November 2019
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Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[oped of the day] Education, ours and theirsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Nationalisation of Education


Context

Union Home Minister at a recent seminar in Banaras Hindu University on the 5th-century emperor, Skandagupta, declared: “Putting together our history, embellishing it and rewriting it is the responsibility of the country, its people and historians”. It suggests that there are different ways to write the history of India and that professional historians had not done their job properly so far.

Sangh – History

    • Sangh Parivar has shown interest in the teaching of history. This is not only because it contributes to defining the national identity, but also because the Parivar believes the version of the past portrayed by secularists does not reflect reality.
    • In 2014, the RSS formed a committee, the Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Aayog, to “Indianise” the education system. It was headed by Dinanath Batra, who had specialized in rewriting Indian history according to the canons of Hindu nationalism. 
    • In 2010, he had filed a civil suit to ban Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus, which he felt gave Hinduism a bad image. 
    • Batra also pressured the University of Delhi to remove from its syllabus an essay by A K Ramanujan — Three Hundred Ramayanas — that contradicted the Hindu nationalist idea that there was a single version of the epic.
    • Leading Hindu nationalist historian, Y Sudershan Rao was appointed in 2014 to head the Indian Council of Historical Research. 

Contentious ideas

    • In the book, The Enemies of Indianisation: The Children of Marx, Macaulay, and Madrasa, he listed 41 major flaws. These reflect the historic leanings of the Hindu nationalists.
    • Aryans – the idea that the Aryans came from another part of the world in ancient times because the Hindus could only be sons of the soil.
    • Ancient India – all the glories attributed to ancient India in its epic poems are an accurate reflection of historical reality
    • Muslim invaders – the Muslim invasions opened the darkest chapter in Indian history, starting with the destruction of Nalanda University in the 12th century up until the end of the Mughal empire.
    • Freedom struggle – the standard account of the freedom movement ascribes too much importance to Gandhi and Nehru to the detriment of Hindu nationalist heroes. 
    • These flaws have been attributed to the secularist or Westernised nature of history textbook authors.

History – mythology

    • Some Sangh thinkers also view history and mythology as being the same thing.
    • They believe that historiographic research should focus on identifying the locations where the “events” described in the epics took place. 
    • This mixing up of history and mythology has become common since 2014.
    • The textbooks put out by the NCERT which can be used in schools affiliated with the CBSE have been extensively rewritten. 
    • According to The Indian Express, between 2014 and 2018 1,334 changes were made to 182 textbooks put out by the NCERT between 2005 and 2009.

At the state level

    • The scale on which Hindu nationalists are rewriting history can be most clearly gauged at the state government level. 
    • Rajasthan – revision of the history curriculum and changing of narratives formed an integral part of policy at the highest levels of government. 
    • The focus of teaching was to be on imparting nationalism and textbooks “would remove the chapters on the greatness of Akbar and include the heroics of Maharana Pratap”. 
    • This led to a process of regionalizing the history of the nation, wherein Pratap would become the central protagonist of the Medieval period. 
    • The Battle of Haldighati fought between Pratap and Akbar was altered to portray a victory for Pratap.
    • Nationalism became the cornerstone of the new Rajasthan history textbooks. This was depicted through a hagiographical account of Hindu rulers, which focused on their early lives, territorial exploits, and differences in personal demeanor from their Muslim enemies.

Freedom struggle

    • Besides, these textbooks revisited the prioritization of individuals associated with the freedom struggle. 
    • The first prime minister of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru, has been omitted from the class 8 textbook, while B R Ambedkar is classified as a ‘Hindu social reformer’ to sanitize his fight against caste. 
    • The textbooks argue that Ambedkar’s efforts were similar to those of Dayanand Saraswati, Mahatma Gandhi and RSS founder K B Hedgewar. 
    • Ambedkar’s more radical contributions such as the Mahad Satyagraha, or his conversion to Buddhism are omitted altogether.
    • The most celebrated “freedom fighter” is Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the founder of the Hindutva ideology. He figures in every history textbook from class 8 to 12 as someone “whose contribution to the cause of independence cannot be described in words”. 

Conclusion

    • For the BJP, the teaching of history is linked to the prioritization of certain communities and individuals in order to foster a particular spirit of nationalism among school students. 
    • In the states, the party has been most effective in transmitting its version of Indian history to the next generation of learners.
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[op-ed snap] India’s export woesop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Falling Indian exports


Context

India’s October trade figures deepen concerns about the health of our export sector. 

Figures

    • Merchandise exports fell 1.1% from a year earlier to $26.4 billion last month. 
    • Though it is smaller than September’s 6.6% decline, it’s still bad news. 
    • Exports have been stuck in negative territory for three months in a row. 
    • The good news is the sharp decline in the trade deficit to $11 billion in October from $18 billion a year earlier. 
    • This was due to a 16.3% decline in imports, to $37.4 billion.

Reasons for poor export growth

    • GST – Exporters had to suffer inordinate delays in the refunds due to them under the goods and services tax regime. 
    • RCEP – India’s decision to walk out of the RCEP, which will make access to a vast, rapidly-growing market difficult for them. 
    • Bilateral trade – bilateral trade deals are far not encouraging. India’s trade differences with the US are making matters worse. 

To revive exports

    • Policy – India has to reshape its policy mix in various ways. 
    • Manufacturing – Local manufacturers need to be competitive globally. 
    • Tax – recent reduction in corporate tax is a good move on the financial front. 
    • Tariff reduction – exposure to foreign competition requires lowering import tariffs, not raising them. 
    • Export-oriented reforms – needs to be undertaken.

Conclusion

But for these steps, India risks missing the opportunity to grab the global value chains disrupted by the US-China trade war.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI)Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI)

Mains level : Read the attached story



  • The India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI) launched in four districts of the State has been able to control hypertension in about 35% of the people covered under the initiative.

What is Hypertension?

  • Hypertension (HTN or HT), also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.
  • Usually hypertension is defined as blood pressure above 140/90, and is considered severe if the pressure is above 180/120.
  • High BP often has no symptoms. Over time, if untreated, it can cause health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
  • Eating a healthier diet with less salt, exercising regularly and taking medication can help lower blood pressure.

About IHCI

  • The IHCI was launched in Kerala in April 2018 as a multi-partner five-year initiative with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Indian Council of Medical Research, State government, and WHO India.
  • The IHCI was also launched in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Punjab.
  • The results from Kerala had been the most impressive so far because of the infrastructure strength of non-communicable disease clinics across the State.
  • Each patient was given a treatment book and the health card was kept at the hospital.
  • Every month there was a follow-up on the patient by the hospital over the phone or by visit of an Accredited Social Work Activist.
  • With the success of the initiative, the government is considering replicating it in other districts too.

Success of the move

  • A total of 2.23 lakh people — 72,460 in Thiruvananthapuram, 74,909 in Thrissur, 58,818 in Kannur, and 19,009 in Wayanad — were registered for the IHCI.
  • Of 4,530 patients among them, 40% in Thiruvananthapuram, 32% in Thrissur, 37% in Kannur and 24% in Wayanad could better control their health parameters.
  • This study group’s parameters for blood pressure (BP) control were followed up from July to September 2019.

Marked change

  • This is a marked change from the average of 13% of people having control of hypertensive parameters recorded in non-communicable disease (NCD) clinics in the State (data inferred from NCD clinics).
  • In the IHCI study group, those with uncontrolled blood pressure in these districts were put at 43%, 37%, 38% and 27%.
  • In the group, 15%, 31%, 25%, and 49% had also defaulted because of various reasons – change of address, change in treatment system or others.
Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Fraught courseop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Verdicts on religious issues - Constitutional Morality


Context

A five-judge constitution bench has deferred its decision on the review of the 2018 Sabarimala verdict until a larger bench examines a range of broader issues.

Complications with a larger bench

    • The parameters of review usually permit a narrow reconsideration in case of an error in the verdict or discovery of new evidence. 
    • Apprehensions that the majority judgment could open up new questions go well beyond technicalities. 
    • The court has clubbed together with the question of the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple with others — the entry of Muslim women in the dargah/mosque and of Parsi women married to non-Parsis to the holy fireplace of an Agyari. 
    • Also whether female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community constitutes that religion’s essential practice. 
    • It has put together issues that may not belong in the same frame.

Religion vs Fundamental Rights – Constitutional Morality

    • The-seven-judge bench has been asked to find a balance between the right to freedom of religion and other constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
    • It is expected to define “essential religious practice” and “constitutional morality”. 
    • In a large and diverse democracy, spelling out judicial doctrines on these matters removes essential ambiguities. 
    • It also narrows the room for maneuver for them and eventually for justice. 
    • Constitutional morality has been used to emancipatory effect in past cases by the apex court in striking down the restrictions on women of a certain age in the 2018 Sabarimala decision. In another verdict in the same year on decriminalising homosexuality. 
    • The court upheld ideas of freedom and equality and the constitutional promise of a pluralistic and inclusive society while redressing an injustice. 
    • In defining constitutional morality, the court will have to go into the question of its limits and boundaries, its clash with religious beliefs and faith and what is essential to them. 
    • It could not only be tying its own hands for the future but also circumscribing individual freedoms and treading into the clergy’s domain.

Conclusion

    • The court has been inconsistent in applying the essential religious practice doctrine that it evolved in the 1950s. 
    • The court’s push for expanding its remit and for clarity on complex questions is misguided and counterproductive. 
    • In some cases, it is okay to keep to the narrow path, take it case by case.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate ChangeIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the report

Mains level : Childrens susceptiblity to climate change in India


Climate change is already damaging the health of the world’s children and is set to shape the well-being of an entire generation according to a major new report published in The Lancet.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change

  • The report is a comprehensive yearly analysis tracking progress across 41 key indicators, demonstrating what action to meet Paris Agreement targets — or business as usual — means for human health.
  • The project is collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions, including the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, University College London, and the Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Highlights of the report

  • The report notes that as temperatures rise, infants will bear the greatest burden of malnutrition and rising food prices — average yield potential of maize and rice has declined almost 2% in India since the 1960s, with malnutrition already responsible for two-thirds of under-5 deaths.
  • Also, children will suffer most from the rise in infectious diseases — with climatic suitability for the Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera rising 3% a year in India since the early 1980s, the study warns.
  • Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm.

A note of caution

  • This report shows that the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate.
  • If the world follows a business-as-usual pathway, with high carbon emissions and climate change continuing at the current rate, a child born today will face a world on average over 4˚C warmer by their 71st birthday, threatening their health at every stage of their lives.
  • Nothing short of a 7.4% year-on-year cut in fossil CO2 emissions from 2019 to 2050 will limit global warming to the more ambitious goal of 1.5°C.

Supreme Court strikes down rules on tribunal postingsSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various tribunals

Mains level : Not Much


A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down in entirety Rules framed by the government under the Finance Act of 2017 to alter the appointments to 19 key judicial tribunals, including the Central Administrative Tribunal.

Why it was struck down?

  • The Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 suffered from excessive delegation of legislative functions.
  • It was under Section 184 that the 2017 Rules regarding appointment of tribunals were framed.
  • One of the major grounds of challenge to the Finance Act was on the ground that the same was passed as a Money Bill.
  • It was the petitioners’ case that the passage of the Finance Act in the form of a Money Bill’ was entirely inappropriate and amounted to a fraud on the Constitution.
  • The petitions had stated that the provisions of Finance Act 2017 affected the powers and structures of various judicial tribunals such as National Green Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, National Company Law Tribunal and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

What did the court ruled?

  • The court ordered the Centre to re-formulate the Rules within six months strictly in conformity with the principles delineated by the Supreme Court.
  • The new set of Rules to be formulated by the Central Government shall ensure non-discriminatory and uniform conditions of service, including assured tenure.
  • The court further ordered the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to conduct a ‘Judicial Impact Assessment’ of tribunals to analyse the ramifications of the changes caused by the Finance Act, 2017.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Right to carry on businessSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Right to carry on business

Mains level : Issues over IBC


The Supreme Court has increased the time limit for the corporate resolution to extend beyond the mandated 330 days. The judgment is significant for India’s fledgling corporate resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Time limits

  • As of now, the time limit for resolution process is mandatorily 330 days in all cases.
  • If debts are not resolved and the bankrupt firm cannot be brought back to its feet within this time-frame, the only option left is liquidation of its assets to pay creditors.
  • The court said that the provision saying the 330-day mark should be followed in the ‘ordinary course’.
  • Extension of time should be granted by the NCLT if parties are able to prove there is very little time left in the resolution process and the delay has been caused by ‘tardy’ legal proceedings.

Why extension?

  • A Bench led by Justice Nariman in a judgment, observed that many litigants suffer the prospect of liquidation for no fault of theirs.
  • Delay in legal proceedings leads to the resolution process being dragged beyond the 330-day mark.

How is Article 19 involved?

  • Justice Nariman said it would be arbitrary to let litigants suffer liquidation unnecessarily.
  • The court held the mandatory nature of the 330-day mark as a violation of Article 14 (right to equal treatment) of the Constitution and an excessive and unreasonable restriction on the litigant’s right to carry on business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

Back2Basics

Article 19

According to Article 19, all citizens shall have the right—

  • to freedom of speech and expression;
  • to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  • to form associations or unions or co-operatives;
  • to move freely throughout the territory of India;
  • to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
  • the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property (deleted after 44th CAA, 1978)
  • to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Centre withdraws plan to bring in changes to Forest Act of 1927Priority 1



  • The Union Environment Ministry withdrew a draft amendment that proposed updates to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

What was proposed in the Amendment?

  • The Indian Forest Act, 2019, was envisaged as an amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927, and an attempt to address contemporary challenges to the country’s forests.
  • Forest-officer not below the rank of a Ranger shall have power to hold an inquiry into forest offences…and shall have the powers to search or issue a search warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  • The legislation proposed a forest development cess of up to 10% of the assessed value of mining products removed from forests, and water used for irrigation or in industries.
  • This amount would be deposited in a special fund and used exclusively for reforestation; forest protection and other ancillary purposes connected with tree planting, forest development and conservation.

Why was it contentious?

  • As per the new draft, forest officials have been given the absolute authority to shoot tribals for “violation of laws”.
  • If a forest guard kills an “offender”, the move will invite no prosecution by the state governments without first initiating an inquiry into the matter under an executive magistrate.
  • Under the new amendment, forest departments can also declare any forest as reserved and alienate the forest-dwelling communities from their ancestral lands.
  • This will have a terrible effect on the tribal population, who are struggling to make both ends meet.

Back2Basics

Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA)

  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on the British made Indian Forest Act of 1878.
  • Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  • It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
  • It defines what is a forest offence, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
  • Reserved Forest is an area mass of land duly notified under the provisions of India Forest Act or the State Forest Acts having full degree of protection. In Reserved Forests, all activities are prohibited unless permitted.

Democratic governance of Forests in India

  • During the 1980s and 1990s, at least the Centre showed some kind of sympathy for the tribals, as a result of which important legislations like FRA and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, or PESA, were enacted.
  • In India, forest governance has turned significantly democratic in the past few years.
  • Back in 1976, the National Commission on Agriculture recommended that the tribals should be chased out. On the basis of that, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 came into being.
  • However, through the National Forest Policy of 1988, the Centre recognised the symbiotic relationship between tribals and forests for the first time.
  • This was then consolidated with the passage of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, when the Centre agreed that historical injustice had been committed and tried to undo the wrong.

For details, navigate to:

Explained: Forest Rights Act

Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

[pib] IndiaSkills 2020PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IndiaSkills 2020

Mains level : Various initiatives for Skill development in India



The Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has announced the opening of online registrations for IndiaSkills 2020.

IndiaSkills 2020

  • It is a biennial competition to scout talent from the country, offering them a platform to showcase their skills at national and international competitions.
  • IndiaSkills 2020 provides a platform for skilled and talented Indian youngsters to showcase their abilities at regional and national level competitions in over 50 skills.
  • Regional legs of the competitions are organized across four zones, culminating at the national competition in Delhi.
  • Winners of IndiaSkills will then get a chance to represent the country at the WorldSkills International Competition to be held in China in 2021.

 Global competitors

  • The 22 winners of Indiaskills 2018 and their experts had represented the country with their outstanding performance at the WorldSkills International 2019 (WSK), held in Kazan, Russia.
  • India won one gold, one silver, two bronze and 15 Medallions of Excellence at the biggest competition for skills.
  • India ranked 13th among 63 countries that participated at WorldSkills International 2019, marking it to be the best finish for the country in the coveted skill championship.
  • The last IndiaSkills competition was organized in 2018, wherein 22 states and more than 100 corporates participated, that gave 355 competitors a chance to display their skills across various skill competitions.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[pib] Bharatiya Poshan Krishi KoshPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh

Mains level : Malnutrition elimination strategies in India



The Union Minister of Women and Child Development (WCD) has announced Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh (BPKK).

Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh

  • The Harvard Chan School of Public Health through its India Research Center and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will document and evaluate promising regional dietary practices.
  • The BPKK will be a repository of diverse crops across 128 agro-climatic zones in India for better nutritional outcomes.
  • In consultation with Ministry of WCD and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project team will select around 12 high focus states which are representative of the geographical, social, economic, cultural and structural diversities of India.
  • In each of the states or group of states the team will identify a local partner organization which has relevant work experience in Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) and nutrition for developing the food atlas.

Why such move?

  • The, two other approaches are required to complement the Government’s efforts to promote healthy dietary practices.
  • One, addressing the challenge of malnutrition at such a vast scale requires a basic understanding of the social, behavioural and cultural practices that promote and reinforce healthy dietary behaviours both at the individual and community level.
  • Two, creating the first ever data base that links relevant agro-food system data at the district, with an aim to map the diversity of native crop varieties that will be more cost-effective and sustainable over the long run.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD, etc

[pib] Household Consumer Expenditure SurveyPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Household Consumer Expenditure Survey

Mains level : Signs of economic slowdown in the country



Govt has scrapped this year’s NSOs Consumer expenditure survey over data quality.

Consumer Expenditure Survey

  • The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) is usually conducted at quinquennial intervals and the last survey on consumer expenditure was conducted in the 68th round (July 2011 to June 2012).
  • It is conducted by National Statistical Office (NSO), MoSPI.
  • It generates estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) and the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.
  • It is designed to collect information regarding expenditure on consumption of goods and services (food and non-food) consumed by households.
  • The results, after release, are also used for rebasing of the GDP and other macro-economic indicators.

Highlights of the 2018-19 survey

  • Consumer spending is falling and the report has been withheld due to its ‘adverse’ findings.
  • There was a significant increase in the divergence in not only the levels in the consumption pattern but also the direction of the change when compared to the other administrative data sources like the actual production of goods and services.

Why is the survey not published?

  • In view of the data quality issues, the Ministry has decided not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018.
  • Concerns were raised about the ability/sensitivity of the survey instrument to capture consumption of social services by households especially on health and education.
  • The Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics has also separately recommended that for rebasing of the GDP series, 2017-18 is not an appropriate year to be used as the new base year.
  • The MoSPI is separately examining the feasibility of conducting the next Consumer Expenditure Survey in 2020-2021 and 2021-22 after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process.

Data leaked

  • The survey allegedly showed that the average amount spent by an Indian in a month fell 3.7% to Rs 1,446 in 2017-18 from Rs 1,501 in 2011-12.
  • While consumer spending declined 8.8% in 2017-18 in India’s villages, it rose 2% over six years in cities, it said.