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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus]- 29th November 2017

  • IASbaba
  • November 29, 2017
  • 5
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 29th November 2017

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(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


Net Neutrality

Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Key pointers:

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday recommended upholding the basic principle of net neutrality.
  • “The use of Internet should be facilitated in such a manner that it advances the free speech rights of citizens, by ensuring plurality and diversity of views, opinions and ideas,” recommended TRAI.
  • Any service provider would be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of content by either blocking, throttling, or “fast-laning” any apps, websites or web services.
  • TRAI also recommended that “specialised services” and content delivery networks (CDNs) be excluded from the scope of “any rules on net neutrality”.
  • The status of specialised services will be given if a service follows two broad principles.
    First, “such services are not usable or offered as a replacement for Internet access services”.
    Second, “the provision of such services should not be detrimental to the availability and overall quality of Internet access services”.
  • TRAI had barred telecom providers from charging differential rates for data services in its Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016, effectively blocking such attempts by Facebook and Airtel.

CDNs:

  • These are a layer in Internet networks (outside public Internet), used by content generators to store their data at suitable geographical locations.
  • The regulator has exempted CDNs from the scope of net neutrality rules, arguing that CDNs add efficiency to the network by reducing latency, mitigating congestion and freeing up network capacity for other purposes.

Article link: Click here


Diabetes and high BMI as causes of cancer 

Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Key pointers:

  • A new Lancet study has found that diabetes and high BMI (above 25 kg/m2) were the cause of 5.6 per cent of the new cancer cases in 2012.
  • Calculated on the basis of an individual’s height and weight, BMI or body mass index (a person’s weight in kg divided by the square of height in metres) is recognised the world over as a measure of obesity.
  • The findings are important for India as, with an estimated 62 million diabetics, it is widely considered the diabetes capital of the world. The National Cancer Registry recorded around 14.5 lakh cancer cases in 2016-17 in the country.
  • For India, the BMI obesity cut-off has been lowered from the global 25 kg/m2 to 22 kg/m2, given the proneness of Indians to truncal obesity, that increases the risk of various ailments.

Article link: Click here


Welfare Costs due to rising pollution 

Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Environmental pollution and degradation.

Key pointers:

  • India had the highest share of welfare costs (or a loss of income from labour), of about $220 billion, in South and South-East Asia — of a combined total of $380 billion from mortality due to air pollution, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The global mortality costs from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise to about $25 trillion by 2060 in the absence of more stringent measures.
  • At regional and national scale, China’s welfare costs from mortality were the highest followed by the OECD countries.

Solution:

  • The UNEP called for strong high-level political commitment and engagement of the local government, civil society and other stakeholders.
  • To achieve high level political commitment in key economic sectors, there is a need to go beyond the environmental ministries and include other relevant ministries such as finance, agriculture, industry, urban, transport, energy and health.

Article link: Click here


Improving the share of manufacturing sector in GDP

Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Key pointers:

  • The manufacturing sector’s share in India’s GDP has remained stagnant despite the government’s efforts to increase it.
  • Highlighting the issue, the Asian Development Bank suggested that India must do more to integrate with the global value chain.

Issues:

  • India currently plays only a small part in the global value chain.
  • Inequality between Indian states.
  • The inadequate investment in the infrastructure sector.
  • The poor planning behind urban development. Absence of a proactive urbanization strategy, what is likely is ribbon development along the highways and haphazard development around the industrial areas.

Article link: Click here


UN Convention against torture

Part of: Mains GS Paper II – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Key pointers:

  • India signed the U.N. Convention against Torture in 1997 but has not ratified it yet.
  • Efforts to bring a standalone law against torture have lapsed.
  • The National Human Rights Commission has been strongly urging the government to recognise torture as a separate crime and codify the punishment in a separate penal law.
  • The Supreme Court had described torture as an instrument of “human degradation” used by the State.
  • The Law Commission of India has already recommended the Centre to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and frame a standalone anti-torture law directly making the State responsible for any injury inflicted by its agents on citizens.
  • The Law Commission has suggested that the State should not claim immunity from the actions of its officers or agents.

Draft bill against torture:

  • In its 273rd report, the Commission has proposed a new anti-torture law titled ‘The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017’ which provides a wide definition to torture not confined to physical pain but also includes “inflicting injury, either intentionally or involuntarily, or even an attempt to cause such an injury, which will include physical, mental or psychological in nature.”
  • The draft Bill has recommended punishments for torture ranging from fine to life imprisonment on the perpetrator.
  • In case a person in police custody is found with injuries, it would be “presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by the police.” The burden of proof is on the police to explain the injury on the undertrial.
  • The Bill proposes to give the courts to decide a justiciable compensation for the victims taking into consideration his or her social background, extent of injury or mental agony. The compensation should suffice to pay for the medical treatment and rehabilitation of the victim.

Article link: Click here


(MAINS EXCLUSIVE) 


NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

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

General Studies 3:

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
  • Science and Technology? developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Boosting Energy Security: Ensuring primary resources

In news:

Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has acknowledged India would be the fastest growing energy consumer – and market – till 2040.
This applies not only to the hydrocarbon sector, but also for renewable energy (RE), as fast-declining costs turn solar and wind energy into the main drivers of growth in the power sector.
The renewables seem to be ruling as prices per unit of solar and wind-based generation are falling rapidly. Prices have dropped from a high of ₹17/unit in 2010 to ₹2.44 per unit by mid-2017 for solar and to between ₹ 3.51 to 5.92 per unit for wind as against coal which stands at around ₹3.20 per unit.
With the goal set at 100 GW by 2022, India had ramped up its solar generation capacity to around 13 GW and 32.5 GW for wind by the end of fiscal 2016-17 as against 3744 MW and 17.4 GW, respectively, at the end of 2014-15.

Challenges:

Poised to be among the top five renewables generators in the world in a few decades, moving up several notches from its current seventh position, renewables can solve India’s energy insecurity.
However, the challenges with regard to energy security remain grave:

  • Despite having an installed generation capacity of around 303 GW – the fourth largest – more than 300 million citizens are yet to gain access to electricity.
  • At the same time, a growing economy and rising living standards has seen per capita consumption of energy increasing from a below global average – which means that there is room for even more growth.
  • India is also one of the largest growing passenger vehicle markets. Stagnating domestic oil and gas production has seen import dependency for both growing year-on-year.
  • High imports of solar panel modules-
    India’s impressive growth of RE generation has led to a vast demand for further growth, which, in turn, has led to huge imports of solar panel modules, mainly because domestically manufactured solar modules were costlier – around 10 to 15 per cent more than imported ones from China, Taiwan and Malaysia.
    Around 89 per cent of solar modules used in India in 2016-17 were imported, and it is unlikely that domestic alternatives will be able to fill the gap.
  • Moreover, the price of imported solar modules have increased by almost 12 per cent since the second half of 2017, due to the increased demand in overseas markets as well as a shortage of polysilicon, an important component in solar panels.
    This may lead to an increase in the cost of solar power as the price hike is passed on to the customers. Hence, the very reason for the popularity of solar power may be defeated, leading to a fall in generation.

About REE:

REE are a special class of 17 elements or minerals that have extensive use across various industries, including computer, healthcare, defence systems and batteries, apart from clean energy systems.
As of now, China has the largest reserves of REE and largely controls the market, sometimes even using it as a strategic tool.
Manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines depend on access to rare earth elements (REE).

Indian context:

  • India too has significant reserves of REE. According to some studies, India has the fourth largest reserves after China, the US and Australia.
  • Despite commencing rare earth mining activities more than five decades ago, India has not leveraged its advantage.
  • A combination of low-cost Chinese production and lack of R&D, including in extraction techniques and facilities for the separation of individual elements from combined elements, has kept the sector from progressing up the value chain.

REE sector:

The government has initiated a review of requisite policies to provide a fillip to the sector.

  • In August 2017, the Supreme Court directed the central government to revise the 2008 National Mineral Policy by the end of the year.
  • The SC emphasised the need to encourage scientific mining through proper survey and exploration, as well as the need for adopting better mining practices, advancing R&D, and regulation of unauthorised activities.
  • A new committee has been set up comprising representatives of various ministries and industry – keeping in mind the importance of involving the private sector – as well as representatives of organisations such as Indian Bureau of Mines, Geological Survey of India, Niti Aayog and the Railway Board.
  • One of the main focus areas recommended was improved exploration and scoping of minerals, including rare earth and strategic minerals.

Way forward:

  • India needs to ensure that it has the necessary primary resources required to power its energy sector if it is to achieve its goal of energy security.
  • Importing of solar panels does not enhance the country’s basic energy strategy of greater energy independence and security. We need to invest in creating a competitive module manufacturing sector across the manufacturing chain, from procuring primary resources to the finished product.
  • Where China controls the global supply of REE and has even begun stockpiling in preparation for future market demand, efforts to diversify the REE supply chain is critical, both from the economic and security perspectives.
  • India is a latecomer in the sector of REE, but with requisite policy initiatives and implementation, it should join the battle for the soon-to-be-more-competitive renewables market.

Connecting the dots:

  • The renewables market is becoming competitive day by day. India needs to ensure that it has the necessary primary resources required to power its energy sector if it is to achieve its goal of energy security. Critically analyse.

EDUCATION/SOCIAL SECTOR REFORMS

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/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Education in India needs a rehaul

Introduction:

Rabindranath Tagore’s quote on education:

“The imposing tower of misery which today rests on the heart of India has its sole foundation in the absence of education.”

This is as true today as it was nearly 90 years back.

Concerns:

  • While India highlights its ever-improving literacy levels, educationally it is a terrible under-performer, too embarrassed to participate in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment tests covering reading and computational skills for 15-year-olds.
  • Successive studies have repeatedly established that a majority of those in each class in India have educational attainments much lower than the one they are in.
  • Large majority of students in the university were unemployable because of their inability to apply their knowledge in real-life situations. This is because of a poor foundation in schools, where the emphasis is more on rote learning, rather than testing a student’s creative skills.
  • There has been little attempt by educators in the country to improve rural education, where the motivation among children to attend class is low because of such factors as negative parental pressure, poor facilities, and uninspired teaching.
  • As per UNESCO data, India has one of the lowest public expenditure rates on education per student, especially compared to other Asian countries like China.
  • Education in most schools is one dimensional, with an obsessive focus on marks. Added to this is the lack of availability of trained teachers at all levels. Quality teachers are the missing link in the Indian education system. Although pockets of excellence exist, the quality of teaching, especially in government schools, does not meet the standards.
  • With a literacy rate of 77 percent, India lags behind other BRICS nations, which have literacy rates above 90 percent. All these countries have better student-teacher ratios. So not only does India grapple with poor quality teachers, it also has fewer total teachers in comparison with other countries that do a better job at education.
  • Data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development show that only half of all students who enter primary school make it to the upper primary level and less than half that get into the 9-12 class cycle.

In their book An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze, quoting from an ASER survey conducted in 2011 in rural areas, commented that:

  • Only 58 percent of children enrolled in classes three to five could read a class one text.
  • Less than half (47 percent) were able to do simple two-digit subtraction.
  • Only half of the children in classes five to eight could use a calendar.
  • They were not found proficient in even basic skills; about two-thirds of the students in class four could not master the measurement of the length of the pencil with a ruler.

Failures:

Study after study has shown that the true indicator of economic development in a country is the education and wellbeing of its people. Although, India has made rapid economic progress over the last three decades, one area that has not received enough attention is the quality of primary education.

  • Lack of good secondary and higher secondary schools: The number of secondary schools is less than 150,000 for a country of 1.3 billion, and even this comes down to just 100,000 at the higher secondary level. While there are around five million primary school teachers, at the secondary level the number is just 1.5 million. India has persisted with a schooling system that has long failed its young.
  • The inevitable shift to private school education along with the Right to Education Act represents a failure of the public-school system.

The way forward:

It is government schools that should be the drivers of change by becoming the first, not the last, choice of parents to send their children to.

  • For that to happen, our public-school system must be swiftly and radically revamped.
  • Teacher training institutions, under the District Institutes of Education and Training constitute play an important part.
  • Role of the newly-constituted State-Level Quality Assurance Coordination Committee (SLQAC) is important as it will monitor the quality enhancement in educational institutions and provide guidance to them to meet the accreditation standards and ranking parameters.

It is time that India began viewing school education as a critical strategic investment and gave it the status of a vital infrastructure project. As all in-country efforts have failed, we should go in for a radical overhaul of our educational infrastructure with the help of countries that have an amazing record in providing quality school education — Finland, for instance. We can surely afford to pay for that.

Finland model of providing quality school education (Comparative analysis)

  • Finnish children don’t begin school until age 7. They have more recess, shorter school hours and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation. There are no gifted programs, almost no private schools, and no high-stakes national standardized tests.
  • Yet over the past decade Finland has consistently performed among the top nations on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
  • Finland built its excellent, efficient, and equitable educational system in a few decades from scratch, and the concept guiding almost every educational reform has been “equity”. Regardless of a person’s gender, background, or social welfare status, everyone gets an equal chance to make the most of their skills.

Finland created a “school system based on equality” to make sure we can develop everyone’s potential.

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians.

Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Conclusion:

Providing universal quality education depends not on the performance of teachers alone, but is the shared responsibility of several stakeholders: governments, schools, teachers, parents, the media and civil society, international organisations, and the private sector.

If only India had begun revamping school education at the start of economic liberalisation, it would by now have had the world’s largest pool of well-educated and highly trained workers. Fortunately, India continues to have the largest number of young people anywhere. By ensuring they get a world-class education over the next few decades, India will be well on its way towards becoming a developed nation sooner than expected.

Connecting the dots:

  • Highlight the challenges and the reforms needed in Indian education policy with respect to primary and higher education.
  • An unacceptably large number of Indian children are attending school but not learning enough. The issue of low learning trap is not just with Indian but is a global epidemic. The need of the hour is planned action and evidence-based policymaking. Discuss.

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