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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 02 August 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 02 August 2019


Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

National Education Policy (NEP)

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features and significance of the policy, issues associated and concerns expressed by various states.

 

Context: Vice President of India and Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has said that the New Educational Policy will make India a global educational hub. He urged the public to give their views and suggestions on the draft NEP by the stipulated time of 15th of this month.

The Draft Policy is built on foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.

 

Background:

In May this year, the draft National Education Policy (NEP) developed by a committee chaired by K. Kasturirangan was shared by the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) for public comment. A comprehensive education policy for India is on the anvil for the first time since 1986.

 

Key highlights of the draft:

  1. Early childhood care and education:
  • High-quality early childhood care and education will be provided for all children between the ages of 3 and 6 by 2025.
  • This will be done within institutions such as schools and anganwadis, which would have a mandate to take care of the overall well-being of the child—nutritional, health, and education.
  • These institutions will also provide similar support to families for children younger than three years of age—within their homes. The criticality of brain development in the early years has become clear in the past few decades; this policy will result in a massive positive multiplier effect on society.

 

  1. Ensuring foundational literacy and numeracy:

Every student will start achieving age-appropriate foundational literacy and numeracy by 2025. A slew of programmes and measures are articulated for this purpose. This is aimed at the basic issue facing our education system today—of students not being able to read, write and do elementary math.

 

  1. Transformed curricular and pedagogical structure for school education:

The curriculum and pedagogical structures will be designed anew to be appropriate and effective, based on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development.

The curriculum will be integrated and flexible with equal emphasis on all subjects and fields. There will be no separation of curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular areas—with all in a single category of equal importance.

Vocational and academic streams will be integrated and offered to all students. Examination systems will be radically changed to assess real learning, make them stress-free, and aim for improvement instead of the passing of judgements.

 

  1. Universal access and retention in schools:

All Indians between ages 3 and 18 to be in school by 2030. The Right to Education Act will be extended from pre-school to class XII.

 

  1. Teachers at the centre:

The profession of teaching, and so teachers, will be at the centre of the education system, focused on the student and educational aims. All schools will be fully resourced with teachers—with working conditions for an energetic work culture. No “temporary” teachers will be allowed; all positions will be filled with competent and qualified teachers. A development-oriented performance management system will be put in place. The teacher education system will be transformed, with rigorous teacher preparation through a four-year integrated stage and subject-specific programmes offered only in multi-disciplinary institutions.

 

  1. New institutional architecture for higher education:

India’s current 800 universities and over 40,000 colleges will be consolidated into about 10,000-15,000 institutions of excellence to drive improvement in quality and expansion of capacity. This architecture will have only large multi-disciplinary institutions, with significant investment.

Three types of higher education institutions will be there: Type 1 universities focused on research but also teaching all programmes, undergrad to doctoral; Type 2 universities focused on teaching all programmes while also conducting research and; Type 3 colleges focused on teaching undergrad programmes. All types will grant their own degrees. There will be no system of university affiliations.

 

  1. High-quality liberal education:

All undergraduate education will be broad-based liberal education that integrates the rigorous study of sciences, arts, humanities, mathematics and vocational and professional fields with choices offered to students. Imaginative and flexible curricula will develop critical thinking, creative abilities and other fundamental capacities. Multiple exit and entry points will be offered, with appropriate certification after one, two, three and four years of study. There will be a four-year undergraduate programme available in addition to three-year programmes.

 

  1. Increase in public investment:

There will be a substantial increase in public investment to expand and vitalize public education at all levels.

What is left out?

  1. While the policy talks about the need to bring “unrepresented groups” into school and focus on educationally lagging “special education zones”, it misses a critical opportunity of addressing inequalities within the education system.
  2. It misses to provide solutions to close the gap of access to quality education between India’s rich and poor children.
  3. Not specifying a common minimum standard below which schools cannot fall, creates conditions where quality of facilities in some schools will only sink lower, widening this gap.
  4. It proposes a roll back of existing mechanisms of enforcement of private schools making parents “de-facto regulators” of private schools. Parents, and particularly poor and neo-literate parents, cannot hold the onus of ensuring that much more powerful and resourced schools comply with quality, safety and equity norms.

 

Challenges in implementation:

  1. What is recommended is a doubling of public funding to 6% of the GDP and increasing overall public expenditure on education to 20% from the current 10%. This is desirable but does not appear to be feasible in the near future given that most of the additional funding has to come from the States.
  2. While establishing new institutions for Pali, Prakrit and Persian appears to be a novel idea, shouldn’t the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysuru be strengthened and perhaps even upgraded to a university with an extended mandate to take care of these languages?
  3. Expanding coverage under the RTE Act to include pre-school children is extremely important, but should perhaps be introduced gradually, keeping in mind the quality of infrastructure and teacher vacancies. Amendment of the Act can perhaps wait for a while.
  4. The idea of setting up the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog under the Prime Minister and having it serviced by the MHRD is crucial in order to integrate the approaches and programmes of multiple departments. However, it is fraught with many administrative problems and possible turf battles. Bringing medical or agricultural or legal education under one umbrella is likely to be met with stiff opposition. What is going to happen, for example, to the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017?
  5. The idea of regulation being brought under the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, standard setting under the General Education Council and funding under the Higher Education Grants Council may require a revisit so that there is synchronisation with the current Bill for the Higher Education Commission of India.
  6. The draft policy is silent on the Institutions of Eminence and agencies like the Higher Education Funding Agency.
  7. Language issues have to be handled sensitively in view of their emotional overtones, as witnessed recently. Protests are often made without understanding the spirit of the text.

 

Mains Question: Discuss the unique features of draft NEP 2019. What are the challenges and roadblocks in front of it and how should the government in power overcome the same?


 

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Time Release Study (TRS)

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: TRS- features, uses, need and significance.

 

Context: The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, will conduct 1st National Time Release Study to enable faster movement of cargo across borders to benefit traders.

The exercise will be institutionalized on an annual basis, during the same period every year hereafter.

 

What is Time Release Study?

The World Customs Organization (WCO) Time Release Study is a strategic and internationally recognized tool to measure the actual time required for the release and/or clearance of goods, from the time of arrival until the physical release of cargo.

Aim: To find bottlenecks in the trade flow process and taking necessary measures to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures.

The WCO TRS is specifically referenced in Article 7.6 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) as a tool for Members to measure and publish the average release time of goods.

 

Uses:

  1. The TRS is being increasingly used by Members with respect to strategic planning and the proper sequencing of TFA measures in accordance with their National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTF).
  2. In recent years, the tool has been capturing a lot of attention worldwide; the international donor community and the WCO development partners are recommending it as a key performance measure to assess, evaluate, and enhance the implementation of the WTO TFA.

 

Significance and the need for it:

  1. Measuring the time taken for the release of goods meets the concerns of trade circles regarding long delays in Customs clearance.
  2. It helps Customs to respond to trade requirements where the operators need to plan ahead for the movement of goods across borders in order to meet tight production schedules and just-in-time inventory systems that require forward planning.
  3. The time required to release goods has also increasingly become the measure by which the international trading community assesses the effectiveness of a Customs administration.
  4. The Time Release Study provides guidance to Customs administrations on the best way to apply this method of internal review.

 

Way ahead:

This initiative will help India maintain the upward trajectory on Ease of Doing Business, particularly on the Trading Across Borders indicator which measures the efficiency of the cross-border trade ecosystem. Last year India’s ranking on the indicator improved from 146 to 80


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Issues related to health.

 

National Digital Health Blueprint

 

What to study?

For prelims: NDHB- highlights.

For mains: Need for, significance of NDHB, challenges in health sector and ways to address them.

 

Context: The government has released National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) which aims to create National Digital Health Eco-System, in public domain. Health Ministry has sought inputs from various stakeholders on its vision.

 

Highlights of the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB):

  1. It lays out the ‘building blocks’ for the implementation of the National Health Stack (NHS), which aims to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) in leveraging health records.
  2. Keeping true to the government’s larger agenda, of ‘data as a public good’, the blueprint proposes the linking of multiple databases to generate greater and granular data that can be leveraged by the public as well as private sector – including insurance companies, hospitals, apps and researchers.
  3. The blueprint proposes a National Digital Health Mission “as a purely government organisation with complete functional autonomy adopting some features of some of the existing National Information Utilities like UIDAI and GSTN.”

 

The policy document essentially lays the implementation plan and defines the ‘building blocks’ of the NHS. In doing so, it lays down the following objectives:

  1. To establish national and regional registries to create single source of truthin respect of Clinical Establishments, Healthcare Professionals, Health Workers and Pharmacies.
  2. Creating a system of Personal Health Recordsaccessible to the citizens and to the service providers based on citizen-consent.
  3. Promoting the adoption of open standards by all the actors in the National Digital Health Ecosystem.
  4. Promoting Health Data Analyticsand Medical Research.

 

Concerns:

  1. This National Blueprint illustrates yet another example of the Centre moving forward with a major digitisation program involving the data of millions of citizens without a data protection law in place.
  2. Data security is a prerequisite for any data movement. Currently, data privacy in health is a gray area.
  3. Data researchers and activists have expressed concerns about the development of this policy, which proposes a health data set-up on a foundation of India Stack – a bouquet of privately-owned proprietary software applications.


Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Global coalition to protect pollinators

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About the coalition and it’s functions.

For Mains: Pollinators- significance, threats and various efforts for their conservation.

 

Context: Nigeria becomes fourth African nation to join global coalition to protect pollinators.

While Morroco became a member of this group in May this year, Ethiopia was the first African nation to be part of this global coalition in 2017.  Burundi was the second African country to join this global group.

 

About the Global Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators:

  1. The organisation was formed three years ago, to follow up on the findings of IPBES Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, which found that many of the world’s pollinator species are on the decline.
  2. The initiative to form a coalition was taken by the Netherlands on December 12, 2016 at the Conference of the Parties–Convention of Biological Diversity held in Mexico.
  3. Members: The coalition now has 28 signatories including 17 European countries, five from Latin America and the Caribbean and four from Africa.

 

Need:

About 16.5 per cent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction, say the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments.

The assessment highlights that 75 per cent of food crops in the world and nearly 90 per cent of wild flowering plants depend, at least to some extent, on animal pollination.

Pollinator-dependent species include several fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oil crops, which are major sources of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals to humans.

 

Joining the coalition means adopting the following measures:

  1. Taking action to protect pollinators and their habitats by developing and implementing national pollinator strategies.
  2. Sharing experience and lessons learnt in developing and implementing national pollinator strategies, especially knowledge on new approaches, innovations and best practices.
  3. Reaching out to seek collaboration with a broad spectrum of stakeholders—countries as well as businesses, NGOs, farmers and local communities.
  4. Developing research on pollinator conservation.
  5. Supporting and collaborating with each other—and those parties that are willing to join the coalition.

 

What is the importance of pollinators?

  1. Plants depend on pollination.
  2. Globally nearly 90% of wild flowering plant species depend on animal pollination.
  3. More than 75% of leading global crop types benefit from animal pollination in production, yield and quality.
  4. Around 5-8% of current global crop production is directly ascribed to animal pollination, which equates to somewhere between 235 and 577 billion American dollars worldwide.

 

Sources: down to earth.


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.

One nation-one ration card

 

What to study?

For prelims: key features of the proposed scheme, PDS.

For mains: Need for, significance of the scheme and challenges in its implementation.

 

Context: Government has launched One Nation-One Ration Card scheme on pilot basis in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Gujarat.

Families who have food security cards can buy subsidized rice and wheat from any ration shop in these states but their ration cards should be linked with Aadhar Number to avail this service.

 

About the scheme:

One Nation One Ration Card (RC) will ensure all beneficiaries especially migrants can access PDS across the nation from any PDS shop of their own choice.

Benefits: no poor person is deprived of getting subsidised foodgrains under the food security scheme when they shift from one place to another. It also aims to remove the chance of anyone holding more than one ration card to avail benefits from different states.

Significance: This will provide freedom to the beneficiaries as they will not be tied to any one PDS shop and reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail instances of corruption. 

 

Challenges:

Prone to corruption: Every state has its own rules for Public Distribution System (PDS). If ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ is implemented, it will further boost corruption in an already corrupted Public Distribution System.

The scheme will increase the woes of the common man and, the middlemen and corrupt PDS shop owners will exploit them.

Tamil Nadu has opposed the proposal of the Centre, saying it would result in undesirable consequences and is against federalism.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

 

Inter-state River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features, need for and significance of the bill.

 

Context: Lok Sabha has passed the Inter-State River Water disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 with a view to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present institutional architecture robust.

 

Features of the bill:

Disputes Resolution Committee: The Bill requires the central government to set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably. The DRC will get a period of one year, extendable by six months, to submit its report to the central government.

Members of DRC: Members of the DRC will be from relevant fields, as deemed fit by the central government.

Tribunal: The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the DRC.  This tribunal can have multiple benches. All existing tribunals will be dissolved and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing tribunals will be transferred to this newly formed tribunal.

Composition of the Tribunal: The tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and not more than six nominated members (judges of the Supreme Court or of a High Court), nominated by the Chief Justice of India. 

 

Drawbacks of interstate Water Dispute Act, 1956:

The Inter State Water Dispute Act, 1956 which provides the legal framework to address such disputes suffers from many drawbacks as it does not fix any time limit for resolving river water disputes.

Delays are on account of no time limit for adjudication by a Tribunal, no upper age limit for the Chairman or the Members, work getting stalled due to occurrence of any vacancy and no time limit for publishing the report of the Tribunal.

The River Boards Act 1956, which is supposed to facilitate inter-state collaboration over water resource development, remained a ‘dead letter’ since its enactment.

Surface water is controlled by Central Water Commission (CWC) and ground water by Central Ground Water Board of India (CGWB). Both bodies work independently and there is no common forum for common discussion with state governments on water management.

 

Way forward:

The Centre’s proposal to set up a single, permanent tribunal to adjudicate on inter-state river water disputes could be a major step towards streamlining the dispute redressal mechanism.

However, this alone will not be able to address the different kinds of problems—legal, administrative, constitutional and political—that plague the overall framework.

To strengthen the cooperative federalism, disputes must be resolved by dialogue and talks and the political opportunism must be avoided.

A robust and transparent institutional framework with cooperative approach is need of the hour.

 

Provisions related to interstate river water disputes:

Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.

Entry 56 of Union List empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

Article 262: In the case of disputes relating to waters, it provides

  • Clause 1:Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  • Clause 2:Parliament may, by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as mentioned above.

 

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for Prelims:

 

Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL):

Context: A joint venture company namely Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) is to be set up with the participation of three Central Public Sector Enterprises namely, National Aluminium Company Ltd.(NALCO), Hindustan Copper Ltd.(HCL) and Mineral Exploration Company Ltd. (MECL).

The objective of constituting KABIL is to ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to Indian domestic market.

Significance: While KABIL would ensure mineral security of the Nation, it would also help in realizing the overall objective of import substitution.

Functions: The KABIL would carry out identification, acquisition, exploration, development, mining and processing of strategic minerals overseas for commercial use and meeting country’s requirement of these minerals. The company will help in building partnerships with other mineral rich countries like Australia and those in Africa and South America, where Indian expertise in exploration and mineral processing will be mutually beneficial bringing about new economic opportunities.

 

Samarth:

What is it? It is an initiative launched by Flipkart to bring Indian artisans, weavers, and makers of handicrafts to its platform.

It will support artisans, weavers and handicraft maker by on-boarding them and helping them in process of selling on internet.

 


Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Himalayan states demand green bonus, separate ministry:

Context: Himalayan states recently met at a conclave to demand a separate ministry to deal with problems endemic to them and a green bonus in recognition of their contribution to environment conservation.

Ten out of 11 states took part in the conclave. It is for the first time that the Himalayan states have come on a single platform to take a unanimous stand on the issue of green bonus and demanded a separate ministry to deal with problems unique to them.

 

Outcome of the meet:

A “Mussoorie resolution” was passed at the conclave making a collective pledge to conserve and protect their rich cultural heritage, bio-diversity, glaciers, rivers and lakes besides making their own contribution to the nation’s prosperity.

 

Rationale behind the demand for green bonus:

Most of the country’s rivers originate in the Himalayas and therefore, the Himalayan states have to play the most significant role in the prime minister’s water conservation initiative.

It is also necessary because the Himalayan states’ contribution to environmental conservation is the biggest with all their green cover
The Himalayan states are also at a disadvantage because large swathes of land fell into ecosensitive zones where all sorts of development activities could not be carried out. 

So, these states, by protecting forests and ecosystems, ensure larger life-saving services to the country. For these, they also face numerous restrictions in their usual development works such as taking up big projects that destroy forests.
A green bonus thus is needed to compensate the Himalayan states for their disadvantages.

 

Indian Himalayan region:

  1. IHR is the section of Himalayas within India, spanning 11 Indian states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand) & 2 districts of Bengal and that runs along 2500 km of Himalayan ranges between Indus river basin in North-West and Brahmaputra in the East.
  2. Approximately 9,000 glaciers of IHR store about 12,000 km³  of freshwater.
  3. This region is endowed with rich vegetation & is home to almost 36% of India’s total biodiversity. More than 41.5% area of IHR states is under forests, representing 1/3rd of total forest cover of India & nearly half (47%) of the “very good” forest cover of the country.
  4. The total geographical area of IHR states is approximately 591,000 sq. km (18% of India) and it is inhabited by about 3.8% of the country’s population.
  5. The strategic importance of the IHR is evident from the fact that IHR states share borders with 6 neighbouring countries.
  6. This is one of India’s major carbon sink. Besides it averts soil erosion from the world’s youngest mountain range.

 

Payment for ecosystems services (PES):

The demand for green bonus is an emerging global mode to conserve ecosystems called payment for ecosystems services (PES). And this demand has triggered interest on PES in India which has been experimenting this though in sporadic ways.

 

How is it allocated?

  1. This demand has been the country’s longest ever bid for PES at this scale that involves formalised distribution of incentive fund between the Union and state governments.
  2. The 12th Finance Commission (2005-10), for the first time, recognised the need to invest in resources and earmarked Rs 1,000 crores for five years to be given to states for preserving forests.
  3. The 13th Finance Commission allocated Rs 5,000 crore, based on the area under forest cover with an added parameter of Canopy density.
  4. The 14th commission reformed the revenue-sharing formula between the Union and the states. It brought the landmark change of including forest cover as a determining factor in a state’s share.
  5. Though it is for all states, the Himalayan states are perceived to be the natural beneficiaries given their high forest cover.
  6. In the distribution of funds to states, the commission attached a 7.5 per cent weight to forest cover. Population, demographic change, income distance and area are the other factors that decide the share of a state in central tax pool.

 

Coverage:

At present, ecological services payment schemes cover carbon sequestration and storage, watershed development and protection, non-domestic biodiversity protection and forest protection. In the climate change regime, carbon emission reduction and other mitigation activities make huge businesses.

But agriculture and farmers have been kept out of the formal carbon market that is worth more than $100 billion. Farmers, particularly those practicing traditional farming including in Himalayan states, have been rarely considered eligible for payment for their ecological services.

 

Need of the hour:

  • Now, it is being felt that farmers should be rewarded for their ecological services. Traditional farming is considered climate-resistant and less harmful to the environment.
  • Under the climate change mitigation and adaptation plans, agro-biodiversity is mentioned as a potential instrument to be explored. The poorest farmers living in degraded environment usually practise this type of farming.
  • When agriculture with low ecological footprint is encouraged for payment for ecological services, it would serve two purposes — bring down poverty and make agriculture climate-resistant.

 

Way ahead:

The demand for a ‘green bonus’ by Himalayan states, thus, is not only a valid one but also an ecological necessity. They should demand more, because by giving them more India’s plains can be saved from many disasters.