History- Important places, persons in news

Nagara Architecture of Ayodhya’s Ram Temple

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Features of the Nagara Temple Architecture

Mains level : Temple Architecture of India

The grand temple at Rama Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya will follow the Nagara style of temple architecture.

Note the various features of the Nagara and Vesara style of temple architecture from your basic references.

What is Nagara style of temple architecture?

The basic form of a Hindu temple contains the following architectural elements:

  1. Garbhagriha – the small room where the principal deity/deities of the temple reside
  2. Mandapa – the portico or hall at the entrance of the temple generally designed to house a large number of people
  3. Shikhara – the mountain like spire which can have different shapes from pyramidal to curvilinear
  4. Vahana – the mount of the main deity placed generally in line of sight from Garbhagriha
  • In this style, the temple is generally constructed on an upraised platform called Jagati.
  • Mandapas are present in front of the These are adorned with the Shikhara, the tallest one being above the Garbhagriha.
  • The shikhara over the mandapas in the pictures of the Ayodhya Ram temple can be seen having a square base, and a rectilinear outline.
  • This is called the phamsana-style shikhara. Note that the mandapa shikhara right at the entrance has an octagonal base.

Similar to Khajuraho Temple

  • There are different types of Shikhara found in Indian temples.
  • A comparison with Khajuraho Vishwanath temple, also built in Nagara style, shows the similarity between the two.
  • Note that the main shikhara of the two are remarkably similar.
  • They rise upward in a curved pyramidal fashion, ending in a horizontal fluted disc called an Amalaka topped with a Kalasha. This is called the Latina-style shikhara.

Note: This newscard is an excerpt from an original article published in Swarajya Magazine.


Back2Basics: The Ramjanmabhoomi Case

Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

EV battery recycling in India: An opportunity for change

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FAME

Mains level : Electric vehicles regulation in India

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the D2E. It focuses on India for not having adequate legislations that can prevent illegal dumping of spent lithium batteries ahead of the FAME-I and II scheme.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the different phases of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) Scheme? Discuss various challenges in adopting EV technology in India.

Background

  • Electric vehicles (EV) are a part of the new normal as the global transportation sector undergoes a paradigm shift, with a clear preference towards cleaner and greener vehicles.
  • Like its western counterparts and China, India has pushed the mandate for EVs as well, through schemes such as Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) I and FAME II.
  • EV sales in the country are expected to grow annually at a compound annual growth rate of 35 per cent till 2026, according to a market survey by news daily Economic Times.

Powering the EVs

  • Initially, EVs were powered with lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries that include other chemical moieties like cobalt, graphite and nickel now form the heart of an EV.
  • At the end of the battery lifespan, what remains is battery waste, comprising enormous amounts of chemicals such as cobalt, electrolytes, lithium, manganese oxide and nickel.

Latent threats to India

  • India, at present, is underprepared for the sheer volume of EV battery waste expected in the coming decade.
  • Most of our e-waste is dumped in landfills.
  • Further, we do not have adequate legislation that can prevent illegal dumping of spent lithium batteries.
  • This sets a dangerous precedent, as India can potentially become a lithium waste dumpsite for not just waste from domestic EVs, but also from import of spent batteries.

There is a legal loophole

  • The most recent legislations — the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016 and E-waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018 — evolved considerably in terms of the range of materials.
  • They do not, however, include a cohesive set of rules for the safe disposal of EV batteries.
  • Li-ion batteries, thus, find no mention, in any framework for end-of-life treatment or recycling.

Threats posed by un-recycled batteries

  • The batteries constitute substances that — if not recycled or treated in a proper fashion — can cause harm to both the environment and humans.
  • Further, lithium itself spontaneously reacts with moisture and can lead to major landfill explosions.

Global precedence over batteries regulation:

Several nations are ahead of the curve and have mandated legislations that deal with battery recycling and treatment:

(1) EU Batteries Directive

  • The Batteries Directive was issued by the European Union to minimise the negative impact of batteries and accumulators on the environment.
  • The Batteries Directive broke down the different stages of the process of collection and recycling of waste batteries and issued directions on how each of these must be performed.

(2) Germany

  • Germany puts a legal obligation on producers to collect their products from the consumer and deposit them in containers managed by the GRS Batterien Foundation.
  • It is set up by leading battery manufactures and the German Electrical and Electronics Industry Association in 1998.
  • It ensures collected waste is segregated and sorted according to electrochemical composition — leading to efficient extraction of materials that can be recovered and recycled.

(3) Japan

  • The Japan Battery Recycling Centre (JBRC), established in 2004, is a producer-responsibility organisation that helps keep the process of recycling waste batteries going.
  • Consumers and offices — that utilise technology running on batteries — discharge delivery to collection sites placed with retailers who register with the JBRC as co-operation shops for recycling.
  • The collection sites facilitate segregation of the batteries by providing four different types of labels for four different types of batteries.

Where does India stand among these?

  • The Indian e-waste legal regime underwent a tremendous change over time and has only recently embraced EPR and collection of e-waste.
  • A lack of clear scientific guidelines and regulations tailor-made for li-ion batteries, however, leads to poor return of investments in setting up recycling units, as it is a capital-intensive initiative.
  • In October 2019, the framing of a much-awaited recycling policy was proposed by the Union government.
  • It is, however, still awaited. The first step to creating a circular economy for EV batteries is to expand our laws to include li-ion battery chemistries.

We are late but not the last

  • Large quantities of EV battery waste presented a unique opportunity to nurture a domestic recycling industry, which is currently in its infancy.
  • The process of recycling can help recover up to half the valuable metals, including aluminium, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese and nickel, which can then be used for secondary applications.
  • Tata Chemicals Ltd, for example, commissioned a li-ion battery recycling plant in Maharashtra in 2019.

Way forward

  • Governments must take a proactive stance when it comes to the development of batteries that cause less harm to the environment.
  • There must be an extended producer responsibility (EPR) mechanism that ensured manufacturers of batteries to bear a legal obligation of their products being safely recycled and disposed of.

Back2Basics: Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles

FAME I

  • In this phase, market creation through demand incentives was aimed at incentivizing all vehicle segments i.e. 2-Wheelers, 3-Wheelers Auto, Passenger 4-Wheeler vehicles, Light Commercial Vehicles and Buses.
  • The demand incentive was available to buyers of EV in the form of an upfront reduced purchase price to enable wider adoption.

FAME II

  • This phase will mainly focus on supporting electrification of public & shared transportation, and aims to support through subsidies 7000 e-Buses, 5 lakh e-3 Wheelers, 55000 e-4 Wheeler Passenger Cars and 10 lakh e-2 Wheelers.
  • The scheme will be applicable mainly to vehicles used for public transport or those registered for commercial purposes in e-3W, e-4W and e-bus segments.
  • However, privately-owned registered-2W will also be covered under the scheme as a mass segment.
  • In addition, the creation of charging infrastructure will be supported in selected cities and along major highways to address range anxiety among users of electric vehicles.

Judicial Reforms

Explained: What is Contempt of Court?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Contempt of Court

Mains level : Contempt of Court and associated issues

Contempt of court, as a concept is back in the news after the proceeding by the Supreme Court of India, on its own motion, against a senior Delhi-based advocate-activist.

Try this question for mains:

Q.What is Contempt of Court? Discuss, how free speech can lead to the contempt of courts?

What is Contempt of Court?

  • It seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority.

How did the concept of contempt come into being?

  • The concept of contempt of court is several centuries old.
  • In England, it is a common law principle that seeks to protect the judicial power of the king, initially exercised by him, and later by a panel of judges who acted in his name.
  • Violation of the judges’ orders was considered an affront to the king himself.
  • Over time, any kind of disobedience to judges, or obstruction of the implementation of their directives, or comments and actions that showed disrespect towards them came to be punishable.

What is the statutory basis for contempt of court?

  • There were pre-Independence laws of contempt in India. Besides the early High Courts, the courts of some princely states also had such laws.
  • When the Constitution was adopted, contempt of court was made one of the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
  • Separately, Article 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish contempt of itself.
  • Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, gives statutory backing to the idea.

What are the kinds of contempt of court?

The law codifying contempt classifies it as civil and criminal.

  • Civil contempt is fairly simple. It is committed when someone willfully disobeys a court order or wilfully breaches an undertaking given to the court. However, Criminal contempt is more complex.
  • It consists of three forms: (a) words, written or spoken, signs and actions that “scandalise” or “tend to scandalise” or “lower” or “tends to lower” the authority of any court (b) prejudices or interferes with any judicial proceeding and (c) interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice.
  • The rationale for this provision is that courts must be protected from tendentious attacks that lower its authority, defame its public image and make the public lose faith in its impartiality.
  • The punishment for contempt of court is simple imprisonment for a term up to six months and/or a fine of up to ₹. 2,000.

What does not account to contempt?

  • Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court.
  • Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.

Is truth a defence against a contempt charge?

  • For many years, the truth was seldom considered a defence against a charge of contempt.
  • There was an impression that the judiciary tended to hide any misconduct among its individual members in the name of protecting the image of the institution.
  • The Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence if it was in the public interest and was invoked in a bonafide

Anti Defection Law

Merger of political parties under Tenth schedule

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anti-defection law

Mains level : Issues over Anti-defection law

A political party is trying to win back its defected MLAs in Rajasthan. This has raised a new question- “Does the anti-defection law apply here?”

Try this question for mains:

Q.“Time and again, the courts have spoken out against the Governor acting in the capacity of an all-pervading super-constitutional authority.” Analyse.

What does “merger” mean a/c to Tenth Schedule?

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution prohibits defection to protect the stability of governments but does not prohibit mergers.
  • Paragraph 4(2) of the Tenth Schedule, dealing with mergers, says that only when two-thirds of the members agree to “merge” the party would they be exempt from disqualification.
  • The “merger” referred to in Paragraph 4(2) is seen as a legal fiction, where members are deemed to have merged for the purposes of being exempt from disqualification, rather than a merger in the true sense.

The ‘merger’ Politics

  • The political party is arguing that a state unit of a national party cannot be merged without the party being merged at the national level.
  • However, the Tenth Schedule identifies this dichotomy between state units and national units.
  • As per Paragraph 4(2), “merger” of a party means merger of a legislative party of that House.
  • In this case, it would be the Rajasthan Legislative unit of the BSP and not the BSP at the national level.
  • Paragraph 1 of the Tenth Schedule which defines terms specified in the context of the anti-defection law states this clearly.
  • “Legislature Party” for the purposes of Paragraph 4 (which deals with mergers) means the group consisting of all the members of that House for the time being belonging to that political party in accordance with the said provisions.

Role of Whip

  • Every legislative party identifies the party’s whip at the beginning of the Assembly’s term and conveys this to the Speaker.
  • A national leader’s direction cannot be considered a whip in the context of the anti-defection law.

On what grounds is the case-based?

  • The contention is that the merger is illegal and unconstitutional because, for a national party, such merger has to take place at the national level.
  • Supporting this argument, there are two decisions of the Supreme Court: the 2006 Jagjit Singh v State of Haryana, and the 2007 ruling in Rajendra Singh Rana and Ors vs Swami Prasad Maurya.
  • In these cases, the SC ruled that the split cannot be recognised primarily because not all these MLAs split at once.
  • The key aspect is that these cases deal with splits where when one-third of the members of a legislative party split; they could not attract disqualification as per Paragraph 3 of the Tenth Schedule.

Row over one-third

  • In 2003, through the 91st Constitutional Amendment, Paragraph 3 was deleted from the Tenth Schedule.
  • The amendment was made as the one-third split rule was grossly misused by parties to engineer divisions and indulge in horse-trading.
  • One-third was regarded as an easy target to achieve and the law now exempts defection only when it is at two-thirds (in a merger).

Are there any such precedents?

  • In July 2019, 10 of the 15 one party’s MLAs in Goa joined the other taking the ruling party’s tally to 27 in the 40 member House.
  • Since they formed two-thirds of the strength of the legislative party unit, they are exempt from disqualification.
  • However, the Speaker’s decision not to disqualify them is under challenge before the Supreme Court.
  • Similarly in Telangana in 2016, two years after the 12 out of 15 of MLAs joined the ruling party.
  • The Speaker recognised the defection as a merger since more than two-thirds had moved.

Air Pollution

What is a ‘Smog Tower’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smog towers

Mains level : Air pollution in Delhi

In January this year, the Supreme Court has directed that two smog towers should be installed in the capital by April on a pilot project basis considering a proposal by the IIT-Bombay.

Try this question from CS Mains 2015:

Q.Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?

What is a ‘Smog Tower’?

  • A smog tower is a structure designed to work as a large-scale air purifier, fitted with multiple layers of filters which trap fine dust particles suspended in the air as it passes through them.
  • Air is drawn through fans installed at the top of the tower, passed through filters, and then released near the ground.
  • The large-scale filters expected to be installed in the towers in Delhi would use carbon nanofibres as a major component.
  • It would be fitted along the peripheries of the towers and the height would be 20 metres.

How does it work?

  • The 20-metre (65 feet) high tower will trap particulate matter of all sizes suspended in the air.
  • Large-scale air filters shall draw in the air through fans installed at the top before passing it through the filters and releasing it near the ground.
  • The filters installed in the tower will use carbon nanofibres as a major component and will be fitted along its peripheries. The tower will focus on reducing particulate matter load.

Has anyone else experimented with a smog tower?

  • Yes, smog towers have been experimented with in recent years in cities in the Netherlands, China, South Korea and Poland.
  • The first such tower was erected in 2015, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.
  • The towers to be installed in Delhi are to be the result of a collaboration between the IITs at Mumbai and Delhi, and the University of Minnesota.

Why New Delhi?

  • Air pollution in the national capital has been an issue of concern for quite some time as Delhi and its suburbs have ranked among the most polluted cities in the world frequently.
  • In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Pollution levels in Delhi increase dramatically during winter — on some days to nearly 10 times above the limits prescribed by WHO, posing a serious risk to vulnerable and also healthy populations.
  • This is large because sources of emissions — construction work, industrial and vehicular pollution — in and around the city remain more or less consistent.
  • The situation is aggravated at the start of winter by smoke from stubble-burning in northwestern states, coupled with unfavourable meteorological conditions, such as calm winds, low temperatures, and fewer sunny days.

How effective are smog towers?

  • An estimate on air quality shows that a tower would reduce 50% of the particulate matter load in an area of 1 kilometre in the direction of the wind, as well as 200 metres each along the sides of the tower and against the direction of the wind.
  • In an open field in calm weather, it can reduce the particulate matter of 10 micrometres (PM10) up to 45%, and PM2.5 levels up to 25% in an area of 20 metres around the tower, as per details on the ENS Clean Air website.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Highlights of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Education Policy

Mains level : Need for imbibing competitiveness in Indian education system

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Education Policy 2020, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the key features of the National Education Policy, 2020? Discuss how it will facilitate the universalization of education in India.

School Education   

  • New Policy aims for universalization of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 % Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
  • NEP 2020 will bring 2 crores out of school children back into the mainstream through the open schooling system.
  • The current 10+2 system to be replaced by a new 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
  • This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child.
  • The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling.
  • Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools; Vocational Education to start  from Class 6 with Internships
  • Teaching up to at least Grade 5 to be in mother tongue/ regional language. No language will be imposed on any student.
  • Assessment reforms with 360-degree Holistic Progress Card, tracking Student Progress for achieving Learning Outcomes
  • A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT.
  • By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.

Higher Education

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education to be raised to 50 % by 2035;  3.5 crore seats to be added in higher education.
  • The policy envisages broad-based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate Program with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entries and exit points with appropriate certification.
  • Academic Bank of Credits to be established to facilitate  Transfer of Credits
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
  • The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
  • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. HECI to have four independent verticals  – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC ) for standard-setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding,  and National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation.
  • Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
  • Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College or a constituent college of a university.

Others

  • An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration.
  • NEP 2020 emphasizes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups
  • New Policy promotes Multilingualism in both schools and higher education. National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation to be set up
  • The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance: A strong EC Act is still needed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EC Act

Mains level : Regulation of essential commodities

As the Union government announced massive reforms as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.  All attention went to three agriculture sector ordinances related to farmers’ trade, contract farming and amendments in the Essential Commodities Act.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Discuss how Essential Commodities Act works to maintain fair prices of commodities for consumers.

Recent amendment to the EC Act

  • Recently, the Centre notified an Amendment Ordinance to the EC Act.
  • A new sub-section 1A in Section 3 of the act stipulated control orders — with respect to the supply of certain foodstuffs was added.
  • It would be issued only under extraordinary circumstances that may include war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity of grave nature.

An order for regulating stock limit of any agricultural produce may be issued only if there is:

  • A full increase in the retail price of horticultural produce, or
  • A 50 per cent increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items over the price prevailing immediately preceding a year or the average retail price in the past five years, whichever is lower

The Essential Commodities Act

  • The EC Act, 1955 was enacted at a time when the country faced an acute shortage of several commodities, especially food items.
  • Under the act, an ‘essential commodity’ is a commodity specified under the schedule of the Act.
  • The Union government is empowered to amend the schedule to add or remove a commodity to said schedule in the public interest and in consultation with state governments.
  • The schedule was amended recently in March 2020, when the Centre declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities and fixed their prices.

Issues over the amendment ordinance:

1. Ordinance route and federalism

  • Though agriculture is a state subject, the concurrent list empowers the Centre to legislate on production and trade and supply of foodstuffs.
  • By taking the ordinance route, a clear attempt was made to bypass the parliamentary process.
  • When a proposed amendment is introduced in Parliament, it is open to debate, scrutiny, comments and valuable inputs from stakeholders before being passed.

2. Surpassing concerns

  • Critical legislation like this should certainly have been put before Parliament.
  • The Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-state relations pointed out that the Centre disproportionately empower itself in the sphere of agriculture.
  • The power of the Centre in agriculture management has certainly increased through this ordinance.
  • States like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have repeatedly called for transfer such entities from the Concurrent to the State list.

3. Constitutional validity and Ninth Schedule

  • The constitutional validity of price fixation under the act was in question before the Supreme Court in the Prag Ice and Oil Mills case, 1978.
  • It was observed that the dominant purpose of price fixation was to ensure availability of essential commodities to consumers at a fair price.
  • It was also held that availability of an essential commodity to the common man, at a fair price, must rank higher than any other consideration.
  • The Essential Commodities Act is enlisted under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. This does not, however, mean it is outside the scope of judicial review.

4. EC Act is no exception

  • The Ninth Schedule came under scrutiny after the landmark IR Coelho, 2007 judgement.
  • The Supreme Court said the laws inserted in it after April 24, 1973 — the day the Kesavananda Bharti verdict was pronounced — are also open to judicial review if they are violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Farmers may approach the Supreme Court if they feel laws such as the Essential Commodities Act violate their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, 21 or 32.

5. Questions over the amendment

  • The ordinance does not expressly define ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which ‘may’ include war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamities of a grave nature.
  • Even in extraordinary circumstances, the government only ‘may’ choose to exercise regulation.
  • Such legislative ambiguity makes one question the entire exercise of introducing this particular provision.

6. Farmers stake are still at risk

  • Drastic changes such as the removal of stock limits and exemption to exporters, traders and value chain participants may not help farmers directly.
  • Big corporates and MNC may prefer to stock up their quota at the time of harvest when prices are low and, thus, would not need to buy from farmers when prices rise.
  • If farmers decide to retain produce for later, prices may not go up or the private sector may not enter the market to purchase.

Conclusion

  • India no longer faces food shortage problems, according to the Economic Survey, 2020.
  • What is seemingly ignored, however, is the population of India increased to 1.3 billion in 2020 from 360 million in 1951.
  • There are more mouths to feed and the responsibility of ensuring food security to the masses cannot be shunned.
  • Sights of migrants scraping for morsels of food during the COVID-19 crisis continue to haunt.
  • Our policies, thus, must ensure sustainable farm growth taking into consideration factors like climate change, land holdings, consumer capacity and farmers’ interests.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

HRD Ministry to be renamed as ‘Education Ministry’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HRD Ministry revamp, National Education Policy 2020

Mains level : National Education Policy 2020

The Union Cabinet has approved the renaming of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) to the Ministry of Education to more clearly define its work and focus.

Before reading this newscard, try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q.The Ninth Schedule was introduced in the Constitution of India during the Prime Ministership of:

(a) Jawaharlal Nehru

(b) Lal Bahadur Shastri

(c) Indira Gandhi

(d) Morarji Desai

A flip-back

  • With the renaming, the Ministry got back the name that it had started out with after Independence, but which was changed 35 years ago when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister.

Who were some of India’s early Education Ministers?

  • The Ministry which was focussed on education from the primary classes to the level of the university was headed by some of the stalwarts of Indian politics in its early years.
  • For more than a decade after Independence, the Ministry was led by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
  • He was followed by Kalulal Shrimali and the eminent jurist M C Chagla, with the poet-educationist Humayun Kabir holding the portfolio for a short while in between.
  • Later Education Ministers of India included Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who went on to become President.
  • The last Education Minister of India was KC Pant, who served in the post in 1984-85, after which the name of the Ministry was changed.

Under what circumstances did the Ministry of Education become HRD?

  • Upon becoming PM in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi, who had surrounded himself with a new crop of advisers, showed restlessness for change and innovation in a number of areas.
  • He accepted a suggestion that all departments related to education should be brought under one roof.
  • There was some opposition from academic circles who complained that the country no longer had a Department with ‘education’ in its name. Some newspapers wrote editorials criticizing the change of name.
  • But the decision had been made, and subsequently, in 1986, the government cleared a new education policy – the second in the country’s history, and one that was to survive until now.

Under HRD roof

  • On September 26, 1985, the Ministry of Education was renamed as the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and P V Narasimha Rao was appointed Minister.
  • Related Departments such as those of Culture and Youth & Sports were brought under the Ministry of HRD, and Ministers of State were appointed.
  • Even the Department of Women and Child Development – which became a separate Ministry with effect from January 30, 2006 – was a Department under the Union HRD Ministry.

Were changes made in the Ministry even afterwards?

  • Yes, changes were made from time to time. After Atal Bihari Vajpayee became PM in 1998, the government decided to separate the Department of Culture from the Ministry of HRD.
  • In October 1999, a new Ministry of Culture came into being, with the late Ananth Kumar in charge.
  • The Department of Youth too was separated from the Ministry of HRD, and Ananth Kumar was given charge of this new Ministry as well.
  • With these decisions of the Vajpayee government, the HRD Ministry remained ‘HRD’ only in name – for all practical purposes, it was back to being a ministry for education.

Digital India Initiatives

Digital divide in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Digital divide in India

The COVID-19 induced lockdown highlights India’s great digital divide.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the various facets of Digital Divide in India? Discuss how the Digital India initiative has impacted ruling out India’s digital divide?

What is Digital divide?

A digital divide is any uneven distribution in the access to, use of, or impact of information and communications technologies between any number of distinct groups, which can be defined based on social, geographical, or geopolitical criteria, or otherwise

What are the implications of the digital divide?

Political

In the age of social media, political empowerment and mobilization are difficult without digital connectivity.

Governance

Transparency and accountability are dependent on digital connectivity. The digital divide affects e-governance initiatives negatively.

Social

Internet penetration is associated with greater social progress of a nation. Thus digital divide in a way hinders the social progress of a country.

Rural India is suffering from information poverty due to the digital divide. It only strengthens the vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and backwardness.

Economic

The digital divide causes economic inequality between those who can afford the technology and those who don’t.

Educational

The digital divide is also impacting the capacity of children to learn and develop.
Without Internet access, students can not build the required tech skills.

Facets of the great Digital Divide in India

  • Education is just one area that has highlighted the digital divide between India’s rural and urban areas during the lockdown.
  • The trend is evident everywhere — telemedicine, banking, e-commerce, e-governance, all of which became accessible only via the internet during the lockdown.
  • The divide exists despite the rise in the number of wireless subscribers in India over the past few years.

1) Telecom facility, not digital progression

  • According to a report released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on June this year, the country had over 1,160 million wireless subscribers in February 2020, up from 1,010 million in February 2016.
  • This is a rise of 150 million subscribers in five years or 30 million per year.
  • The growth has been evenly distributed in urban and rural areas, with the number of urban subscribers increasing by 74 million (from 579 million to 643 million) and rural subscribers by 86 million (from 431 million to 517 million).
  • But this growth only indicates the rise in basic telecommunication facility.

2) The Urban-Rural Divide

  • Services such as online classrooms, financial transactions and e-governance require access to the internet as well as the ability to operate internet-enabled devices like phones, tablets and computers.
  • Here the urban-rural distinction is quite stark.
  • According to the NSSO conducted between July 2017 and June 2018, just 4.4 rural households have a computer, against 14.4 per cent in an urban area.
  • It had just 14.9 per cent rural households having access to the internet against 42 per cent households in urban areas.
  • Similarly, only 13 per cent people of over five years of age in rural areas have the ability to use the internet against 37 per cent in urban areas.

3) Regional Divide

  • States too greatly differ in terms of people that have access to computers or in the know-how to use the internet.
  • Himachal Pradesh leads the country in access to the internet in both, rural and urban areas.
  • Uttarakhand has the most number of computers in urban areas, while Kerala has the most number of computers in rural areas.
  • Overall, Kerala is the state where the difference between rural and urban areas is the least.

4) Digital Gender Divide

  • India has among the world’s highest gender gap in access to technology.
  • Only 21 per cent of women in India are mobile internet users, according to GSMA’s 2020 mobile gender gap report, while 42 per cent of men have access. The report says that while 79 per cent of men own a mobile phone in the country, the number for women is 63 per cent.
  • While there do economic barriers to girls’ own a mobile phone or laptop, cultural and social norms also play a major part.
  • The male-female gap in mobile use often exacerbates other inequalities for women, including access to information, economic opportunities, and networking.

5) Others

  • The earning member of the family has to carry the phone while going out to work.
  • Access to phones and the internet is not just an economic factor but also social and cultural.
  • If one family has just one phone, there is a good chance that the wife or the daughter will be the last one to use it.

Programmes for Addressing the Challenges in Bridging the Digital Divide:

India taking significant steps towards acquiring competence in information and technology, the country is increasingly getting divided between people who have access to technology and those who do not. 

    • The Indian government has passed Information Technology Act, 2000 to make to e- commerce and e-governance a success story in India along with national e-governance plan. 
    • Optical Fibre Network (NOF-N), a project aimed to ensure broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) gram panchayats of India by 2016.
    • Digital Mobile Library: In order to bridge the digital divide in a larger way the government of India, in collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Computing (C–DAC) based in Pune.
    • Unnati, is a project of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) which strives to bridge the digital divide in schools by giving the rural students with poor economic and social background access to computer education.
    • E-pathshala: to avail study materials  for every rural and urban student. 
    • Common Service Centres: which enabled the digital reach to unreachable areas. 

Initiatives of State Government:

  • Sourkaryan and E–Seva: Project of the government of Andhra Pradesh to provides the facility for a citizen to pay property taxes online.
  • The Gyandoot Project: It is the first ever project in India for a rural information network in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh which has the highest percentage of tribes and dense forest. The project was designed to extend the benefits of information technology to people in rural areas by directly linking the government and villagers through information kiosks

Way forward

1.Infrastructure

  • The promotion of indigenous ICT development under Atmanirbhar Abhiyan can play a significant role. The promotion of budget mobile phones is the key.

  • The creation of market competition between service providers may make services cheaper.

  • Efficient spectrum allocation in large contiguous blocks should be
    explored.

  • We should also explore migration to new technologies like 5G. It would resolve some of the bandwidth challenges.

2.Digital literacy

  • Digital literacy needs special attention at the school / college level.

  •  The National Digital Literacy Mission should focus on introducing digital literacy at the primary school level in all government schools for basic content and in higher classes and colleges for advanced content.

  • When these students will educate their family members, it will create multiplier effects. Higher digital literacy will also increase the adoption of computer hardware across the country.

3.Language

  • State governments should pay particular attention to content creation in the Indian regional languages, particularly those related to government services.

  • Natural language processing ( NLP) in Indian languages needs to be promoted.

4.Role of regulators

  • Regulators should minimize entry barriers by reforming licensing, taxation, spectrum allocation norms.

  • TRAI should consider putting in place a credible system. This system will track call drops, weak signals, and outages. It ensures the quality and reliability of telecom services.

5.Cybersecurity

  • MeitY will need to evolve a comprehensive cybersecurity framework for data security, safe digital transactions, and complaint redressal.

Telecom ombudsman

  • The government should also set up telecom ombudsman for the redress of grievances.

Conclusion

  • The Standing Committee on Information Technology in January 2019 concluded that the digital literacy efforts of the government are far from satisfactory.
  • Clearly, internet penetration is not deep enough. At one level, we all recognise that the internet has become indispensable.
  • On another level, it still doesn’t have adequate attention of the decision-makers.
  • The most crucial need of the hour is to ensure uninterrupted internet services.

Back2Basics: Digital India Initiatives

  • Over the past decade, governments have been trying to improve internet access in the country.
  • In 2011, the BharatNet project was launched to connect 0.25 million panchayats through an optical fibre (100 MBPS) and connect India’s villages. Its implementation began only in 2014.
  • In 2014, the government launched the National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan.
  • In 2015, the government launched several schemes under its Digital India campaign to connect the entire country.
  • This includes the PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, launched in 2017, to usher in digital literacy in rural India by covering 60 million households.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Turkey enacts Social Media Law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Need for social media regulation

Turkey’s parliament approved a law that gives authorities greater power to regulate social media despite concerns of growing censorship.

Unregulated social media promotes misinformation, hate speech, defamation, and threats to public order, terrorist incitement, bullying, and anti-national activities.

Turkey: The forerunner of cyber policing

  • Turkey leads the world in removal requests to Twitter, with more than 6,000 demands in the first half of 2019.
  • More than 408,000 websites are blocked in Turkey, according to The Freedom of Expression Association.
  • Online encyclopedia Wikipedia was blocked for nearly three years before Turkey’s top court ruled that the ban violated the right to freedom of expression and ordered it unblocked.
  • The country also has one of the world’s highest rates of imprisoned journalists, many of whom were arrested in a crackdown following a failed coup in 2016.

Features of the Law:

1) Appointing representatives:

  • The law requires major social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to keep representative offices in Turkey to deal with complaints against content on their platforms.
  • If the social media company refuses to designate an official representative, the legislation mandates steep fines, advertising bans and bandwidth reductions.

2) Bandwidth reductions

  • Bandwidth reductions mean social media networks would be too slow to use.
  • With a court ruling, bandwidth would be reduced by 50% and then by 50% to 90%.

3) Privacy protection

  • The representative will be tasked with responding to individual requests to take down content violating privacy and personal rights within 48 hours or to provide grounds for rejection.
  • The company would be held liable for damages if the content is not removed or blocked within 24 hours.

4) Data storage

  • A most alarming feature of the new legislation is that SM companies would require social media providers to store user data in Turkey.
  • The government says the legislation was needed to combat cybercrime and protect users.
  • This would be used to remove posts that contain cyberbullying and insults against women.

Turkey seems to have given an attempt to regulate social media amidst the chaos. It lags on various fronts, making it realizable for India not to go hastily for such a regulation.

Concerns over the law

  • Hundreds of people have been investigated and some arrested over social media posts.
  • The opposition is pointing that the law would further limit freedom of expression in a country where the media is already under tight government control and dozens of journalists are in jail.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Ammonia Pollution in Yamuna River

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nitrogen pollution

Mains level : Preventing river pollution

For the second time in a week, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had to reduce water production capacity by 25 per cent after high levels of ammonia were detected in the Yamuna River.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q. Consider the following statements:

  1. Agricultural soils release nitrogen oxides into the environment.
  2. Cattle release ammonia into the environment.
  3. Poultry industry releases reactive nitrogen compounds into the environment.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What is Ammonia and what are its effects?

  • Ammonia is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilizers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
  • Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents or through contamination by sewage.
  • If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes.
  • In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.

A cause of concern

  • The level of ammonia in raw Yamuna water was 1.8 parts per million (ppm).
  • The acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water, as per the Bureau of Indian Standards, is 0.5 ppm.

Where does Ammonia come from?

  • Ammonia is produced for commercial fertilizers and other industrial applications.
  • Natural sources of ammonia include the decomposition or breakdown of organic waste matter, gas exchange with the atmosphere, forest fires, animal and human waste, and nitrogen fixation processes.

How is it treated?

  • The DJB at present does not have any specific technology to treat ammonia.
  • The only solution it adapts is to reduce production at its water treatment plants.
  • In addition to this, the board mixes raw water that carries a high concentration of ammonia with a fresh supply.
  • The amount of chlorine added to disinfect raw water is also increased when high levels of ammonia are detected.

What is the long-term solution to the problem?

  • Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river, and making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water are two things pollution control bodies are expected to do.
  • But, a more organic method agreed upon by environmentalists and experts is to maintain a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow.
  • This is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods, and for self-regulation.
  • The lack of a minimum ecological flow also means an accumulation of other pollutants.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

What is Interplanetary Contamination?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Interplanetary Contamination

Mains level : Interplanetary Contamination

As ambitious space missions are proliferating, along with advances in commercial space flight, astrobiologists have expressed concerns about possible ‘interplanetary contamination’.

A statements based question can be expected from the two types of interplanetary contamination.

What is Interplanetary Contamination?

  • Interplanetary contamination refers to biological contamination of a planetary body by a space probe or spacecraft, either deliberate or unintentional.
  • There are two types of interplanetary contamination:
  1. Forward contamination is the transfer of life and other forms of contamination from Earth to another celestial body.
  2. Back contamination is the introduction of extraterrestrial organisms and other forms of contamination into Earth’s biosphere. It also covers infection of humans and human habitats in space and on other celestial bodies by extraterrestrial organisms, if such habitats exist.
  • The main focus is on microbial life and on potentially invasive species.
  • Non-biological forms of contamination have also been considered, including contamination of sensitive deposits (such as lunar polar ice deposits) of scientific interest.

Are there any mechanisms to prevent such contaminations?

  • Current space missions are governed by the Outer Space Treaty and the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) guidelines for planetary protection.
  • Forward contamination is prevented primarily by sterilizing the spacecraft.
  • According to NASA, the guidelines have had far-reaching implications on human spacecraft design, operational procedures, and overall mission structure.

Anti Defection Law

Governor’s Discretionary Powers in Assembly Deadlock

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Discretionary powers of Governor

Mains level : Speaker vs Governor Tussle

A Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court has held that a Governor is bound to convene a meeting of the Assembly for a floor test on the recommendation of the Cabinet.

Try this question for mains:

Q. “Time and again, the courts have spoken out against the Governor acting in the capacity of an all-pervading super-constitutional authority.” Analyse.

Resolving the deadlock

  • The judgment is significant in the present deadlock between the CM and the Governor over the summoning of an Assembly session for a floor test.
  • The Governor can summon, prorogue and dissolve the House only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as the head.

The Nabam Rebia Case

  • The five-judge Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court cited the Nabam Rebia versus Deputy Speaker on July 13, 2016.
  • It held that a Governor cannot employ his ‘discretion’, and should strictly abide by the “aid and advice” of the Cabinet to summon the House.
  • It held that the discretionary power of the Governor is extremely limited and entirely liable to judicial review.
  • The judgment was a consequence of then Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa’s decision to advance the Assembly session, a move which led to unrest in the State and resulted in the President’s rule.
  • The Constitution Bench held Mr. Rajkhowa’s decision to be a violation of the Constitution.

Governor’s discretion: Limited to specified areas

  • The Supreme Court highlighted that Article 163 of the Constitution does not give the Governor a “general discretionary power to act against or without the advice of his Council of Ministers.
  • The court said the Governor’s discretionary powers are limited to specified areas like giving assent or withholding/referring a Bill to the President or appointment of a CM or dismissal of a government which has lost of confidence but refuses to quit, etc.

Back2Basics: Governor’s Discretionary Powers

The governor can use his/her discretionary powers:

  • When no party gets a clear majority, the governor has the discretion to choose a candidate for the chief minister who will put together a majority coalition as soon as possible.
  • He can impose president’s rule.
  • He submits reports on his own to the president or on the direction of the president regarding the affairs of the state.
  • He can withhold his assent to a bill and send it to the president for his approval.
  • During emergency rule per Article 353, he can override the advice of the council of ministers if specifically permitted by the president.

RBI Notifications

RBI signs $400 mn currency swap facility for Sri Lanka

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Currency Swap

Mains level : Cryptocurrency and its feasiblity

The RBI has agreed to a $400 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka till November 2022.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What are Currency Swaps? Discuss the efficacy of Currency Swap Agreements for liberalizing bilateral trade.

Why such move by RBI?

  • The RBI’s action follows a recent bilateral ‘technical discussion’ on rescheduling Colombo’s outstanding debt repayment to India.
  • Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the region, India had proposed a virtual meeting to discuss the request. Sri Lanka owes $960 million to India.
  • In turn, Sri Lanka would facilitate, protect and promote a liberal ecosystem for Indian investors.

What are Currency Swaps?

  • A currency swap, also known as a cross-currency swap, is an off-balance sheet transaction in which two parties exchange principal and interest in different currencies.
  • Currency swaps are used to obtain foreign currency loans at a better interest rate than could be got by borrowing directly in a foreign market.

How does it work?

  • In a swap arrangement, RBI would provide dollars to a Lankan central bank, which, at the same time, provides the equivalent funds in its currency to the RBI, based on the market exchange rate at the time of the transaction.
  • The parties agree to swap back these quantities of their two currencies at a specified date in the future, which could be the next day or even three months later, using the same exchange rate as in the first transaction.
  • These swap operations carry no exchange rate or other market risks, as transaction terms are set in advance.

Why does one need dollars?

  • FPIs investors look for safer investments but the current global uncertainty over COVID outbreak has led to a shortfall everywhere in the global markets.
  • This has pulled down foreign exchange reserves of many small and developing countries.
  • This means that the government and the RBI cannot lower their guard on the management of the economy and the external account.

Benefits of currency swap

  • The absence of an exchange rate risk is the major benefit of such a facility.
  • This facility provides the flexibility to use these reserves at any time in order to maintain an appropriate level of balance of payments or short-term liquidity.
  • Swaps agreements between governments also have supplementary objectives like the promotion of bilateral trade, maintaining the value of foreign exchange reserves with the central bank and ensuring financial stability (protecting the health of the banking system).

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women officers can now get permanent commission in Indian Army

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SSC/PC

Mains level : Debate over suitablity of women in combat roles of Indian Army

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers in the Army.

Try this question for mains:

Q.“Concern for equality of sexes or political expediency should not influence defence policies.” Discuss on lines with the debate over the induction of women in the armed forces.

Also read: https://www.civilsdaily.com/burning-issue-women-in-armed-forces/

Why such an order?

  • The order follows a Supreme Court verdict in February that directed the government that women Army officers be granted PC and command postings in all services other than combat.
  • Following this, Army Chief had said it was an enabling one and gives a lot of clarity on how to move forward.
  • He had stated that the same procedure for male SSC officers will be followed for women to give PC.

Women in Army: Background of the case

  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992.
  • They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.
  • Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme or to continue under the erstwhile WSES.
  • They were to be, however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.

2 key arguments shot down

  • The Supreme Court rejected arguments against a greater role for women officers, saying this violated equality under the law.
  • They were being kept out of command posts on the reasoning that the largely rural rank and a file will have problems with women as commanding officers. The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.
  • While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.
  • They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for a government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.
  • The first batch of women officers under the new scheme entered the Army in 2008.

Arguments by the Govt

  • The Centre had mentioned several reasons behind the differential treatment of women officers.
  • It had proposed that women officers with up to 14 years of service would be granted a permanent commission, while those above 14 years would be permitted to serve for up to 20 years and retire with pension without being considered for permanent commission.
  • It also stated that those with more than 20 years of service would immediately be released with pension
  • This order did not grant permanent commission to women with over 14 years of service, and hence discriminatory.
  • Furthermore, the 2019 order granted permanent commission only for staff appointments and not command appointments.
  • The centre justified this by stating that that the units in Army are composed entirely of male soldiers, who are mostly from rural backgrounds and thus, are not mentally prepared to accept women officers in the command of units.
  • It also stated that the lower physical capacity of women officers would be a challenge for them to command units wherein officers are expected to lead the men from the front and need to be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks.
  • The government also stated that the adverse conditions, including two unsettled borders and internal security situations in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, have a major bearing on the employment of women officers in light of their physiological limitations.
  • Also, it had stated that the isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and that they have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family.
  • The government also argued that women ran the risk of capture by the enemy and being taken as prisoners of war.

SC Criticized the Government’s Note

  • Reflects Poorly on Women: The note had shown women officers in a poor light, saying isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and that they would have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family. The note had mentioned that women ran the risk of capture by enemy and taken prisoner of war.
  • Patriarchal Notion: The court held that the the note reflected the age-old patriarchal notion that domestic obligations rested only with women.
  • Sex Stereotype: The court also dismissed the point that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.
  • Offence to dignity of Indian Army: The court noted that challenging abilities of women on the ground of gender is an offence not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission.

Implications of the judgement

  • The SC did away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
  • It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment.
  • It means that women officers will be eligible to the tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
  • It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.

Back2Basics: Permanent Commission (PC) Vs. Short Service Commission (SSC)

  • SSC means an officer’s career will be of a limited period in the Indian Armed Forces whereas a PC means they shall continue to serve in the Indian Armed Forces, till they retire.
  • The officers inducted through the SSC usually serve for a period of 14 years. At the end of 10 years, the officers have three options.
  • A PC entitles an officer to serve in the Navy till he/she retires unlike SSC, which is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.
  • They can either select for a PC or opt-out or have the option of a 4-years extension. They can resign at any time during this period of 4 years extension.

Ministry of External Affairs : Important Updates

What is the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), NATO

Mains level : Relevance of NAM

Non-alignment is an old concept today, and India has adopted an approach of “issue-based alignment”, according to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

Try this question for mains:

Q.“The gradual exit of the US from institutional geopolitics has created an ocean of opportunity for small nations”. Discuss.

What is the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)?

  • The NAM is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
  • The group was started in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1961.
  • After the UN, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.

Its formation

  • NAM emerged in the context of the wave of decolonization that followed World War II.
  • It was created by Yugoslavia’s President, Josip Broz Tito, India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt’s second President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, and Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno.
  • All five leaders believed that developing countries should not help either the Western or Eastern blocs in the Cold War.
  • As a condition for membership, the states of the NAM cannot be part of a multilateral military alliance (such as the NATO) or have signed a bilateral military agreement with one of the “big powers” involved in Great Power conflicts.
  • However, its idea does not signify that a state ought to remain passive or even neutral in international politics.

Its relevance today

  • One of the challenges of the NAM in the 21st century has been to reassess its identity and purpose in the post-Cold War era.
  • The movement has continued to advocate for international cooperation, multilateralism, and national self-determination, but it has also been increasingly vocal against the inequities of the world economic order.
  • On the contrary, from the founding of the NAM, its stated aim has been to give a voice to developing countries and to encourage their concerted action in world affairs.

The geopolitics of opportunity

  • Non-alignment was a term of a particular era and geopolitical landscape. One aspect was independence, which remains a factor of continuity for India.
  • The consequences of global shifts, including the US and the assertiveness of China, are opening spaces for middle powers like India, Japan, the EU and others.

US repositioning has impacted everyone

  • The consequence of repositioning of the US, that the big umbrella is now smaller than it used to be, has allowed many other countries to play more autonomous roles.
  • India needs to take more “risks”, as the world expected it to take a more proactive stance on various issues including connectivity, maritime security, terrorism, climate change and terrorism.

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) in Telecom Sector

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AGR

Mains level : AGR disputes of Telecom companies

The Centre and telcos assured the Supreme Court that they would not conduct any re-assessment or re-calculation of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, which now stands at ₹1.6 lakh crore.

Try this question for mains:

Q.What are the various challenges faced by India’s telecom before the upgradation to 5G technology?

What is AGR?

  • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

What is the issue?

  • The Bench observed that 15 or 20 years was not a reasonable time period and the telcos must come forward with an appropriate time frame.
  • The Centre had earlier urged the court that up to 20 years be given to the firms for the payments.
  • The telcos said they were in no position to give fresh bank guarantees for the payments.

Why is AGR important?

  • The definition of AGR has been under litigation for 14 years.
  • While telecom companies argued that it should comprise revenue from telecom services, the DoT’s stand was that the AGR should include all revenue earned by an operator, including that from non-core telecom operations.
  • The AGR directly impacts the outgo from the pockets of telcos to the DoT as it is used to calculate the levies payable by operators.

Read the complete issue here at:

Explained: Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) in Telecom Sector

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

Debate around ‘One-Nation- One-Curriculum’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Uniform curriculum in schools across India

The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a plea for a uniform and common curriculum for school students between aged six and 14 across the country rather than have diverse ones such as the CBSE, the ICSE and State Board.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the efficacy of the One-Nation- One-Board System and its limitations.

Background

  • Schools in India are mainly columned primarily into 4 boards of education, namely CBSE, ICSE and IB (International Baccalaureate).
  • In total, there are 41 boards of education throughout India.
  • These different boards of education have different syllabuses, which creates a knowledge gap among school students.
  • To curate this gap, syllabuses of every board for the Indian schools are being brought at par.

What was the plea before the Supreme Court?

  • The petition asked considering the setting up of a National Education Council/Commission and following a “one-nation-one-board” system in which the ICSE is merged with the CBSE.
  • It urged a standard textbook with chapters on fundamental rights, duties, directive principles and the golden goals set out in the Preamble.
  • It asked to make the study compulsory for all the children aged 6-14 years throughout the territory of India.

Why did the court refuse?

  • Uniform curriculum was a “matter of policy” and the judiciary could not “command” the government said the Supreme Court bench.

Pros of common curriculum

  • The Article 21A of the Constitution has the RTE (Right to Education) Act says that every child in the age of 4 to 16 should be given free and compulsory education.
  • To keep a check on that, a common syllabus throughout the country is required. This will help all the students to be on par with education.
  • With a common syllabus throughout the country, no student will lag behind in education and hence, this will help them prepare better for competitive examinations or admission tests beyond school level for the outside world.
  • Politics, in some cases, influence the education system which is very unfair for the students. Some state boards prefer the admission of students from their own region and willingly keep the seats of colleges and universities occupied for students passing their 12th standard from their state boards.
  • A common syllabus would also mean that there would be no discrimination regarding quality education on the basis of caste, creed, social, religious beliefs or economic backgrounds.
  • It will provide an unbiased ground of learning and development of the young ones, which may turn out to be very beneficial in future.
  • At present, some of the state boards are not updating their syllabus frequently as per the changes in society. This loophole will be eliminated with the introduction of the uniform syllabus in India.

Limitations

  • Students may miss learning things specific to their region and their culture. This can be a threat to diversity.
  • Current school students might get affected or stressed out on a sudden change of syllabus.
  • An abrupt change in the syllabus may hamper the stability of a student with the academics which will not be a good turn.
  • A new set of the syllabus will bring in more workload on teachers and parents too.

Conclusion

  • Uniform education system having common syllabus and common curriculum would achieve the code of a common culture, removal of disparity and depletion of discriminatory values in human relations.
  • It would enhance virtues and improve the quality of life, elevate the thoughts, which advance the constitutional philosophy of equal society.
  • Though the government has been trying to put up with equality in education, the barriers have been inevitable to date.
  • A common syllabus seems to be a wise option, but it is yet to be implemented over the entire country.

With inputs from:

https://www.groupdiscussionideas.com/common-syllabus-throughout-indian-schools-pros-cons/

Anti Defection Law

The Kihoto Hollohan Judgment and its Significance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the Judgment

Mains level : Issues over Speaker's discretion in Anti-defection

The 28 YO Kihoto Hollohan judgment has found its relevance in the case of ousted Rajasthan Dy. CM and some MLAs who were issued a notice under the anti-defection law.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.The Ninth Schedule was introduced in the Constitution of India during the prime-ministership of:

(a) Jawaharlal Nehru

(b) Lal Bahadur Shastri

(c) Indira Gandhi

(d) Morarji Desai

Under debate: Speaker’s power

  • The power for this disqualification is vested in the Speaker, who is usually a nominee of the ruling party.
  • Since no action was taken by the Speaker on the disqualification petitions, a writ petition was filed before the High Court of Manipur in Imphal seeking directions to decide on the petition.
  • However, the court did not pass an order.
  • It said that the larger issue of whether a High Court can direct a Speaker to decide a disqualification petition within a certain timeframe is pending before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
  • The parties are left with the option to move the apex court or wait for the outcome of the cases pending before it.

The Kihoto Hollohan Judgment

  • The 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillu and Others has said that “judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman.
  • Nor would interference be permissible at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings said the Supreme Court.
  • The only exception for any interlocutory interference can be cases of interlocutory disqualifications or suspensions which may have grave, immediate and irreversible repercussions and consequence.

Free speech

  • The ruling party in Rajasthan has challenged the constitutionality of Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule which makes “voluntarily giving up membership of a political party” liable for disqualification.
  • The MLAs have said the provision infringes into their right to express dissent and is a violation of their fundamental right to free speech as a legislator.
  • The Rajasthan HC Bench explained that the reason for limiting the role of courts in ongoing defection proceedings is that the “office of the Speaker is held in the highest respect and esteem in parliamentary traditions.

Exceptions to the Kihoto Judgment

  • The judgment had said that even the scope of judicial review against an order of a Speaker or Chairman in anti-defection proceedings would be confined to jurisdictional errors.
  • That is if its infirmities are based on a violation of constitutional mandate, mala fides, non-compliance with rules of natural justice and perversity.

Back2Basics

Explained: Anti-defection law and its evolution

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Trending in news: 5G Technology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 5G Technology

Mains level : 5G Technology and the Huawei issue

One of India’s business tycoon recently announced that his company’s telecom venture has designed and developed from scratch, a complete indigenous 5G solution ready for deployment.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.With reference to communication technologies, what is/are the difference/differences between LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution)?

  1. LTE ‘is commonly marketed as 3G and VoLTE is commonly marketed as advanced 3G.
  2. LTE is data-only technology and VoLTE is voice-only technology.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

What is 5G?

  • 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • The first generation of networks allowed only mobile voice calls to be made, while the second generation allowed mobile voice calls as well as sending of short text messages.
  • It was the third generation or 3G network which allowed web browsing on mobile devices, the speed and latency of which improved with fourth-generation or 4G networks.
  • The 5G networks will have even faster speeds with latency down to between 1-10 milliseconds.

(Note: Latency is the time a device takes to communicate with the network, which stands at an average of up to 50 milliseconds for 4G networks across the world.)

How does 5G work?

All 5G networks chiefly operate on three spectrum bands.

  • The low-band spectrum has been proven to have great coverage and works fast even in underground conditions. However, the maximum speed limit on this band is 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • In the mid-band spectrum, though the speeds are higher, telcos across the world have registered limitations when it comes to coverage area and penetration of telephone signals into buildings.
  • The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed but has extremely limited network coverage area and penetration capabilities.

The telcos using this band rely on the existing LTE networks and will need to install a number of smaller towers to ensure adequate coverage and high-speed performance.

What does it mean to be 5G ready?

  • Globally many companies have been deploying 5G networks across their service areas as early as 2018.
  • Not only the network, but the devices will also have to be 5G ready for customers to be able to enjoy the maximum benefits of the latest upgrade in mobile broadband.
  • One of the major improvements in 5G is the use of beam tracking to follow all devices on the network to ensure consistent connection in real-time for the device.
  • 5G networks are also designed to multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) efficient which improves signal throughput for all devices on the network.

Where does India stand on the deployment of 5G?

  • Companies, both telecom service providers and their equipment vendors, have completed lab trials of 5G network components but are yet to commence field trials, which were initially scheduled to happen last year.
  • For the same, telecom companies are awaiting allocation of test spectrum from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • The service providers have already tied up with equipment makers like Nokia, Ericsson, etc for deploying their 5G networks.