February 2019
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[op-ed snap] Where are the education reforms?

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: Nothing Much

Mains level: Need for reforms in India’s tertiary education sector


NEWS

CONTEXT

From the Central Advisory Board of Education (in 2005) to industry (the 2003 Ambani-Birla report on education) and the NITI Aayog (in 2017), many have argued for granting greater autonomy to higher education institutes and universities, especially the top-rung ones.

Government’s reluctance in relinquishing the control

  • The IIM example should serve as a strong example of the government’s reluctance to give up control.
  • Though the government passed the IIM Act in 2017 to give the premier management education institutions unprecedented autonomy, it never freed them of the shackle of reservations.
  • the government last year reportedly wanted to amend the 2017 Act to force the IIMs to implement virtual fee caps—ironically, “without flouting the autonomous spirit of the IIM Act”.
  • this was despite the IIM Act itself having provisions placing reasonable restrictions on the IIMs’ use of surplus revenue.
  • government also wanted the IIMs to increase their intake, which, surely would have come at the cost of student-quality that is maintained through the rigorous admission procedure.
  • when it should be funding the creation of more IIM-like institutions, it would rather have the existing institutions dilute their standards.

Non-implementation of educational reforms

  • The New Education Policy—that is expected to outline the overall reforms vision for the education sector—is now stale business.
  • Two committees have submitted reports, and yet none have seen the light of day.
  • Similarly, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), that was supposed to replace the inefficient UGC regime, is nowhere on the horizon.
  • The government had announced the Diksha initiative to facilitate the training of untrained school teachers; but, as an analysis of Budget numbers over the years, published in IndiaSpend, pointed out recently, the allocation for teachers’ training is a fraction of what it was a few years ago.
  • The Higher Education Funding Agency, that was supposed to finance infrastructure development—from an overall corpus of `1 lakh crore—at “all educational institutions under higher education, school education and institutions under ministry of health which is referred by the concerned ministry” under RISE 2022 had managed to approve projects worth only `10,000 crore by November last year, and that too only exclusively to top-billed institutions.

Way Forward

Our goal to be a world power, the resolving and restructuring of higher education is must, then only we will be able to harness the human potential and resources of nation to the fullest and channelize it for the growth of the
nation.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[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