, taking recourse to a battery of investigators to question a witness, let alone an accused.
  • The recent incident where a battery of CBI personnel went to question the Kolkata Police Commissioner at his residence late in the evening, though he was only a witness, reflects the changing course of the CBI.

Conclusion

Across the world and in india, democracy is in obvious retreat, with authoritarian tendencies on the ascendant.This should be a matter of concern for one and all.

 

 

Explained: Effect on Bills when Parliament adjourns sine die

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lapse of any Bill in Parliament

Mains level: Law making procedures in India


News

  • As the final session of the 16th Lok Sabha adjourned sine die, 46 Bills, including the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the one on banning triple talaq, are set to lapse on 3 June when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends.

When does a Bill lapse in Indian Parliament? 

Depending on the status of the pending legislation, and where it originated, there are certain cases in which the Bill lapses on dissolution of Assembly.

I. Bills originated in Lok Sabha

  • Any Bill that originated in the Lok Sabha, but could not be passed, lapses.
  • A Bill originated and passed by the Lok Sabha but pending in the Rajya Sabha also lapses

II. Bills originated in Rajya Sabha

  • The Constitution also gives MPs in Rajya Sabha the power to introduce a Bill.
  • Therefore a Bill that originated in Rajya Sabha and was passed by it, but remains pending in Lok Sabha also lapses.
  • A Bill originated in the Rajya Sabha and returned to that House by the Lok Sabha with amendments and still pending in the Rajya Sabha on the date of the dissolution of Lok Sabha lapses.

When a Bill does not lapse

  1. Not all Bills, which haven’t yet become law, lapse at the end of the Lok Sabha’s term.
  2. A Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha, but not passed by the Lok Sabha, does not lapse.
  3. A Bill passed by both the Houses but pending assent of the President of India, does not lapse.
  4. A Bill passed by both Houses but returned by the President of India for reconsideration of the Parliament does not lapse.
  5. Some pending Bills and all pending assurances that are to be examined by the Committee on Government Assurances also does not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

Exceptions for a Joint Sitting

  1. Apart from the aforementioned exceptions, another situation when a Bill does not automatically lapse with end of the final Parliament session is if the president calls for a joint sitting to vote on a Bill.
  2. Article 108 of the Constitution states that the president may, unless the Bill has elapsed by reason of a dissolution of the LS, summon both Houses to meet in a joint sitting for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the Bill.
  3. If at the joint sitting of the two Houses, the Bill, with such amendments, if any, is passed by a majority of the total number of members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed to have been passed by both Houses.
  4. However there is no provision of joint sittings on a Money Bill or a Amendment Bill.

What happens to Bills that have lapsed?

  • If a Bill is elapsed by virtue of one or more of the conditions explained above, it will have to be reintroduced in the new Lok Sabha (as is or with amendments) should the new government feel the need for it.

Alternative: Promulgating an Ordinance (Art.123)

  • The lapse of a Bill in Parliament still does not prevent the incumbent government from issuing an Ordinance to bring forth the legislation it intended to through the lapsed Bill.
  • According to the Constitution, the government of the day can bring in Ordinance if the Parliament is not in session and if the president is convinced of the urgency of the matter that it can’t wait till the House comes in session again.
  • The Constitution does not explicitly bans a government nearing the end of its term from doing so.
  • Since the lifespan of an ordinance in six months, or till the Parliament’s next session (which in this case will be after the election of 17th Lok Sabha) any ordinance promulgated by the current government is likely to outlive its tenure.

Noteworthy Bills lapsing with current Lok Sabha

  • Citizenship (Amendment) Bill
  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill
  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016
  • Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019
  • Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018
  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016
  • DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill

With inputs from:

Firstpost

PRS India

Explained: What is MFN status, how can India hurt Pak by withdrawing it

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MFN status, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, WTO

Mains level: India-Pakistan trade relationship


News

  • In a major terrorist attack, 40+ CRPF personnel were martyred in J&K’s Pulwama district when a terrorist attacked with an explosives laden vehicle into one of the vehicles of the CRPF convoy.
  • In response to the effect, India withdrew MFN status accorded to Pakistan.

MFN status to Pakistan

  1. India granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, a year after the formation of WTO.
  2. Pakistan still hasn’t granted India with MFN status. On the other hand, it came up with a dissimilar but globally popular Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) agreement.
  3. The reason Pakistan has chosen to adopt the NDMA with India is due to political mistrust and a history of border conflicts.
  4. On November 2, 2011, the Pakistani cabinet decided formally to accord India MFN status. But that decision remains unimplemented.

Trade between India and Pakistan

  1. Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stands at $2.61 billion.
  2. The major commodities and goods in which both countries trade include cement, sugar, organic chemicals, cotton, man-made filaments, vegetables and certain fruits and tubers, mineral fuels, mineral oils, salts, earths, stone, lime, dry fruits, steel and plastering material.
  3. In FY17, India-Pakistan trade was a mere $2.29 billion, or about 0.35% of India’s overall trade.

Does MFN mean preferential treatment?

  1. In literal explanation, MFN doesn’t mean preferential treatment.
  2. Instead it means non-discriminatory trade that ensures that the country receiving MFN status will not be in a disadvantageous situation compared to the granter’s other trade partners.
  3. When a country receives MFN status, it is expected to raise trade barriers and decrease tariffs.
  4. It is also expected to open up the market to trade in more commodities and free flow of goods.

Pros of MFN

  1. MFN status is extremely gainful to developing countries.
  2. The clear upsides are access to a wider market for trade goods, reduced cost of export items owing to highly reduced tariffs and trade barriers.
  3. These essentially lead to more competitive trade.
  4. MFN also cuts down bureaucratic hurdles and various kinds of tariffs are set at par for all imports.
  5. It then increases demands for the goods and giving a boost to the economy and export sector.
  6. It also heals the negative impact caused to the economy due to trade protectionism.

Impact

  1. The decision by India to withdraw MFN status to Pakistan is intended to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and squeeze the country’s industry.
  2. Even though the low volumes of trade limit the impact that such a step can have, the stoppage of input materials such as chemicals and cotton from India will push up costs of production for the relevant Pakistani industries.
  3. However, it will also give a handle to extremist elements in Pakistan to scale up the rhetoric against India.

Back2Basics

What is MFN Status?

  1. Most Favoured Nation is a treatment accorded to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries vis-a-vis other trade partners.
  2. Article 1 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), 1994, requires every member country of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to accord Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to all other member countries.
  3. Under WTO rules, a member country cannot discriminate between its trade partners.
  4. If a special status is granted to a trade partner, it must be extended to all members of the WTO.

Benefits of MFN

  1. MFN essentially guarantees the most favourable trade conditions between two countries.
  2. These terms include the lowest possible trade tariffs, the least possible trade barriers and very crucial to trade relations– highest import quotas.
  3. The WTO rules allow discrimination in certain cases like in cases when a country signs free trade agreements in a region.
  4. In that situation, a country may grant special favours and trade concessions to a country as compared to non-member countries of that group.

Shortcomings

  1. The main disadvantage is that the country has to give the same treatment to all other trade partners who are members of the WTO.
  2. This translates into a price war and vulnerability of the domestic industry as a result.
  3. The country is not able to protect domestic industry from the cheaper imports and in this price war, some domestic players have to face heavy losses or growth restrictions.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Minimum wage: what it is, how it is fixed

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Minimum wage determination criteria

Mains level:  Minimum wages for workers


News

  • Central trade unions have called a nationwide strike today to protest the government’s announcement of a hike in minimum wages for workers.

Why are the trade unions not happy?

  1. The government has announced a 42% increase in minimum wages for unskilled non-agricultural workers in central sphere.
  2. Employees of the central government and allied departments and undertakings, for category ‘C’ areas from Rs 246 a day to Rs 350 a day — or Rs 9,100 for a month of 26 working days.
  3. A, B and C category areas are determined broadly on the basis of their urban/rural profile.
  4. The trade unions had demanded statutory minimum wage for all workers of not less than Rs 18,000 per month.

Who will benefit from the increase?

  1. The minimum wage revision will be applicable to central government employees in its scheduled employment, in line with the provisions of the Minimum Wage Act, 1948.
  2. Currently, there are 45 scheduled employments under the central sphere, including agriculture, stone mines, construction, non-coal mines, and loading and unloading, and around 1,679 employments of states.

How is the minimum wage determined?

  1. The norms for determining the minimum wage were recommended by the Indian Labour Conference in 1957.
  2. It decided that the minimum wage should be need-based, and should ensure the minimum human needs of the industrial worker.
  3. Five norms were suggested:
  • Three consumption units for one earner in a standard working class family, with the earnings of women, children and adolescents in the family being disregarded.
  • Net intake of 2,700 calories for an average Indian adult of moderate activity.
  • Per capita consumption of cloth of 18 yards per annum, which would mean for the average worker’s family of 4 a total 72 yards.
  • Rent corresponding to the minimum area provided for under the Subsidised Industrial Housing Scheme for low-income groups.
  • Fuel, lighting and other miscellaneous items of expenditure to constitute 20 per cent of the total minimum wage.

SC Judgement

  1. In 1991, the apex Court, in Raptakos & Co. Vs its workers, ruled that children’s education, medical requirement, minimum recreation including festivals, ceremonies, provision for old age and marriage, should constitute 25%, and be used as a guide for fixing the wage.
  2. These six criteria are considered by the central and state governments to fix the minimum wage.
  3. The minimum wages include basic and variable dearness allowance, which is revised twice a year based on Consumer Price Index (Industrial Worker).

Why is there a disparity in minimum wages across India?

  1. Based on the recommendations of the National Commission on Rural Labour in 1991, a National Floor Level Minimum Wage was proposed in order to have a uniform wage structure across the country.
  2. In 1996, the NFL Minimum Wage was fixed at Rs 35 per day, which was revised in subsequent years and currently stands at Rs 160 per day.
  3. Since this Wage does not have statutory backing, it is not mandatory for states — although they are advised to fix minimum wages at not less than the National Floor Level Minimum Wage.
  4. Some states such as Kerala and Delhi already have a higher minimum wage for unskilled labourers than what has been announced by the government.
  5. However, in the absence of legal backing, the lowest minimum wage drops very low.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Parliament passes law removing leprosy as ground for divorce

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Mains level: Preventing discrimination being faced by leprosy patients in the society


News

  • Parliament has passed a Bill removing leprosy as a ground for divorce under five personal laws including the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018

  1. The bill seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce in five personal laws – Hindu Marriage Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, Divorce Act (for Christians), Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
  2. The Bill eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce.
  3. The condition under Section 18 (2) (c) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, that a Hindu wife is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if the latter is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy has been omitted.

Why such move?

  1. The Law Commission in its report had recommended repeal of laws and provisions which were discriminatory against leprosy affected people.
  2. Besides, India is a signatory to a UN Resolution which calls for elimination of discrimination against persons suffering from leprosy.
  3. The proposed law follows a National Human Rights Commission recommendation a decade ago to introduce amendments in personal laws and other statutes.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Government to continue credit linked capital subsidy scheme

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy | Planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various initiatives for supporting MSME Sector

Mains level: Facilitating MSMEs in India


News

  • The Central government will continue the “Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Upgradation Scheme” for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) beyond the 12th Plan period for three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

CCLS for Technology

  1. The objective of the Scheme is to facilitate technology up-gradation in MSEs by providing an upfront capital subsidy of 15 per cent (on institutional finance of upto Rs 1 crore availed by them).
  2. This is provided for induction of well-established and improved technology in the specified 51 sub-sectors/products approved.
  3. The major objective is to upgrade their plant & machinery with state-of-the-art technology, with or without expansion.
  4. The Scheme is a demand driven one without any upper limit on overall annual spending on the subsidy disbursal.

Nature of assistance

  • The revised scheme aims at facilitating technology up-gradation by providing 15% up front capital subsidy to MSEs, including tiny, khadi, village and coir industrial units, on institutional finance availed by them.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[pib] Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan (PM- SYM)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Shram- Yogi Maandhan Yojana

Mains level: Pension Scheme for Unorganised sector workers


News

  • The PM Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan (PM-SYM)will be rolled out by the Ministry of Labour and Employment from. 15th Feb, 2019.

PM Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan (PM-SYM) 

  1. PM-SYM will be a Central Sector Scheme administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India and CSCs.
  2. LIC will be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.
  3. The amount collected under PM-SYM pension scheme shall be invested as per the investment pattern specified by GoI.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. The unorganised workers mostly engaged as home based workers, street vendors, mid-day meal workers, head loaders, brick kiln workers, cobblers, rag pickers, domestic workers, washer men, rickshaw pullers, landless labourers, etc. whose monthly income is Rs 15,000/ per month or less and belong to the entry age group of 18-40 years are eligible for the scheme.
  2. They should not be covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
  3. Further, he/she should not be an income tax payer.

Salient Features of PM-SYM

Pension Pay out

  1. Once the beneficiary joins the scheme at the entry age of 18-40 years, the beneficiary has to contribute till 60 years of age.
  2. On attaining the age of 60 years, the subscriber will get the assured monthly pension of Rs.3000/- with benefit of family pension, as the case may be.

Family Pension

  • During the receipt of pension, if the subscriber dies, the spouse of the beneficiary shall be entitled to receive 50% of the pension received by the beneficiary as family pension.
  • Family pension is applicable only to spouse.

Contribution by the Subscriber

  • The subscriber’s contributions to PM-SYM shall be made through ‘auto-debit’ facility from his/ her savings bank account/ Jan- Dhan account.
  • The subscriber is required to contribute the prescribed contribution amount from the age of joining PM-SYM till the age of 60 years.

Matching contribution by the Central Government  

  • PM-SYM is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme on a 50:50 basis where prescribed age-specific contribution shall be made by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government.
  • For example, if a person enters the scheme at an age of 29 years, he is required to contribute Rs 100/ – per month till the age of 60 years.
  • An equal amount of Rs 100/- will be contributed by the Central Government.

Enrolment Process

  • The enrolment will be carried out by all the Community Service Centers (CSCs).
  • The subscriber will be required to have a mobile phone, savings bank account and Aadhaar number.
  • The eligible subscriber may visit the nearest CSCs and get enrolled for PM-SYM using Aadhaar number and savings bank account/ Jan-Dhan account number on self-certification basis.

Facilitation Centres

  • All the branch offices of LIC, the offices of ESIC/EPFO and all Labour offices of Central and State Governments will facilitate the unorganised workers about the Scheme.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] A single-party majority govt was the unique factor of the 16th Lok Sabha

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of working of 16th Lok Sabha.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the performance of 16th Lok Sabha, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The 16th Lok Sabha, which adjourned on 13th Feb 2019, was notable for the fact that it saw a single party take majority in the House.

Background

  • A single-party majority government was in office for the first time in 30 years—the key factor lending uniqueness to this Lok Sabha.
  • It came after a long line of coalitions between 1989 and 2014.
  • The 16th Lok Sabha saw a single party getting a majority with 282 seats and with the support of allies that number going up to more than 300.

In terms of performance, 16th Lok Sabha did not distinguish itself much

  • There were legislation like the goods and services tax (GST) Bill which were passed.
  • The high point of this Lok Sabha was the midnight session of Parliament to mark the coming into effect of GST.
  • There was also the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that will be counted among major Bills passed by this Lok Sabha.
  • These will be seen as useful in terms of setting the economy on a sound track.
  • However, if one were to look at legislation passed in terms of the prime minister’s slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” or inclusive development, the record of this Lok Sabha has been disappointing.
  • There have been too few laws passed that make an impact such as constitutional amendments or in terms of legislation on social issues.

Very few legislations for inclusive development

  • It is disappointment to thinking people that at the end of five years the government is not any closer to the dream of inclusive development.
  • However, two legislations—the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill or triple talaq Bill and the Bill to provide 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of society—could come into the above category of inclusive.
  • But experts would contend that these are rather controversial.
  • The former deals with a civil issue which is marriage and divorce and divorcing ones’s wife by uttering talaq thrice has been made a criminal offence.
  • In the case of the latter, reservations were brought in to remove social backwardness in society, or empowering those kept out of the power system.
  • With the 10% reservation for economically backward sections of society, the government has moved away from the fundamental precept for which reservations were conceived in the first place.

Trend of disruption of house continued

  • Another thing we saw in this Lok Sabha is the trend of disruptions that has continued from the past few Lok Sabha sessions.
  • In fact, it was seen to have become worse in the 16th Lok Sabha.
  • Some sessions of the current Lok Sabha were completely lost to disruptions.
  • Last year’s budget was passed without any discussion.
  • Usually the finance Bill is something on which there is debate and discussion. Members suggest or move amendments.
  • But last year, the budget was not subject to scrutiny.

No dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition

  • The responsibility of ensuring that the House runs and business is conducted rests on the ruling party.
  • Unfortunately, in this Lok Sabha, there was no dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
  • We have seen leaders in the past like Indira Gandhi, who had scant respect for the opposition, reach out to them to ensure the House runs smoothly.
  • There would be a dialogue with the opposition and, as a result, there would be cooperation on important legislation getting passed.
  • The opposition parties would be given time to speak.
  • The opposition, too, would do their research, and put the government on the mat.

Conclusion

  • In the current Lok Sabha, there is an impression of a complete breakdown of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
  • There is an impression that the government does not want debate or discussion.
  • The ruling party has to be sensitive to the grievances of the opposition.

Back2Basics

Adjournment: An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks. In this case, the time of reassembly is specified. An adjournment only terminates a sitting and not a session of the House. The power of adjournment lies with the presiding officer of the House.

Adjournment Sine Die: Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment sine die. The power of adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.

Prorogation: Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution. Prorogation terminates both the sitting and session of the House. Usually, within a few days after the House is adjourned sine die by the presiding officer, the President issues a notification for the prorogation of the session. However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.

Dissolution: A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House, and a new House is constituted after general elections are held.  Rajya Sabha, being a permanent House, is not subject to dissolution. Only the Lok Sabha is subject to dissolution.

Note: When the Lok Sabha is dissolved, all business including bills, motions, resolutions, notices, petitions and so on pending before it or its committees lapse.

Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Exam and Peace

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Education system in India.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues with the education system in India, in a brief manner.


Context

  • As the board examinations approach, the dialectic of “success” and “failure” will begin to haunt young learners and their anxiety-ridden parents.

About

  • The pattern of education we have normalised is inherently pathological.
  • The creation of a violent/hierarchical/schooled consciousness seems to be its latent function.
  • Even though an empathic look at the educational ideals of Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and J Krishnamurti would suggest that there is no dearth of critical and creative thinking on liberating pedagogy.
  • However, we dislike experimentation and new possibilities, and make a superficial distinction between “pragmatism” and “idealism”.

Glorifying the success stories, stigma of “failure”

  • People have become used to the routinisation of the practice of glorifying the “success stories” of the “toppers”.
  • And at the same time, inviting the psychiatrists on television channels to reflect on the “suicide narratives” of those who could not bear the stigma of “failure”.

Meanwhile, everything would function as usual

  • the practice of “black education” would flourish in coaching centres,
  • the publishers of “guide books” would make a lot of money, and
  • school principals heavily burdened with the “ranking” of their schools would alert insecure parents of “problematic” children that in the age of inflated “cut off points” for admission in “branded” colleges, the future is bleak without 99 per cent marks in some subjects.

Why is it so?

There are three reasons:

  1. Here is a system that closes the mind of the young learner, and abhors the desirability of making meaningful choices relating to academic quest and vocation.
  • How are choices possible if schools have already hierarchised knowledge traditions i.e. Science or economics for the “intelligent” ones, and humanities for the “leftovers”.
  • Or does the child ever get the space to contemplate on her own inclinations and aptitudes at a time when peer pressure negates self-reflection and generates a crowd mentality.
  • Or when struggling parents have already decided that she has to pass through the most travelled “Aakash/Fitjee/IIT” highway, and all other paths are “risky” and “impractical”.

Strange classification of academic disciplines

  • Moreover, we have promoted a strange classification of academic disciplines.
  • It is impossible for one to opt for, say, Physics, History and Music.
  • It is taken for granted that if you have interest in literature, you cannot be equally inclined towards statistics.
  • In other words, we decide the fate of our children so early.
  • It is not surprisingly then, schooling prepares the ground for an alienated existence.

2. Here is a system obsessed with the quantification of knowledge and evaluation.

  • With the burden of information, examinations as ceremonies of power, and a reckless process of measuring even one’s “happiness” and “moral quotient”, schools have robbed the practice of education of the ecstasy of social awakening, scientific reasoning and poetic imagination.

Children as “exam warriors”

  • A careful look at weekly tests, classroom transactions and summer projects would suggest that the system asks a young child to become as an “exam-warrior”.
  • It is devoid of joy and humour, and creative play and aesthetic celebration.
  • While the “successful warriors” join the IITs and colleges like LSR, Presidency and Stephen’s, those who are not so lucky would be compelled to realise that it is painful to be young, wounded and stigmatised.
  • There is no peace in this system, even if schools hire counsellors, invite motivational speakers, and ask children to read self-help books in their “relaxed” times.

3. “Success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life

  • “Success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life, and the virtues of the doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” are celebrated with all sorts of media simulations.
  • Education becomes merely a “performance”, a packaged good for sale.
  • A teacher becomes merely a “subject expert” or a “skill-provider”.
  • There is no sunset that Jidu Krishnamurti wanted children to look at; and there is no union of the “physical, vital, mental and psychic” that Sri Aurobindo imagined.
  • What prevails is only a standardised scale of measurement intoxicated with the urge to eliminate innumerable young minds and throw them into the dustbin of a “meritocratic” universe.
  • And our exam-centric education sanctifies it.

Conclusion

  • As adults, teachers and policy-makers have betrayed the children of this nation.
  • It is time to rectify the Education system of India so that the country can reap the full potential of its demographic dividend.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Every drop matters

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of regulatory framework related to blood in India.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues in the regulatory framework of blood donation in India and why it must be reformed to ensure access to safe and sufficient blood, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The regulatory framework in India must be reformed to ensure access to safe and sufficient blood

Background

  • A ready supply of safe blood in sufficient quantities is a vital component of modern health care.
  • In 2015-16, India was 1.1 million units short of its blood requirements.
  • Here too, there were considerable regional disparities, with 81 districts in the country not having a blood bank at all.
  • In 2016, a hospital in Chhattisgarh turned away a woman in dire need of blood as it was unavailable.
  • She died on the way to the nearest blood bank which was several hours away.
  • Yet, in April 2017, it was reported that blood banks in India had in the last five years discarded a total of 2.8 million units of expired, unused blood (more than 6 lakh litres).

Issue

Vigil after collection

  • To prevent transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs), collected blood needs to be safe as well.
  • Due to practical constraints, tests are only conducted post-collection.
  • Thus blood donor selection relies on donors filling in health questionnaires truthfully.
  • The collected blood is tested for certain TTIs such as HIV and if the blood tests positive, it has to be discarded.
  • However, these tests are not fool-proof as there is a window period after a person first becomes infected with a virus during which the infection may not be detectable.
  • This makes it crucial to minimise the risk in the first instance of collection.

Professional donors

  • Collecting healthy blood will also result in less blood being discarded later.
  • Blood that is donated voluntarily and without remuneration is considered to be the safest.
  • Unfortunately, professional donors (who accept remuneration) and replacement donation (which is not voluntary) are both common in India.
  • In the case of professional donors there is a higher chance of there being TTIs in their blood, as these donors may not provide full disclosure.

Replacement donation

  • In the case of replacement donation, relatives of patients in need of blood are asked by hospitals to arrange for the same expeditiously.
  • This blood is not used for the patient herself, but is intended as a replacement for the blood that is actually used.
  • In this way, hospitals shift the burden of maintaining their blood bank stock to the patient and her family.
  • Here again, there could be a higher chance of TTI’s because replacement donors, being under pressure, may be less truthful about diseases.

Scattered laws, policies and guidelines

  • The regulatory framework which governs the blood transfusion infrastructure in India is scattered across different laws, policies, guidelines and authorities.
  • Blood is considered to be a ‘drug’ under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • Therefore, just like any other manufacturer or storer of drugs, blood banks need to be licensed by the Drug Controller-General of India (DCGI).
  • For this, they need to meet a series of requirements with respect to the collection, storage, processing and distribution of blood, as specified under the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • Blood banks are inspected by drug inspectors who are expected to check not only the premises and equipment but also various quality and medical aspects such as processing and testing facilities.
  • Their findings lead to the issuance, suspension or cancellation of a licence.

Blood Transfusion Councils

  • In 1996, the Supreme Court directed the government to establish the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) and State Blood Transfusion Councils (SBTCs).
  • The NBTC functions as the apex policy-formulating and expert body for blood transfusion services and includes representation from blood banks.
  • However, it lacks statutory backing (unlike the DCGI), and as such, the standards and requirements recommended by it are only in the form of guidelines.
  • This gives rise to a peculiar situation — the expert blood transfusion body can only issue non-binding guidelines, whereas the general pharmaceutical regulator has the power to license blood banks.
  • This regulatory dissonance exacerbates the serious issues on the ground and results in poor coordination and monitoring.

Poor policies and regulations of Drug Controller-General of India

  • The present scenario under the DCGI is far from desirable, especially given how regulating blood involves distinct considerations when compared to most commercial drugs.
  • It is especially incongruous given the existence of expert bodies such as the NBTC and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), which are more naturally suited for this role.
  • The DCGI does not include any experts in the field of blood transfusion, and drug inspectors do not undergo any special training for inspecting blood banks.

Towards a solution

  • In order to ensure the involvement of technical experts who can complement the DCGI, the rules should be amended to involve the NBTC and SBTCs in the licensing process.
  • Given the wide range of responsibilities the DCGI has to handle, its licensing role with respect to blood banks can even be delegated to the NBTC under the rules.
  • This would go a long way towards ensuring that the regulatory scheme is up to date and accommodates medical and technological advances.

Way Forward

  • Despite a 2017 amendment to the rules which enabled transfer of blood between blood banks, the overall system is still not sufficiently integrated.
  • A collaborative regulator can take the lead more effectively in facilitating coordination, planning and management.
  • This may reduce the regional disparities in blood supply as well as ensure that the quality of blood does not vary between private, corporate, international, hospital-based, non-governmental organisations and government blood banks.
  • The aim of the National Blood Policy formulated by the government back in 2002 was to “ensure easily accessible and adequate supply of safe and quality blood”.
  • To achieve this goal, India should look to reforming its regulatory approach at the earliest.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Kerala takes the lead in tackling trans fat hazard

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra, Heart Attack Rewind, TFA

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

  • The Kerala state Health Department has drawn up an action plan to generate public awareness on the harmful effects of trans fatty acids (TFA) in commercially available food items.

Plan to phase out TFA

  1. The plan is aimed to encourage the local food industry to meet the current statutory limits set for TFA.
  2. An unhealthy diet with a high TFA content is a significant factor that pushes up metabolic syndrome and the burden of its associated complications amongst Keralites.
  3. The year-long action plan has specific components on building awareness on trans fat amongst food business operators (FBOs) and giving them scientific sessions and training on how they can keep their food TFA-free.
  4. Generating public awareness on the harmful effects of trans fat, especially among schoolchildren, is being given special focus.
  5. Clear timelines are being set as to when each of the components of the plan should be completed and when enforcement should begin.

Focus on low Sodium content food

  1. Salt being a major contributor to hypertension and stroke, the action plan also plans to address the high salt content in processed foods, pickles, papads and condiments by encouraging manufacturers to move to low sodium options.
  2. The pickle industry is in agreement that good hygienic and manufacturing practices and low sodium options can reduce the salt content in their products.

Need for alternatives

  1. The food industry is willing to ditch partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVOs, one of the main sources of TFA in industrially produced food ).
  2. It aims to switch to TFA-free margarine or shortening to produce baked goods.

Support for initiative

  1. The department is being supported in this initiative by Vital Strategies, the nutrition wing of the World Bank, WHO, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
  2. The State Food Safety wing will be in charge of enforcement.
  3. An experts’ group has been constituted for the implementation of the guidelines on TFA and salt reduction.

Back2Basics

Trans Fats

Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.