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[op-ed snap] Limits of class

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 the RTE Amendment Bill.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and challenges in the recently passed RTE amendment bill, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The RTE Amendment Bill, recently passed in Rajya Sabha, has again triggered the periodic debate between anti-detentionists (votaries of No-Detention Policy) and detentionists.
  • The amendment allows states to decide whether to withdraw automatic promotion at the end of 5th and 8th grades, which is the point of contention.

Arguments of Detentionists and Anti-detentionists

(a) Detentionists

  • Detentionists argue that if children know that they will automatically pass, they don’t study, thus learning achievements come down.
  • Since Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is not implemented seriously, if no-detention is practised then certificate of elementary education will certify no learning.

(b) Anti-detentionists

  • Anti-detentionists argue that fear of failure causes stress and trauma and failure demotivates and pushes children out of system.
  • That stigma of failure mainly harms Dalit and tribal children.
  • They also argue that detention will weaken many other provisions of RTE, like admission in age-appropriate class.
  • According to them, “failing children does not make them learn” and that no-detention is claimed to produce improved learning achievements.

Why Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) cannot be implemented?

  • The shortage of teachers and lack of training are cited as the main reasons for failure of the implementation of CCE.
  • Though these claims are true, a fundamental contradiction in the RTE is ignored in this debate.
  • Unless that contradiction is removed, the CCE cannot be implemented in its true spirit.

The case of term “Class” in RTE

  • “Class” is a very important term in the RTE. The norms for teachers, teacher-pupil ratio, infrastructure and elementary education, are all defined in terms of class.
  • “Elementary education,” according to the RTE means the education from first class to eighth class.
  • Regarding the admission of a child above six years, the act demands that “he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age”.
  • The act is aware that such a child may not be at par with other children in the class, implying that class is associated with some standards of learning.
  • The act itself is “to provide for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years”.
  • Reading this together with the definition of elementary education will give the duration of “class” as one year.

From these and other references to “class” in the act, it can be conclusively established that:

  • Duration of study in a class is one year.
  • A class has its specific curriculum in which learning expectations increase as the order of class increases.
  • That the school is organised class-wise.

Promotion to the next class is not a matter of age

  • Though the RTE does not say anything about textbooks, we do know that they are written class-wise.
  • Therefore, promotion to the next class is not a matter of age, but of learning achievements; implying that the very concept of class as used in RTE contains the idea of detention, if need be.
  • With this definition of class and elementary education, the ideas of no-detention and admission in age-appropriate class completely de-emphasise learning expectations.
  • All that remains is eight years in the school, that too if the child is admitted in class one.

Contradictions in “no-detention” policy

  1. For the child admitted in “a class appropriate to age”, all that remains is attaining the age of 14 years. This happens because “no-detention” is introduced in a school system defined in terms of class.
  2. CCE demands that assessment should be continuous and it should feedback into pedagogy to help the child learn better.

CCE is not for promotion or its denial

  • With age-appropriate admission and no-detention, children in any given class are bound to be at different levels of achievement.
  • If the CCE is to help every child learn, then it cannot be based on the same tasks and assessment criteria for the whole class. But that is precisely the demand of class-wise teaching.
  • CCE on the other hand, demands individual attention in assessment and pedagogy.
  • Therefore, the class-wise structure of curriculum and school on one hand, and CCE on the other, pull the system in opposite directions.

Two ways to resolve this contradiction

(a) Accept the true definition of class or grade

 

  • That implies, to complete a defined curriculum in one year, and detention on unsatisfactory completion. This is what the government has done.

 

  • While this is retrograde and hardly improves learning, it resolves the contradiction in the teachers’ minds, and allows them to practice the age old authoritarian rigid system in its true glory.

(b) Working out the implications of a pedagogically sound CCE

The other way is to carefully work out the implications of a pedagogically sound CCE and take on the arduous task to reform the system to implement it.

That would require:

  • defining elementary education in terms of learning standards;
  • organising curriculum as a free-paced learning path, and not boxed into classes;
  • organising schools as ungraded heterogeneous learning groups, composed of children at various levels; and
  • introduce the ideas of self-learning and peer group learning, a necessity to manage a heterogeneous learning group.

Conclusion

  • All this will require systemic reforms and to prepare teachers for this change through massive and serious in-service professional development.
  • Although this is the difficult path, but it does not contain internal contradictions, and may solve the problem of low quality.
No detention policy

[op-ed snap]Diagnosing the job crisis

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:Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the problem of India’s MSME sector, in a brief manner.


Context

  • It has been observed by some experts that the regulatory framework that has choked MSMEs has contributed to the farm crisis and quota demands in India.
  • And that farm loan waivers, migration restrictions and10 per cent economically backward reservation in government jobs does not represent a sustainable approach.

Overhauling India’s MSME sector

  • The only way to create millions of jobs with decent wages is a policy re-imagination of the rights, needs, and treatment of formal MSME entrepreneurs.
  • The average employer in India is not a formal MSME or somebody large like Marico, Lupin or the Tatas, but an informal MSME because the present regulatory framework are not pro-informal sector MSME.
  • Fewer than 2 per cent of our 63 million MSME’s are formal.

Labour market interventions in MSMEs can be by:

  • Taking the long view:a 10-year plan is not 10-one-year plans for formalisation, urbanisation, industrialisation, financialisation and human capital.
  • Recognise progress made:6 million new formal enterprises and 30 million new social security payers in the last three years), and
  • Get bolder with structural interventions that matter most to MSME entrepreneurs.

India’s problem is no longer jobs but wages

  • Creating millions of well-paying jobs needs ending killing of millions of MSMEs (small but formal employers that will grow and pay the wage premium because of enterprise productivity).

Formalisation of MSMEs need

  • lower regulatory framework,
  • labour law rationalisation,
  • e-governance, and
  • education effectiveness
  • all in turn need civil service reform.

Way Forward

  • The only solution to helping farmers is having less of them and making the remaining productive — US farms with more than $1 million in sales are only 6 per cent of farms but produce 66 per cent of output.
  • The need of the hour is to have enough formal MSME employers.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] How India’s economy smoothly navigated troubled waters

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the present situation of Indian economy.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the challenges of Indian Economy and its present situation w.r.t global economic challenges, in a brief manner.


Context

  • According to several economic experts, Indian economy is on a recovery path. However, for several others, the economic outlook is still gloomy.

Positive side of Indian Economy

  • The advance estimates of national income indicate that real gross domestic product (GDP) will grow at 7.2% in FY 2018, up from 6.7% last year.
  • The advance estimates, based on data for the first six months and up to November for some indicators, are a fair assessment of the likely outcome.
  • The earlier projections of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are also all higher than the advance estimates.
  • Hence, barring any major shock in the next 10 weeks, it is quite likely that the year will end with at least 7% growth.
  • This robust growth is also fairly diversified with more than 8% growth in manufacturing and 9% growth or more in electricity and other utilities, construction, and public services.
  • It is particularly encouraging that the growth upturn is being led by the recovery of investment instead of debt-financed consumption as in the recent past.
  • After stagnating for several years, quarterly growth of gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) has been recovering since the second quarter of FY 2017.
  • It is now estimated to grow by 12.2% in real terms in FY 2018 compared to 7.6% in FY 2017.
  • The investment rate, which had declined to 31%, is now estimated to be back up to 33%.
  • Further, implementation of the 2016 Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and progress on resolutions under the National Company Law Tribunal are important reforms.

Low Rate of Inflation: Mixed blessing

  • The consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate is now down to only 2.2% and the wholesale price index (WPI) inflation rate is 3.8%.
  • However, the decline in inflation is mainly on account of the decline in food and fuel prices.
  • Fuel prices are unlikely to harden any time soon, unless events in West Asia deliver a political shock. This has been a great boon for oil importing countries such as India.
  • However, whether the decline in food prices, which implies a shift in the terms of trade against agriculture, is an unmixed blessing in the present context of widespread distress among farmers is a question to be pondered over.
  • Also, core inflation (excluding food and fuel prices) is still close to 6%.
  • This presents a dilemma for monetary policy.
  • RBI’s mandate is to contain the CPI inflation rate at around 4%, but can it ignore the stickiness of core inflation around 6%, especially when central and state government spending is likely to pump-prime demand in the run-up to general elections?

Major deterrent to growth

(a)NPA

  • There is still a long way to go in tackling the problem of stressed assets and high levels of non-performing assets in public sector banks which is a major deterrent to growth.
  • There is also a return to discretionary interventions, demonstrated among other things by the arbitrary raising of tariffs in the last budget.
  • These will adversely impact growth in FY 2019.

(b)Elections

  • In the coming few months, experts are of the view that there’s expected surge in pre-election public spending.
  • Combined with a significant shortfall in tax revenues, especially goods and services tax (GST) revenues, this will lead to several fiscal deficit targets of the central and state governments being breached.
  • On the other hand, the past record of political business cycles suggests that there could be a sharp decline in public spending in the post-election period.
  • These swings in public spending can be destabilizing and adversely affect growth in FY 2019.

 

(c)Challenging External Environment

  • Far more worrying than the above discussed domestic issues is a very challenging external environment.
  • 2018 was the year of great decline. Everything declined: inflation, commodity prices, asset prices, growth.
  • While the decline in inflation is welcome, the decline in growth has now raised fears of deflation in advanced economies.
  • The IMF Data Mapper, which maps growth throughout the world, looks pretty scary.
  • More than half the globe is a dark region shrouded in grey (below 3% growth) or black (negative growth).
  • Soothing shades of green, representing robust growth, are seen only in Asia and a few countries in Africa.
  • Emerging markets and developing countries in Asia grew at 6.5% while sub-Saharan Africa grew at 3.1%.
  • Among major economies, growth declined in 2018 and is expected to decline further in 2019 in the US, European Union, Japan and China.
  • Together, they account for almost two-thirds of the world economy.

Underlying these gloomy numbers is the emergence of multiple risks such as:

  • The trade war between Trump-led US and China;
  • Tensions between US and its European allies, Canada and Mexico;
  • Confrontation in West Asia between the Trump-led coalition of the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the tacit alliance of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Syria.
  • The potential spike in oil prices if that confrontation escalates and financial outflows from emerging markets in response to political uncertainties and rising US interest rates are the other major risks.

Effect on Indian Economy

  • India stands out for sailing smoothly through these troubled waters so far.
  • It remains the fastest growing major economy in the world.
  • However, being well integrated with the world economy, India cannot continue to grow rapidly as global growth declines.
  • The trade deficit, up from 1.7% of GDP in 2016-17 to 3.0% in 2017-18, is projected to rise further to 3.5% in 2018-19, thereby completely offsetting the expansionary impact of the fiscal deficit.
  • The net reduction of nearly $30 billion in foreign exchange reserves since 1 April 2018 is also a consequence of the gloomy global economic environment.

Way Forward

  • These adverse external factors, combined with the domestic challenges mentioned earlier, will pull growth down to less than 7% in FY 2019.
  • It could decline further in the event of a major negative shock such as a failed monsoon or a spike in global geopolitical tensions.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

What is Goa’s ‘Opinion Poll Day’?

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Modern Indian History | Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Goan Asmitai Dis

Mains level: Goan freedom struggle and its consolidation


News

Background

  1. Goa celebrated its 52nd ‘Asmitai Dis’ (Identity Day) or Opinion Poll Day on January 16.
  2. It was on this date in 1967 that Goans voted against merging with Maharashtra and chose to remain a Union Territory.
  3. Though referred to as an ‘opinion poll’, the vote was in fact a plebiscite.

Goan Liberation

  1. Soon after Goa’s liberation from colonial Portuguese rule in 1961, murmurs began of a merger with Maharashtra on grounds of cultural similarity.
  2. The argument was that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi and not an independent language.
  3. With factions who wanted a merger with Maharashtra, a plebiscite was held.
  4. On January 16, 1967, Goans voted against merging with Maharashtra and chose to remain a Union Territory.

Row for Plebiscite

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru had promised that Goa would get to decide its own future, but he had passed away in May 1964.
  2. Delegations from both sides met PM Shastri in New Delhi, but Shastri himself passed away in Tashkent in January 1966, before a decision could be made.
  3. In May 1966, Goan protagonists succeeded in convincing new PM Indira Gandhi that Assembly elections could not be a referendum on the merger question and that an ‘opinion poll’ was necessary.

Passing the Opinion Poll Act

  1. In December 1966, Parliament passed the Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll Act), 1966.
  2. It aimed to provide for the taking of an opinion poll to ascertain the wishes of the electors of Goa, Daman and Diu with regard to the future status thereof and for matters connected therewith.
  3. On voting day, voters were asked to put a tick against the ‘rose’ symbol if they were in favour of a merger, and a tick against the ‘two leaves’ symbol if they were not in favour.

Goa saves itself from merger

  1. Poll was held on January 16, 1967 and Goa stood as independent UT.
  2. Soon afterward began demands for statehood for Goa; however, it was only on May 30, 1987, that Goa became India’s 25th state. Daman and Diu continue to be Union Territories.
  3. Konkani was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution on August 20, 1992 (71st Amendment).
  4. Interestingly though, until 2018, the state government did not officially celebrate Opinion Poll Day.

Back2Basics

Referendum

  • Referendum is a process by which a government refers any issue of public importance including a constitutional amendment and right to self determination to the people for the approval by popular vote.

Plebiscite

  • It is a kind of referendum held by the government on the strength of the right to self determination enjoyed by the section of people.
  • The outcome of Plebiscite may or may not be legally binding on the government.
  • Since it has the potential to disturb the territorial integrity of a country.
History- Important places, persons in news

Renewable energy in India: Why rooftop remains the most untapped solar source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Benefits of Solar Rooftops

Mains level: SRTs as an alternative to DISCOM power


News

Background

  1. Most developed economies started their solar programmes by targeting household rooftops; as a result, they now have a sizable share of installations in the residential rooftop segment.
  2. China and India, on the other hand, have used large-scale solar installations in an effort to quickly achieve scale and simultaneously push down costs.
  3. In the case of India, this focus on large utility-scale solar seems to have become an unintended obstruction in the development of the rooftop segment.

Tapping the Rooftop potential

  1. India, though, does have an ambitious plan for solar rooftop or SRT, as it is called: a target of 40 gigawatts (GW) capacity by 2022.
  2. But so far, the achievement has fallen short of the goal.
  3. According to the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), only 2,158 megawatt (MW) of SRT systems had been installed in the country till December 2018.

Household use is far less

  1. The shortfall in capacity is compounded by the fact that a large proportion—70 per cent—of the installed rooftop systems is for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers.
  2. Residential consumers account for less than 20 per cent of the total installed capacity.
  3. There are clear economic considerations behind industrial and commercial consumers’ preference for rooftop systems.
  4. Solar rooftop power is cheaper than grid-supplied electricity.
  5. These consumers have the financial resources to make the necessary investments, which are sizable, to install SRT systems.

The RESCO Model

  1. The commercial users also have access to the Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO) model.
  2. It is a model in which developers install the system on the consumers’ premises and sign a long-term contract to sell them electricity, under which they do not need to make any investments.

Benefits of SRTs

  1. Distributed solar rooftop systems, installed on individual residences, offer many advantages.
  2. They help minimize transmission and distribution losses, as the generated power is consumed locally.
  3. In large cities, they can act as a back-up, replacing polluting diesel generator sets.
  4. Solar rooftop can be harnessed for demand-side management (for example, time-of-day pricing to match household demand with solar generation).
  5. With falling solar prices and steadily increasing tariffs of distribution companies (discoms), SRT systems are being seen as financially attractive.
  6. SRT systems can offer reduced power bills for households; the gains may increase as tariffs are likely to keep going up.
  7. They provide environmentally friendly, inexpensive back-up supply of power (compared to DG sets), a big advantage, given the persistent supply interruptions in most places.
  8. They can result in lower transmission and distribution losses and improved grid management, since the generation is close to the point of consumption.

Problem of Finance

  1. Instead of these much needed policy initiatives and administrative interventions, the government has largely relied on subsidies to drive SRT installation.
  2. Most prospective customers either do not have the savings to cover the upfront costs, or are simply unwilling to invest, given the relatively large amount.
  3. Also, most customers do not have access to bank financing.
  4. Loans need to be made available, which requires significant capacity building of retail bank branches.

Various Policy Initiatives

  1. In recent years, the government has taken steps to improve the availability of loans for SRT projects.
  2. The RBI has identified solar rooftop as a priority sector for lending.
  3. Eight public sector banks have included SRT systems under their housing or housing improvement loans.
  4. Multilateral banks are providing concessional loans against sovereign guarantee to public sector banks to support subsidized lending to the segment.

Way Forward

  1. It is clear that SRT systems provide multiple benefits—to households, to the grid and even to discoms; promoting them, therefore, is a desirable policy goal.
  2. Solar rooftops, however, also face several challenges, as indicated in the preceding section: lacklustre growth, little consumer awareness, lack of innovative government policies or attention, bureaucratic hassles, and limited support from discoms.
  3. Sustained and broad-based efforts are required to promote SRTs.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Great Indian Bustard may be extinct soon

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GIB and its habitat

Mains level: Conservation of Great Indian Bustard


News

Only 50 Great Indian Bustards left in the wild

  1. The GIB’s last remnant wild population of about 50 in Jaisalmer district accounts for 95% of its total world population.
  2. No progress has been made on the proposal for establishing a captive breeding centre at Sorsan in Kota district and a hatchery in Jaisalmer for conservation of the State bird of Rajasthan.

Great Indian Bustard

  1. The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height.
  2. It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
  3. For long, conservationists have been demanding to secure this population, warning that the bird might get extinct in the coming decades.
  4. It would become the first mega species to disappear from India after Cheetah in recent times.
  5. Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
  6. However, with rampant hunting and declining grasslands, their population dwindled.
  7. In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Protection Measures:

  • Birdlife International uplisted this species from Endangered to Critically Endangered (2011)
  • Protection under CITES Appendix I
  • Protection under Schedule I Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002
  • Project Great Indian Bustard (Rajasthan):  aims at identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project in Tripura

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: SCATFORM Project, JICA

Mains level:  SCATFORM Project


News

  • Tripura has launched a project for Sustainable Catchment Forest Management at Hatipara in West Tripura.

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project

  1. The project is jointly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Government of India.
  2. It aims to improve quality of forest in the catchment area by sustainable forest management, soil and moisture conservation and livelihood development.
  3. The Tripura Forest Department (TFD) is the Executing Agency of the Project.
  4. Eighty per cent of the project would be funded by JICA while Government of India would fund 20 per cent of the project value.

Details

  1. The SCATFORM project has got provisions to built 1,447 check dams in hilly terrains of Tripura.
  2. This new project has got many components including fisheries, agriculture, forest, tourism etc.
  3. 1,447 check dams would be constructed in hilly terrains of the state to make sure that there is no chance of a flood in the plains.
  4. The water this conserved would be used for agricultural purposes and for fisheries and poultry farming (ducks).

About JICA

  1. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is established by a specific law as an incorporated administrative institution under the Government of Japan.
  2. It aims to promote international cooperation as the sole Japanese governmental agency in charge of ODA implementation.
  3. JICA is the world’s largest bilateral donor agency.
  4. JICA works as a bridge between Japan and emerging countries, and provides assistance in the form of loans, grants and technical cooperation, so that the emerging countries can strengthen their capabilities.
  5. JICA funded projects became operational in Tripura in 2007 with an initial earmarked fund of Rs. 4 crores.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Cabinet nod to integrated e-filing and centralised processing centre

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPC-ITR 2.0

Mains level: IT returns facilitation through technology measures


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved corpus sum for integrated e-filing and centralised processing centre-2.0, a Project-of the Income Tax Department.

CPC-ITR 2.0

  1. The broad objectives of the project include a faster and accurate outcome for the taxpayer, first-time-right approach, enhancing the user experience at all stages, and improving taxpayer awareness and education through continuous engagement.
  2. It various functionalities such as pre-filling of ITR and acceptance by taxpayer as a means to improve accuracy and to reduce refund/processing turnaround time drastically.
  3. The decision will ensure horizontal equity by processing returns filed by all categories of taxpayers across the country in a consistent, uniform, rule-driven, identity blind manner.
  4. This will assure fairness in tax treatment to every taxpayer irrespective of their status.

Utility of the System

  1. The proposal ensures the continuation of the IT Department’s goal towards business transformation through technology.
  2. The E-filing and CPC projects have enabled end to end automation of all processes within the Department using various innovative methods to provide taxpayer services and to promote voluntary compliance.
  3. At present, it takes around 63 days to deal with income tax return process but this will be completed just in one day after the success of the ‘integration project’.
  4. Through digital media platform, we can provide rapid facilities to taxpayers, be it real-time processing of income tax returns, ease in filing accurate returns, resolve grievances of taxpayers and spread awareness.
Tax Reforms