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.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Scraping the No-Detention Policy
The Union Cabinet has recently decided to scrap the no-detention policy at the elementary level, and introduce detention of students who fail a designated test in Class 5 or 6,
Issue with India’s elementary education:
India’s elementary education system may be getting better at providing access to greater numbers of children, but has never really been able to answer the question, what is the measure of its success?
In spite of policy improvements, it has to contend with a significant dropout rate. In 2015, that figure stood at about 5% at the primary level and over 17% at the secondary level, with government schools affected more.
The decision is fraught with the danger of going back to a regime of early dropouts. Such a move can only feed the pool of cheap child labour that has been the notorious record of the school education system, and facilitate the newly liberalised norms of allowing child labour under the guise of family enterprises.
When the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act became law in 2010, it appeared to be a bulwark against the various ills that prevent continued schooling of all children up to the secondary level.
What is No-Detention Policy?
It is the policy to promote students automatically to higher classes every year till Class VIII. It was instituted to check the high number of dropouts, especially among the socially and economically disadvantaged sections.
Objections against the NDP policy:
25 states raised objections against the NDP, citing it as a reason for high failure and drop-outs in Classes IX and X.
The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) has also thrown its weight behind the naysayers.
Issues with the decision of scraping NDP:
The government has not undertaken a serious analysis of what went wrong, and why.
The policy was never meant to be a standalone measure. A number of educationists have argued that the NDP was wrongly interpreted to create an environment in which the significance of evaluating a school-goer’s learning outcome was undermined. Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), that aimed to assess the child’s understanding of what was being taught in class at periodic intervals, proved to be a non-starter in many, if not most, schools.
The already overloaded teachers were not given adequate training to undertake this reform. They had no idea of what was to be evaluated, and how.
In several schools, CCE was reduced to “project work”, which parents resented.
The RTE’s provisions regarding the upgrading of school infrastructure and increase in the teacher-student ratio — that would have created an enabling environment for the NDP — were not implemented.
According to the District Information System for Education — a database developed by the National University for Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi — less than 10 per cent of the schools in the country are fully compliant with the RTE’s requirements on infrastructure and teacher availability. In fact, about 8 per cent primary schools have just one teacher.
The RTE demanded creative solutions. NDP and CCE, for example, required sharper policy focus on the already fraught issue of teacher training.
Policymakers and education experts should have had continuous engagements with teachers to clarify the concepts of CCE and NDP to them.
As it jettisons them now, the government needs to ask itself: Will detaining children whose academic results are poor improve learning outcomes and arrest the drop-out rate in schools
There is now a substantial body of scholarly work that throws light on the ways in which the examination system stresses students and skews the field in favour of the privileged who can afford teaching aids outside the school. The move to scrap the NDP will make the RTE’s goal of inclusive education a very difficult one. The government should rethink the move — and create enabling conditions for the no-detention policy to succeed.
The guarantee of uninterrupted schooling that the Act provides under sections 16 and 30(1) is founded on the no-detention policy until Class 8. This is a protection that should not be trifled with to compensate for the overall failure to improve the school education system, beginning with the neglect of teacher education, bad recruitment policies, and confusion over what the goals of schooling are.
The provision for continuous and comprehensive evaluation should be developed scientifically. Raising the quality of classroom teaching, continuous monitoring of teacher attendance and introduction of free vocational and industrial skills training for all those with such an aptitude after elementary schooling should be the priority.
Transferring the onus of performance in a narrow testing framework to children, many of whom come from underprivileged backgrounds, can only produce a less literate citizenry. A more open and liberal approach to schooling will have good long-term outcomes.
Connecting the dots:
The Union cabinet has recently decided to scrap the no-detention policy. Discuss what necessitated this step and its implications.
The government’s decision to scrap the no-detention policy (NDP) will weaken the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, substantially. Discuss
TOPIC: General Studies 3
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Draft National Energy Policy (DNEP)
NITI Aayog’s Draft National Energy Policy (DNEP) was finally and unveiled in June 2017. It has some ambitious objectives, such as universal access to electricity on a 24/7 basis and clean cooking fuel for all, and some excellent recommendations to promote renewables and tackle energy poverty.
Recommendations in the draft report:
The report has emphasized the importance of pegging India’s energy policy on the following three essential verities:
India’s per capita energy consumption may be a fraction of the per capita energy consumption of the developed world and, indeed also that of China, but it will be among the most severely impacted by global warming. It should demand “differentiated responsibility” from the international community in managing and mitigating the existential risk arising from this development. But, in parallel, it must push its economy on to a low carbon growth trajectory.
India’s energy policy must, in consequence, focus on increasing the share of renewables (solar, wind, bio) in the energy basket and on greening fossil fuels (oil and coal).
India must leverage technology and innovation to render renewables affordable and accessible.
The DNEP presents two scenarios, business-as-usual (BAU) and Ambitious. According to the DNEP, renewables and clean energy will meet only 8.9% of commercial energy needs in the BAU scenario in 2040 and 13.4% under the Ambitious scenario. Annual energy growth rates for these two cases are between 3.4% and 4.2%.
One of the objectives of DNEP is to banish energy poverty. One recommended strategy to achieve this goal is to launch the National Mission on Clean Cooking Fuels. This will enable 40% of rural residents, who are currently dependent on biomass, to have access to LPG, electricity, improved stoves, etc, by 2022. The energy share of cooking fuels is projected to drop from 23% in 2012 to 3.4% in 2040 as a result of replacing biomass fuels with cleaner fuels.
DNEP has also stressed the urgent need for trained manpower for energy sector along with recommendations.
Issues with the report:
While it encapsulates well the problems and the solutions, it ducks the modus operandi for implementation.
It does not define roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. It does not provide a timeline for delivery and there is no discussion on financing.
The “something for everybody” narrative dilutes the centrality of the green message. The report’s vision for 2040 calls for affordable energy, high per capita electricity consumption, access to clean cooking energy, low emissions, security of supply and universal coverage. There is a clean energy thread running through these components. But its recommendation for the policy interventions required to achieve this vision is a patchwork of clean and not-so-clean initiatives. That is, managing energy consumption, energy efficiency, production and distribution of coal, electricity generation, transmission and distribution, supply of oil/gas, refining and distribution of oil, and installation, generation and distribution of renewables.
Niti Aayog’s DNEP has assumed that India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth will be 8% per year during the plan period with an energy growth/GDP growth coefficient of 0.43 to 0.53. It would be remarkable if we can achieve such a high GDP growth rate with a relatively low energy growth as projected by DNEP. The energy/GDP coefficient for developed and some developing countries was close to 1.00 or sometimes more than 1.00 when they were at India’s level of development.
The four key objectives driving the DNEP are: banish energy poverty by providing energy at an affordable price; improve energy security and independence; greater sustainability; and economic growth. No attempt has been made in the report to optimise decision-making while selecting different sources of energy based on multiple criteria like the four mentioned here.
Most of these recommendations are old. It would have been more useful and productive if the DNEP had selected and concentrated on a few critical ones. It is easy to give a laundry list of suggestions but much more difficult to highlight critical ones.
It is a well-known fact that a large percentage of the energy sector subsidy is diverted and misused. This results in the generation of a huge amount of black money. While the DNEP does mention problems of governance, it does not elaborate on such an important issue.
The DNEP also discusses electric vehicles only in passing. It does not discuss the possibility of India halting the production of vehicles with internal combustion engines, say by 2030, and transiting to EVs by 2040. In contrast, several countries, such as Norway, France, Holland, and Germany, have declared their intention to stop the sale of petrol and diesel cars over the next 10–20 years (Chrisafis and Vaughn 2017).
An important strategy discussed to reduce oil consumption is to promote a greater use of public transportation and the railways. This strategy has been highlighted ever since the first oil crisis in 1973. But the railways and public transportation have been losing their market share, resulting in increasing oil consumption. The DNEP should have provided a road map to achieve this very important strategy learning from past experience.
However, the most disappointing aspect of the DNEP is its handling of the gas sector. It suggests that India should try hard to construct the Iran–Pakistan–India (IPI) and Turkmenistan–Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipelines, promote LNG imports, incentivise shale and conventional gas exploration, replace LPG in urban areas by piped gas and divert LPG to rural areas. All these are great suggestions, but most have been made earlier.
A separate system be created to enable the development and distribution of cleaner fuels and that policy interventions be directed to slowly but inexorably enhance the importance of the latter to the diminishing significance of the former.
There is no discussion on the institutions of implementation of the policy. There is currently no institutional platform for mediating the complex of vested interests and stakeholders engaged with different aspects of the energy sector. There is a misalignment between the horizontally structured, siloed central ministries and the vertically layered division of responsibilities between the central, state and municipal governments. This is the main reason why it is difficult to translate policy into action. Take, for example, shale oil. To harness these resources, the central Ministry of Petroleum will need to bring the central ministries of water, chemicals and environment, their counterpart state government departments and the landholders around the same table.
Niti Aayog should supplement their current report with a second document that will offer suggestions for the creation of such a mechanism and an institutional design that will clarify lines of accountability and authority and balance the needs of development, politics and sustainability.
It is now for the executive to put actionable flesh around the recommendations mentioned in Draft NEP. As the government’s think tank, Niti Aayog wishes to make a difference, it should extend its mandate unilaterally and map each of its policy recommendations against existing institutions of governance, and where there are mismatches or misalignment, offer suggestions for plugging the institutional lacunae. Otherwise, we would miss a golden opportunity to prepare India for the transition from the fossil fuel era to one of renewables.
Connecting the dots:
Recently the NITI Aayog released a Draft National Energy Policy. Discuss its recommendations. It is said that the policy falls short of plugging the institutional lacunae. Analyze.