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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 17 April 2020


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


 

Topic:  Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

1. “The period between 1780 and 1800, marked an important transition in trading order in India. Analyse.(250 words)

Reference:  Modern Indian history by Spectrum Publications

Why this question:

The question is from the static portions of GS paper I.

Key demand of the question:

Explain in what way the period of 1780-1800 marked key transitions in the Indian trade order.

Directive:

AnalyzeWhen asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with facts such as – The post 1780 situation saw the growing influence of the Calcutta and Bombay trading ports and their impact upon the adjacent hinterland economies.

Body:

To start with, explain The imperatives of Company trade, constituted a very important but not an exclusive determinant of the country’s trading economy Explain that The realignment of merchant and market networks In the last decades of the eighteenth century were as much in response to the emerging colonial factor as they were to indigenous stimuli that came in the wake of the new balance of power that the presence of the Maratha Confederacy and other regional polities like those of Hyderabad, Mysore and even the Punjab represented. List down all factors precisely.

Conclusion:

Conclude with significance to the Indian history.

Introduction:

The post 1780 situation saw the growing influence of the Calcutta and Bombay trading ports and their impact upon the adjacent hinterland economies. In part these consequences signified the end of an older trading order and the slow and sometimes almost ad hoc assembling of the colonial economy. The initiative lay very much with the English East India Company and its servants who in their private capacity used the newly acquired political authority to eliminate all competition and explore new possibilities of trade that linked India to the larger trading world.

Body:

However, for most of the period, the imperatives of early colonial trade constituted an important but not exclusive determinant in the realignment of merchant, market and credit structures in the subcontinent. The realignment of merchant and market networks in the last decades of the eighteenth century were as much in response to the emerging colonial factor as they were to indigenous stimuli that came in the wake of the new balance of power that the presence of the Maratha Confederacy and other regional polities like those of Hyderabad, Mysore and even the Punjab represented.

Factors responsible for this transition in trade:

  • The political context for the trading economy of India in the closing decades of the century was determined largely by the expanding presence of the English east India Company and by the stabilization of Maratha power in central and western India.
  • The rise of the cross-country trade routes provides us an example of the reintegration of commercial and credit connections that followed in the wake of tribute payments that tied up the areas of the Maratha Confederacy with its center in Poona.
  • The annual movement of tribute payments from Baroda, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Gwalior to Poona working simultaneously with renewed pilgrimage traffic under Maratha patronage stimulated commercial exchanges that in turn fed into the expanding trade of the Calcutta and Bombay commercial poles.
  • For example, Bombay’s trade with Poona was so impressive even before 1770 that Charles Malet, the English Resident in Poona had occasion to remark that ‘a state of hostility with this empire little affects the commercial intercourse which must be attributed to its being in the interests of the farmers of the customs and landholders not to impede the intercourse and as to the latter, it must certainly ever be our interest to promote it’.
  • However, by the1790s, Bombay’s trade with Gujarat – the cotton bowl of the region – became perceptibly more significant in view of Bombay’s growing trade in raw cotton with China.
  • This coincided with the emergence of a further line of dependency tying the eastern Maratha domain to the Calcutta commercial port.
  • Increasing Bengal demand for raw cotton from the Maratha cotton bearing tracts in Central India like Amrawati and Nagpur through Mirzapur stimulated the growth of middle sized towns engaged in the supply of cotton.
  • This was a genuine case of transition – drawing from both local stimuli as well as from the pressures of a changing external situation.

Changes in Indian Economic structure:

  • Bania merchants collaborated with the European private merchants in the expanding trade of cotton in Gujarat.
  • Naupatti bankers were active in Mirzapore’s cotton traffic.
  • The community of bankers consolidated their linkswith the Company emerging as key collaborators of the new regime.
  • In western India, their presence was especially important as they handled the huge flow of credit transfers that proved vital for the survival of the Company establishment in Bombay.
  • Enjoying the benefits of political security under the Rajas, Benaras became a key conduit for the cotton trade and a major center of hundis that financed both the tribute transfer operations of the Awadh Nawabs and the English Company as well as the cotton trade of the local merchants.

Conclusion:

The gradual reorientation of the Indian economy to the pressures of Company trade was not without benefit to Indian commercial groups. While the displacement of India’s traditional trade had undoubtedly undermined Indian shippers and exporters forcing them to play a subordinate if not nonexistent role in the changing set up, the realignment of markets and merchant networks in the half century of transition enabled the regrouping and deployment of merchant capital in the proto colonial trade of the late eighteenth century.

 

Topic:  population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

2. Discuss the concept of ‘Cillage’. How does it help and aid the policy makers rework relationship between city and village? Elucidate.(250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express 

Why this question:

The author of the article presents the idea of ‘Cillage’ and its relevance.

Key demand of the question:

Explain the concept of Cillage in detail and explain in what way it can aid the policy makers rework relationship between city and village.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly define what a Cillage is.

Body:

Firstly, explain the concept of Cillage in detail. Explain that we are now in the knowledge era. And knowledge-era technologies, in contrast to industrial-era technologies, promote democratization (social media, for example) and facilitate decentralisation (work from home) and that is where the concept of Cillage originates. With technologies like additive manufacture, internet of things, and artificial intelligence, well-trained people can address needs in both urban and rural areas from wherever they are. Developing a “cillage” ecosystem would need a rooted and integrated approach to holistic education and research, technology development and management, as well as technology-enabled rural livelihood enhancement.

Conclusion:

Conclude with potential of such a model to address the current population issues of the country.

Introduction:

“Cillage” is a synergistic combination of city and village. It is the creation of an ecosystem where knowledge bridges are built between cities and villages. Bridging the knowledge gap between a city and a village would also bridge the income gap between the two, and lead to a faster bridging of the gap between the average individual income in India and that in industrially advanced countries. Democratisation promoted by knowledge technologies, if properly leveraged, can in principle reduce disparities, which, unfortunately, are on the rise today.

Body:

The reverse migration of daily wage earners in large numbers despite the lockdown to contain the coronavirus has been distressing. Many even resorted to walking back to their hometowns, hundreds of kilometres away, as their survival in cities, with no jobs in hand, became untenable. However, in contrast, some in tune with knowledge-era technologies have been able to continue working, many from their homes.

Knowledge-era technologies, in contrast to industrial-era technologies:

  • Knowledge-era technologies promote democratisation (social media, for example) and facilitate decentralisation (work from home).
  • It should thus be possible for an adequately educated and trained youth residing in a rural domain to support a significant part of the manufacturing and service needs of urban areas, just as an urban youth can support a significant part of the knowledge and application needs in rural areas.
  • With technologies like additive manufacture, internet of things, and artificial intelligence, well-trained people can address needs in both urban and rural areas from wherever they are.
  • There are instances where an Indian group is addressing the troubleshooting, plant modification and technical documentation needs of plants abroad, sitting in India.
  • Thus, the knowledge era should, in principle, become a significant income leveller between the urban and rural domains, with a large rise in the overall national income.
  • Democratisation promoted by knowledge technologies, if properly leveraged, can in principle reduce disparities, which, unfortunately, are on the rise today.

Cillage helps rework relationship between city and village:

  • As we embrace the knowledge era and focus on capacity building of rural youth, the opportunities in rural areas should, in principle, become higher than those in urban areas since the rural segment can now benefit from all three (agriculture, manufacturing and services) sectors of the economy.
  • In the knowledge era, with emphasis on capability and capacity building of rural youth in terms of holistic education, appropriate technology and enhanced livelihood, there is a possibility for a more balanced distribution of income as well as population.
  • This would need knowledge bridges to be built between cities and villages, and the creation of an ecosystem which has been conceptualised as a “cillage” — a synergistic combination of city and village.
  • Bridging the knowledge gap between a city and a village would also bridge the income gap between the two, and lead to a faster bridging of the gap between the average individual income in India and that in industrially advanced countries.
  • Developing a “cillage” ecosystem would need a rooted and integrated approach to holistic education and research, technology development and management, as well as technology-enabled rural livelihood enhancement.
  • Facilitating a number of new skills, technologies and support systems that can further leverage current capabilities of these people for starting a new enterprise would be important.
  • Immediate arrangements to facilitate their livelihood, and leveraging their present capabilities could help retain at least some of these people in villages.
  • Going forward, we should take knowledge activities to a higher level so that the products and services created by these people become more competitive. Looking at disruptive technologies for exploiting local opportunities should follow.

Conclusion:

The disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in the context of loss of livelihoods at the base of the socio-economic pyramid, is bound to have a deep impact. It will need every effort to return to normal. Given that the new normal would, in any case, be quite different, the right course would be to channelise the stimulus caused by this crisis towards accelerating the shift to a new normal. This will not only help a more dispersed population, but will also reduce disparities and lead to faster growth of the economy.

 

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

3.  What are the objectives of National Renewal fund? Do you think it’s time move ahead of NRF to bring back the economic stability of the country? Analyse (250 words)

Reference:  Business Standard 

Why this question:

The article brings to us the purpose and utility of the National Renewal Fund in the current times and the need to move ahead of it.

Key demand of the question:

Explain the key objectives of National Renewal Fund and analyse as to why it is time move ahead of NRF to bring back the economic stability of the country.

Directive:

AnalyzeWhen asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly set the context of the question.

Body:

  • To start with, explain what NRF is.
  • Context – it is time to move ahead with National Renewal fund to bring back the economic stability of the country.
  • Discuss the objectives – The main objective of the National Renewal Fund was to provide a social safety net to the workers who are likely to be affected by technological up-gradation and modernisation in the Indian industry.
  • Highlight its present status – The National Renewal Fund was abolished by the government in 2000 and administration of the VRS scheme was shifted to Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), instead of DIPP from fiscal year 2001-02.
  • Explain why NRF was abolished? – The reason for abolishing NRF was that most of the payments under this were made for VRS and this fund did not serve adequately the purpose of retraining and rehabilitation. Further, private sector was also listed as one of the beneficiaries of the NRF, but later it was felt that this fund should deal exclusively with the public sector units only.

Conclusion:

Discuss what should be the way forward.

Introduction:

The Indian economy is staring into an abyss. The scenes of thousands of people walking on foot for days back to their villages, the staggering loss of livelihoods and the potential bankruptcies of businesses, large and small, are just the most visible manifestations of a post-Covid economic crisis that is well underway. Therefore, this is little time for half measures or equivocation.

The Government of India had announced to establish a National Renewal Fund (NRF) as a part of the slew of measures announced in New Industrial Policy of 1991. The Fund was later established in February, 1992 for a period of 10 years.

Body:

Objectives of National Renewal Fund:

The main objective of the National Renewal Fund was to provide a social safety net to the workers who are likely to be affected by technological up-gradation and modernisation in the Indian industry. The objectives of were to be achieved as follows:

  • By providing assistance to firms to cover the costs of retraining and redeployment of employees arising as a result of modernisation and technological upgradation of existing capacities and from Industrial restructuring.
  • By providing funds for compensation to employees affected by restructuring or closure of industrial units, both in the public and private sectors.
  • By providing funds for employment generation schemes in the organised and unorganised sectors in order to provide a social safety net for labour.
  • The government included two schemes under this fund viz. Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) for central public sector undertakings; and re-training scheme for rationalised workers in organised sector.

The National Renewal Fund was abolished by the government in 2000 and administration of the VRS scheme was shifted to Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), instead of DIPP from fiscal year 2001-02. The reason for abolishing NRF was that most of the payments under this were made for VRS and this fund did not serve adequately the purpose of retraining and rehabilitation. Further, private sector was also listed as one of the beneficiaries of the NRF, but later it was felt that this fund should deal exclusively with the public sector units only.

Need for a renewed National Renewal Fund:

  • To enable the government to discharge the humongous obligations being placed on it, a stimulus package that would be of the order of 15 per cent of GDP (around Rs 30 trillion) suggests itself.
  • A renewed National Renewal fund where this money could be placed is the need of the hour considering the economic crisis India would be likely to face post the covid pandemic.

Measures to fund the NRF:

  • A National Renewal Fund (NRF) financed by long-term government borrowing (with a tenure of 50 years or more), from both the domestic and overseas markets.
  • The NRF should have a moratorium on servicing interest for the first 10 years; and can follow a ballooning structure thereafter, for the next 40 years.
  • Expenditures must be heavily front-loaded over the next few years to have maximum impact.
  • The Fund could possibly be redeemed through a cess on direct and indirect taxes for the next 40 years.

Working of the NRF:

The NRF would deliberately not be under the purview of the fiscal responsibility and budget management or FRBM rules — the government and Parliament must understand, as many other countries already do, that this is not a time for fiscal discipline.

This is because, as history has shown, sticking to fiscal discipline in a time of serious recession can have disastrous economic consequences.

States must play a critical role in the way any such NRF is used and allocated.

States are the ones at the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic and it is they who, when the immediate impact of the crisis has ebbed, will be best placed to decide which sectors and projects need a big funding push.

The NRF can also provide a guarantee mechanism for state borrowing — this is urgently needed since interest rates on state government bonds have been creeping up since the crisis began.

Way forward for NRF:

  • The NRF must not just be about providing relief — though that would be a critical component.
  • It must also be seen as a way of revitalising critical sectors of the economy such as infrastructure and health and building institutions and projects whose impact will be felt for decades.
  • Projects under the National Infrastructure Pipeline announced by the government toward the end of December last year, can be subsumed under the NRF and can be a good starting point for fund allocation.
  • Other programmes and projects like the building of roads, bridges, schools and hospitals in hundreds of communities across India should be taken up.

Conclusion:

It is time to move ahead with a National Renewal Fund, and moving out of within-the-box discussions around the Consolidated Fund of India and the Union Budget.

 

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

4.  Is it possible to use the ongoing  Coronavirus crisis to affect permanent reforms in public procurement system ? give your opinion with suitable justification.(250 words)

Reference:  Financial Express 

Why this question:

The article highlights the need for reforms in the PPS in the current times of the pandemic.

Key demand of the question:

Explain why and in what way can the public procurement system  can be reformed to better utilize the available resources.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly explain the context of the question.

Body:

To start with, define Public procurement and its significance to the Indian setup. Explain that since significant production is at a standstill, the state should harness industrial units to deliver emergency supplies and utilize stranded private sector human resources too where needed. Take cues from the article and explain in detail the significance of such a move.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

Public procurement is a key lever available with the Indian state to overcome the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis. Such procurement accounts for anywhere between 20-30% of India’s GDP annually. It is a lifeline for small businesses, as the state is often the primary buyer of their goods and services. The central government has already eased procurement norms for ministries like textiles and health in light of the crisis. They are now allowed to classify and buy “emergency supplies” at an accelerated pace, with post-facto financial approval. But, much more needs to be done. India must use this crisis to affect permanent reforms in its public procurement system to support and sustain economic recovery.

Body:

Challenges faced in public procurement in India are:

  • Absence of a comprehensive procurement Act
    • In the absence of a comprehensive procurement Act, General Financial Rules allow the government entities to frame procurement process with its own perception of public interest.
    • It has resulted in heterogeneous procedures and multiplicity of rules across the procuring entities
  • Quality challenges
    • The procurement ecosystem is riddled with quality challenges.
    • For instance, healthcare practitioners are complaining about the poor quality of personal protective equipment (PPE) in public hospitals for battling COVID-19..
  • Delays in activities in procurement cycle
    • The procurement process is often delayed in the stage of need assessment, budget preparation, and approval. Similarly, unavailability of sufficient procurement professionals and non-realization of the required information usually appear responsible for the delay in preparing the technical specifications.
  • Unfair practices and corruption
    • Given the size and the interests of the stakeholders, public procumbent is vulnerable to unfair practices imposing high costs on both the government and the society.
    • Despite the procedural safeguards, corruption level in India is perceived to be high in recent years leading to low quality of public services which ultimately hampers the development process.
  • Presence of anti-competitive elements
    • The existence of anti-competitive practices by the bidders’ community tends to hamper the procurement process by negating the best value of money.
    • Competition issues in India mainly concern with collusive bidding, bid rigging, cartelization, and abuse of dominance.
  • Low participation of the domestic MSEs
    • Despite the MSEs provisions, the participation of domestic MSEs in the public procurement activities remains low in India.
    • Apart from resource related entry barriers including anti-competitive elements, many MSEs do not also take part in public procurement due to a perception that government procuring entities often delay in releasing the contract payments.
  • Absence of an independent grievance redressal mechanism
    • India does not have an Independent Grievance Redressal Mechanism in the procurement system.
    • The GFR 2017 only allows the aggrieved bidders to file complaints with procuring entities, arbitrators, and courts.
  • Competency and skill of the procurement officials
    • There are implementation challenges concerning the skills and competency of the government procurement officials as these activities require professional skills.
    • The officials need to be more acquainted with the procurement management, rules and regulations, legal issues, contract management issues, and others

Measures needed:

  • India can emphasize quality as much as cost in public procurement, with due concern to affordability.
  • A useful benchmark for quality-orientation is the European Union’s (EU) 2014 directive on public procurement.
  • India should further its innovation agenda through public procurement. The long-term economic recovery from the coronavirus is contingent on innovation-driven productivity gains.
  • India can introduce new legislation to smoothen and repurpose public procurement. The finance ministry’s General Financial Rules govern the procurement ecosystem.
  • The Draft Public Procurement Bill 2012 which was introduced in the parliament seeks to regulate procurement activities valued over INR 50 lakhs by the government procuring entities. This must be reintroduced.
  • The adoption of e-procurement portals (GeM portal) have certainly helped in enhancing the transparency in the procurement system. Still, a few areas need to be addressed to reap full benefits of e-procurement such as e-opening of bids, e-deposit of the tender-related payments, e-filing for contract payment, and e-payment to the suppliers.
  • An effective procurement management information system (PMIS) is important for a sound and sustained procurement system.
  • The procurement competency and capacity of the concerned officials should be enhanced through training and exposure to the best procurement mechanisms used in advanced countries as well as the international agencies.
  • The CCI and CVC provide support to the procuring entities in detecting anti-competitive elements and adopting counter-measures.
  • In order to enhance the participation of MSEs in the public procurement, efforts should be made to provide access to information, technology, credit facilities, training especially for tendering process, and use of IT in public procurement.
  • Establishment of independent and decentralized grievance redressal system is crucial for building public confidence in the procurement system imparting that the procurement activities are undertaken transparently and in an impartial manner.
  • It is also important to develop a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) for the pro-curing entities to assess and monitor their efficiency.

 

Topic:  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

5. Analyse the impact of Corona virus pandemic on the Indian Pharma sector.(250 words)

Reference:  Economic Times

Why this question:

The article brings to us a detailed narration of the effects of ongoing pandemic on the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry.

Key demand of the question:

One must discuss the challenges and opportunities pertaining to India’s pharmaceutical industry.

Directive:

Analyze – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly state the ongoing crisis across the country owing to the pandemic onset.

Body:

The question is pretty much straightforward and there isn’t much to deliberate. Bring out the impact of the pandemic on the pharma industry – explain first the stress it puts on the resources of the industry, then move onto explain the avenue that it provides to Indian pharma sector to establish its global footprint.

Conclusion:

Conclude amidst all negativities it brings the Pharma Industry a chance to become a remarkable industry in the world.

Introduction:

India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally. Indian pharmaceutical sector industry supplies over 50 per cent of global demand for various vaccines. The novel coronavirus pandemic in China, with its epicentre in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, threatens to starve India’s pharma industry of key inputs. India is massively dependent on imports of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), the bulk drugs that give medicines their therapeutic value, largely from 30-40 units in Hubei.

Body:

Indian Pharmaceutical industry:

  • The Indian pharma industry has been a world leader in generics both globally and in domestic markets contributing significantly to the global demand for generics in terms of volume.
  • Made-in-India drugs supplied to the developed economies such as the US, EU and Japan are known for their safety and quality.

Threats posed by Coronavirus on Indian Pharma industry:

  • Competition in drug manufacturing:
    • In recent years, India has seen increasing competition from China, which it has been able to leverage due to its inherent cost advantage, manufacturing intermediates and APIs at a cost much lower than those in India.
    • This has resulted in a gradual increase in API imports from China to India and this in turn has led to killing of domestic manufacturing capacity for certain key APIs and their advanced intermediates.

Bulk_drug

  • Risks from India pharma’s China linkages
    • India’s large import dependence on China (nearly 70% by value) has become a significant threat to India’s healthcare manufacturing and global supply chain.
    • While Indian pharma players over a time period have steadily migrated up the value chain to focus on value-added formulations with higher margins, but this over dependence on China has increased the threat to the nation’s health security as some of these critical APIs are crucial to mitigate India’s growing disease burden.
  • Supply chain disruption for India pharma:
    • Any disruption in supply chain of APIs can result in significant shortages in the supply of essential drugs in India.
    • Some of the critical APIs for high-burden disease categories such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and tuberculosis are listed in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).
  • Major earning cuts ahead for pharma firms:
    • Edelweiss Securities says the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic has caused severe supply-side disruptions in various sectors, earnings will be cut by 10-15%.
    • Pharma as a sector has emerged as a strong contender to drive the next leg of rally, whenever it comes. In anticipation, pharma stocks have seen a huge run up in the last 10 days.
    • This is not just true for India, but globally too pharma companies have performed well.
    • While in the short term, most companies will bounce back from the last 5 year of underperformance, this time around, the leader will be different.

The Department of pharmaceuticals has charted out a plan to boost domestic local manufacturing of Active Pharmaceutical ingredients(API) in order to reduce its import dependence on China. The plan includes:

  • Development of clusters.
  • Incentives to promote indigenous manufacturing.
  • Strengthen regulatory mechanism.
  • Higher fee structure to reduce import.
  • Single window clearance for setting up manufacturing plant.

Other measures needed:

  • India’s strong innovation capabilities aided partnerships would help in overcoming these problems.
  • Developing our R&D sector to reduce dependency on foreign countries for raw materials
  • The introduction of pharmaceutical product patents and the mandatory implementation of good manufacturing practices is the need of the hour.
  • It is necessary for the Indian pharmaceutical industry to become globally competitive through world-class manufacturing capabilities, with improved quality and a higher efficiency of production, and there is a need to stress on the up-gradation of R&D capabilities.
  • Training and development of human resources for the pharmaceutical industry and drug research and development should be done accordingly;
  • There is also a need to promote public-private partnership for the development of the pharmaceuticals industry; promote environmentally sustainable development of the pharmaceutical industry; and enable the availability, accessibility, and affordability of drugs.
  • Improvement in industrial practices to provide better training and support services for employees to perform their job functions.
  • A drugs price index would surely make sense.
  • Using multilateral organization like WTO against the illegal trade practices.
  • Funding for the pharma companies might be a way to move forward.
  • IPR Think Tank formed by the Government to draft stronger national IP policies.

Way forward:

  • In 2015, the ‘Katoch committee’ put out a set of recommendations on reviving API production, which include reviving PSUs for manufacturing critical drugs such as penicillin and paracetamol.
  • The setting up of mega parks with common effluent treatment plants, testing facilities and captive power plants has been mooted.
  • On the financial side, the panel has suggested setting up a professionally managed equity fund for producing APIs and duty exemptions for capital goods imports.
  • These facilities can have developed to world class standards, restoring the recent damage to India’s reputation on the quality front.

 

Topic:  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. Awareness in the fields of IT

6. “Digital India vision of the government is emerging as a vital instrument for solving the present crisis facing the education system due to Covid-19”.Elucidate.(250 words)

Reference:  Economic Times

Why this question:

The author narrates upon the significance of the Digital India mission and its vision amidst the Corona crisis.

Key demand of the question:

Explain in detail how Digital India vision of the government is emerging as a vital instrument for solving the present crisis facing the education system due to Covid-19.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly explain the ongoing crisis in a line or two.

Body:

To start with, explain the effect of the pandemic on t education system; the effect of lockdown, leading to denial of access to schools and classrooms etc. Explain then the vision of Digital India mission. Discuss how the government’s mission is now coming into action and helping the education system sustain the shocks of pandemic.

Conclusion:

Conclude with what lies ahead with digital india mission and its utility in the education system of the country.

Introduction:

The state governments across the country began shutting down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, since March second week. It’s close to a month and there is no certainty when they will reopen. This is a crucial time for the education sector—board examinations, nursery school admissions, entrance tests of various universities and competitive examinations, among others, are all held during this period.

Body:

Impacts on education due to COVID-19 pandemic:

  • school and university closures will not only have a short-term impact on the continuity of learning for more than 285 million young learners in India but also engender far-reaching economic and societal consequences.
  • The pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future.
  • A large number of Indian students—second only to China—enroll in universities abroad, especially in countries worst affected by the pandemic, the US, UK, Australia and China.
  • Many such students have now been barred from leaving these countries. If the situation persists, in the long run, a decline in the demand for international higher education is expected.
  • The bigger concern, however, on everybody’s mind is the effect of the disease on the employment rate. Recent graduates in India are fearing withdrawal of job offers from corporates because of the current situation.
  • The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s estimates on unemployment shot up from 8.4% in mid-March to 23% in early April and the urban unemployment rate to 30.9%.

Digital Education and its potential:

  • This is an ideal time to experiment and deploy new tools to make education delivery meaningful to students who can’t go to campuses.
  • It’s a chance to be more efficient and productive while developing new and improved professional skills/knowledge through online learning and assessment.
  • The use of technology in education is resulting in different concepts in the system, for instance the move from teacher-centric education to student-centric education.
  • Virtual classrooms and various online tools today allow us to make the engagement between the teacher and students as close to a real, in classroom type experience, as possible.
  • These tools can also make the teachers and parent meetings as well as staff/management meetings more time and cost saving while providing the necessary interactivity.
  • It is also a fact that technology-based education is more transparent and does not make difference in front vs back benchers or girls vs boys.
  • State governments and private players have regularly been publishing information on various initiatives undertaken by ministries like MHRD, Department of Technical Education, NCERT and others to support and benefit youth/students.

Initiatives under Digital India:

  • SWAYAM online courses for teachers.
  • UG/PG MOOCs for non-technology courses.
  • e-PG Pathshala or e-content containing modules on social science, arts, fine arts, natural and mathematical science.
  • CEC-UGC YouTube channel.
  • Vidwan – a database of experts who provide information to peers and prospective collaborators.
  • NEAT – an initiative by AICTE based on the PPP model to enhance the employability skill among students, in collaboration with Education Technology Companies and National Digital Library (NDL), a repository of learning resources with single window facility.
  • The DIKSHA platform, with reach across all states in India, can be further strengthened to ensure accessibility of learning to the students.
  • Many noteworthy initiatives have been taken up like Spoken Tutorial, Free and Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE), e-Yantra, Google Classroom and so on.
  • It is fact that the government of India as well state governments, through their various ministries/departments, have created infrastructure to deliver e-education. These include National Knowledge Network (NKN), National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), National Mission on Education Through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT), National Academic Depository (NAD), among others.
  • All these enhance our ability to connect easily with institutions and enhance our access to learning resources. For instance, NKN provides high speed network backbone to educational institutes in India.

Challenges:

  • The major challenge in EDTech reforms at the national level is the seamless integration of technology in the present Indian education system, which is the most diverse and largest in the world with more than 15 lakh schools and 50,000 higher education institutions.
  • Further, it is also important to establish quality assurance mechanisms and quality benchmark for online learning developed and offered by India HEIs as well as e-learning platforms (growing rapidly).
  • Many e-learning players offer multiple courses on the same subjects with different levels of certifications, methodology and assessment parameters. So, the quality of courses may differ across different e-learning platforms.
  • Democratization of technology is now an important issue, comprising internet connectivity, telecom infrastructure, affordability of online system, availability of laptop/desktop, software, educational tools, online assessment tools, etc.

Going forward, the use of technology in teaching or recruitment will lead to a new era wherein the best of faculty will be available from across the globe to students.  Education quality will be gauged not just by the quality of faculty but will also have quality of IT infrastructure and familiarisation of the faculty will digital teaching technologies as important parameters.

Conclusion:

For all this to be a reality, a drastic change in thought process is required in the mind- set of policy makers, authorities, students and specially educationists. Faculty selection should gradually be linked to technology friendliness and keenness for technology adoption. Similarly, accreditation parameters, criteria need reconsideration. All these steps will help strengthen the country’s digital learning infrastructure in the long run. Covid-19 has only accelerated adoption of technologies to deliver education.