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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 1st February, 2016

  • February 1, 2016
  • 12
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Feb 2016, International, National, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 1st February, 2016

 

INTERNATIONAL

 

TOPIC: General studies 2:

  • India and its neighborhood- relations. 
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. 
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

Negotiating with the Taliban

The recently concluded Doha Dialogue on ‘Peace and Security in Afghanistan’ presents a number of opportunities for the international community, as well as India, in dealing with the resurgent Taliban phenomenon.

Why in news?

  • The official Quadrilateral Coordination Group on Afghan Peace and Reconciliation, with participation from the governments of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the U.S., has become a non-starter due to the non-participation of the Taliban in the talks.
  • However recently the second round of the unofficial Doha Dialogue was organised by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs with support from the state of Qatar and the important to be noted is, it was attended by key leaders from the Taliban’s Qatar office, the only one of its kind, set up by the dominant Taliban faction of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

 

 Why the Doha process is significant at this point?

  1. The Taliban leadership’s preference, as articulated in Doha, for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan over continued bloodshed.
  2. The Taliban’s willingness to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government
  3. For the first time since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, they have started clarifying the contours of their vision for Afghanistan, though through a Track II process.

Why engage with the Taliban?

But why should we make peace with a violent outfit holding highly objectionable religious and political views? Shouldn’t our efforts be aimed at ensuring that the Taliban are defeated, both militarily and ideologically?

  1. The most important reason for engaging with the Taliban is that not doing so is indeed a worse option, and could prove to be suicidal for Afghanistan and its people.
  • With no less than 60,000 heavily armed men in their ranks, the Taliban are reportedly in control of around 30 per cent of the country’s districts, with their reach and control steadily on the rise.
  • There is a lot of concern today about the impending spring offensive by the Taliban and what it would do to the Afghans.
  1. Widespread electoral fraud during the 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan, and US involvement in making an agreement between the two contenders on the electoral outcome, has dented the legitimacy of the Afghan government.
  • With decreasing American military support, very little political legitimacy, and sheer lack of military strength to run its writ over the country, the Afghan administration will find itself in more trouble in the years ahead.
  1. The Taliban leadership repeatedly hinted at possible power-sharing arrangements with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the Doha deliberations.
  • Given its many weaknesses, Kabul would do well by engaging the Taliban in a dialogue process.

 

Potential roadblocks ahead:

Taliban seem to be unwilling on a number of fundamental issues that could come up as serious difficulties on the negotiating table.

  • The most important issue is that the Taliban, who refer to themselves as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, continue to be unwilling to submit themselves to the Afghan Constitution and accept the term “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” written in its preamble.
  • Intent on creating an “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, they propose to establish a state based on the Sharia law.
  • They are non-committal on the question of democracy, partly due to their interpretation of Islam, and partly due to their fear whether the Afghan people would accept them if they fought an open and transparent election without the might of the gun.

India and Taliban:

India has had a frosty relationship with the Taliban due to a number of reasons like

  1. The deep links between the Taliban and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the latter’s use of Afghan territory to train terrorists to fight in Kashmir.
  2. The extremely objectionable policies followed by the Taliban regime until its fall in 2001.
  3. The highly unhelpful behaviour of the Taliban during the IC-814 hijack in 1999.

Way ahead:

  • India’s Afghan policy, ever since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has been impressive and imaginative.
  • However, it does fall short in meeting the country’s future objectives in Afghanistan in the context of the emerging political realities there.
  • India should therefore make use of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan to subtly engage all stakeholders there.
  • The Doha process and the message from the Taliban leadership based in the Qatari capital should be taken seriously by India.

 

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically examine the importance of stable Afghanistan for promoting peace and stability in South Asian region.
  • Critically examine the importance of a stable Afghanistan in promoting economic growth and development in India.

 

NATIONAL

 

TOPIC: General studies 2:

  • 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 or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 

 

India’s education system

One of the greatest unmet challenges of contemporary India has been education and while it might not be appropriate to just talk about the ‘Indian Education System’ as a failure but a rethinking is required as the state has not been able to live up to its self-professed role of providing education to all.

 

The elements important for Education to achieve—

  • Provision of skills required for professional growth
  • Provision of life skills, including soft skills, maturity, and emotional growth
  • Building a strong character for being a good human being and citizen

“Culture is an activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feelings. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it. A merely well informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth. What we should aim at producing, is men who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction. Their expert knowledge will give them a ground to start from and their culture will lead them as deep as philosophy and as high as art.”

-Alfred North Whitehead (1929: 13),

 

Roadblocks to Recovery

Systemic problems in our education machinery:

  • There’s a lack of understanding (teachers) of the methodologies forwarded to be included

World Bank: The average pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level in India is 35 — this is the highest among emerging economies, and much higher when compared to the developed world.

  • High pupil-teacher ratio: Impedes the imparting of soft skills and has an adverse impact on the emotional growth of children
  • Heavily Regulated Private Sector: Hampered by archaic laws that discourages, and even prohibits, innovation.

 

Abundance of alternatives:

  • Renders the formal system ineffective
  • De-linked from industry’s requirements (on-job training)

National Employability Report 2014 found that only 18 per cent of engineering graduates are employable

  • Does not recognise the current needs of students nor provides the desired infrastructure
  • Need of differentiation and innovation is overshadowed with the standardised methodology and tasks cut out to suit and fill the governmental vacancies

 

Extensive Changes in the Landscape

Rethink:

  • Necessity of children spending 12 years in school, compartmentalised into different classes with a nationally fixed curriculum
  • Which is the most desirable way to develop children?
  • Why should two kids in Class 8 study the same level of maths and history when one of them is passionate about maths and the other about history?

Way Ahead:

The initial 12 years (best learning years) can be better spent in learning some other skills that will help them lead a happier and more successful life

Elementary education has to be made available to all— Enrolment numbers as well as the standard of education imparted

Secondary school system: Requires huge expansion with innovative pedagogical practices

Economically disadvantaged: More schools and dedicated teachers to rescue these children from illiteracy and un-education

De-cluttered Approach: Should not clutter the mind of young children with too much information and too many disparate ideas

Build up on ‘Natural Curiosity’: It is through playful activity that the child acquires the most valuable education—the joy of discovery and understanding; it acquires “the art of the utilisation of knowledge” they are naturally endowed with

Multilingual school system:

  • it resists the tyranny of linguistic majoritarianism which only generates the highly flawed idea of “identity politics;”
  • it promotes social inclusiveness;
  • it helps equalise opportunity for social mobility;
  • it helps geographical mobility;
  • it enables interaction with a larger community;
  • it opens up ever-widening horizons of learning

Learning & Writing: Early training in the learning of languages as well as writing are valuable assets as writing and thinking go together and exercises the mind. The child learns first-hand how to organise information and the art of presenting them in a coherent manner helping them later during their professional life.

Foundation of Humanities: Provide the young students understanding of the human condition and understanding is useful for living an examined life.

Dedicated teachers who are artists:

  • Nurture young minds that derive pleasure from it and are passionate about it are required in increasingly large numbers and need to be continuously replenished
  • Teach through imaginative methods including a judicious mix of modern technologies and manual skills
  • Developing the childlike inclination to play and encourage independent thinking
  • Instead of standardised textbooks, it is a schoolteacher who should devise workbooks appropriate to the local circumstances and the social background of children
  • Should be given minimum coercive powers and maximum freedom so that they can devise their pedagogical practices without external pressure and interference

Connecting the Dots:

  • ‘Policymakers should be facilitators and not implementers’- Critically examine

 

ECONOMICS

TOPIC:

General studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

General studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

 

From Plate to Plough: How to expand financial inclusion

  • Financial inclusion is an important policy pillar of the present government to ensure inclusive development (sabka saath, sabka vikas).
  • What it means, in brief, is to mainstream financial services for the masses, especially credit at affordable costs from institutional sources.

Historical background:

  • This is not the first time financial inclusion is being given a thrust.
  • Various governments tried to bolster it, and that was one of the reasons bank nationalisation took place.
  • There have been some successes during 1951 to 1991, when the share of outstanding debt of rural households to institutional sources increased from 7.2 per cent in 1951 to 64 per cent by 1991.

Dismal performance during economic reforms period:

  • However thereafter, the period of economic reforms showed a dismal performance, with the share of institutional sources declining from 64 to 56 per cent during 1991-2013.
  • This is one of the biggest lapses of the economic reforms.
  • If the present government can correct this flaw, it can be a game changer in alleviating poverty at a much faster pace than has been the case under economic reforms.

 

The case of PMJDY:

  • Realising the importance of financial inclusion, the government took a bold step by introducing the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY).
  • So far, around 20 crore bank accounts have been opened, and more than Rs30,000 crore deposits received under JDY.

However, the real challenge is to prevent these accounts from remaining dormant.

Why in news now?

To ensure that JDY remains active and relevant in fulfilling its objective, the PM had asked the RBI to prepare a roadmap for financial inclusion. 

RBI Committee on Medium-Term Path on Financial Inclusion:

  • The report of the RBI Committee on Medium-Term Path on Financial Inclusion, released in December 2015, emphasised the role of a holistic strategy involving players like telecom operators, biometric systems, payment banks and land registrars for “last mile” service delivery.
  • Some of its major recommendations include linking all credit accounts with a biometric identifier, such as Aadhaar; moving away from short-term interest rate subvention on crop loans and towards a crop insurance scheme; and replacing various input and output subsidies with direct benefit transfers (DBT).

A concern that needs intervention:

  • The report finds that although there has been significant improvement in access to banking services through expansion in a number of rural branches, banking correspondents and no-frill banking accounts, a large degree of financial exclusion prevails in east and north eastern India.
  • High interest rates (above 20 per cent) charged by the informal sector as well as micro financial institutions continue to be a concern.

Phasing out the interest subvention scheme:

One of the key recommendations of the RBI committee is on phasing out the interest subvention scheme

  • The interest subvention scheme was introduced in 2006-07, with the objective of providing substantial and cheap loans — at 7 per cent interest (upper limit of Rs 3 lakh), and if payment is regular, gradually lowered to 4 per cent.
  • Some states have extended loans even at zero interest rate to farmers.
  • This has resulted in a significant increase in short-term agricultural credit, with actual disbursements consistently surpassing targets.
  • This is hailed as a grand success and the subsidy on account of it has increased from Rs 3,283 crore in FY12 to Rs 13,000 crore in FY16.

 

A potential agri-credit scam:

  • There’s reasonable evidence that a significant proportion of crop loans granted at low interest rates isn’t reaching target beneficiaries.
  • A farmer who receives loans at a concessional rate of 4 per cent can easily deposit at least a part of it in fixed deposits in the bank, earning about 8 per cent interest, or even becoming a moneylender to offer loans at 15-20 per cent interest to those who don’t have access to institutional sources of finance.
  • We don’t need a bigger proof than the fact that short-term credit from institutional sources reached 110 per cent of the total value of agricultural inputs in 2014 (NAS 2015), and at the same time, AIDIS data shows 44 per cent loans were from non-institutional sources in 2013.
  • This suspicion is reaffirmed when one looks at the month-wise disbursement of agricultural credit, which spiked to 62 per cent of annual disbursement in the last quarter of FY14, with no corresponding spike in agri-production activities.

Way ahead:

The success seen in the first half of inclusion should be continued further in order to ensure complete financial inclusion in India.

Connecting the dots:

  • Analyse the extent and causes of low financial inclusion in India. Explain measures taken by government to promote better financial inclusion in India.
  • Critically analyse the success of PMJDY in promoting financial inclusion within the country.

 

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