IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 6th June 2019
TOPIC: General studies 2 and 3:
- India and the World
- International Relations
- Policies of developed and developing countries and their impact on India’s interests
- Indian Economy and related issues
The government has shown its commitment to its strategy of “Neighbourhood First” by inviting the leaders of neighbouring countries for the second time to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.
While in 2014 the invitation went to the leaders of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), In 2019 it went to leaders of the seven-member Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
BIMSTEC includes five SAARC members (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka), and Myanmar and Thailand, while leaving SAARC members Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Maldives out, due to the geographical location of the Bay of Bengal.
SAARC Importance, Success and Failures:
SAARC, as an organisation, reflects the South Asian identity of the countries, historically and contemporarily. This is a naturally made geographical identity.
Equally, there is a cultural, linguistic, religious and culinary affinity that defines South Asia. Therefore, just as rivers, climatic conditions flow naturally from one South Asian country to the other, so do the films, poetry, humour, entertainment and food.
Since 1985 when the SAARC charter was signed, the organisation has developed common cause in several fields: agriculture, education, health, climate change, science and technology, transport and environment. Each area has seen modest but sustainable growth in cooperation. For example, from 2010, when the South Asian University began in Delhi, the number of applicants for about 170 seats has more than doubled.
SAARC’s biggest failure comes from the political sphere, where mainly due to India-Pakistan tensions, heads of state have met only 18 times in 34 years; it has been five years since the last summit in Kathmandu.
BIMSTEC, on the other hand, is not tied up in the identity of the nations that are members.
It is essentially a grouping of countries situated around the Bay of Bengal, and began in 1997 (Bhutan and Nepal joined in 2004), a decade after SAARC.
With India’s growing frustration over cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, it hopes to build more on BIMSTEC’s potential.
BIMSTEC is unlikely to supplant SAARC:
One of BIMSTEC’s two founding principles is: “Cooperation within BIMSTEC will constitute an addition to and not be a substitute for bilateral, regional or multilateral cooperation involving the Member States.”
Its official literature describes it as “a bridge between South and South East Asia” and a “platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] members.”
What explains the deep resistance to SAARC in India?
- Terrorism emanating from Pakistan is the biggest stumbling block cited by the government.
Mr. Modi cancelled his attendance at the last planned SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2016, after the attack on the Indian Army’s brigade headquarters in Uri. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan followed suit.
This principled stand by India, however, doesn’t extend to other organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), into which India and Pakistan were inducted in 2017.
- Another reason is the logjam because of Pakistan’s opposition to connectivity projects such as the Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA), energy sharing proposals and others such as the South Asia Satellite offered by India.
- SAARC could adopt the “ASEAN minus X” formula — members who are unwilling to join the consensus can be allowed to join at a future date, while members who wish to go ahead with connectivity, trade or technology cooperation agreements are not impeded.
- In a region increasingly targeted by Chinese investment and loans, SAARC could be a common platform to demand more sustainable alternatives for development, or to oppose trade tariffs together, or to demand better terms for South Asian labour around the world.
SAARC needs to be allowed to progress naturally and the people of South Asia, who make up a quarter of the world’s population, are enabled to fulfil their destiny together.
Connecting the dots:
- SAARC still has the potential to become a platform for South Asian interests and shared growth. Critically analyse.
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
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Better implementation of the Right to Education Act
In India, the right to education was made a fundamental right by inserting Article 21A by the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002. It was enabled with the subsequent enactment of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
However, its implementation has been a challenge for most States as they have discretion in how the Act gets implemented.
No child left behind:
- The RTE Act bears many similarities to the U.S.’s No Child Left Behind Act, including school accountability, assessment standards and teacher training. Like the U.S., in India too States have been given major leeway in deciding the course of implementation.
- Section 12 (1) (c) of the Act mandates all private schools (except for minority schools) to allocate 25% of their seats to economically weaker sections, i.e. those families with an income of less than Rs. 2 lakh a year, and other disadvantaged groups like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the physically challenged.
The State government will then reimburse these schools for students admitted under this provision, at an amount per month that is determined by the State rules.
Issues to be addressed:
- A problem that recurs every year is mandated access to underprivileged sections of society. The process for admission under Section 12 (1) (c) is far from perfect. This is evident in the large number of vacancies in several cities in the country. For instance, on the last day of admissions under the RTE Act, under the first lottery there were 20,835 vacancies in Maharashtra.
- Despite the use of GIS tagging, several parents complain that the system is faulty in identifying nearby schools.
- Financial problems continue to mar the system — many schools collect money for textbooks and uniform though this is part of the State-stipulated fees.
This is a chain reaction: the Centre is supposed to release up to 70% of the funds for this programme which is often delayed.
- While moving the system online has led to transparency, in many States the management committee as per the RTE Act has not been notified.
- RTE rules also state that unfilled seats can be filled again in September but governments have no conspicuous public announcements regarding this.
- There have also been several grievances regarding the ‘1 km radius’ criterion, especially for rural residents who may not have any private schools in their vicinity.
Leading by the example:
Tamil Nadu, which has always been at the forefront of educational progress in India, has made certain strides in the implementation of Section 12 (1) (c).
- It has widened the ambit of “disadvantaged sections” to include HIV positive children and transgenders.
- A centralised database has been created by the State where people can access all the matriculation (State board) schools in the State which lie within 1 km of their residence.
- Another notification has been issued to bring all schools affiliated to boards other than State boards under the control of its Director of School Education for RTE implementation.
- The procedure for admission should be made through a single-point window online for all school boards, with computer kiosks to assist parents who may not be able to fill the form online.
A mobile application should be built with live information on the number of seats available in each school under the 25% quota.
- An RTE compliance audit should be conducted for all schools every year by the State Education Department. Any aid given to private schools must be tied to the levels of compliance achieved by the school.
- Several schools do not adhere to the 25% quota. These schools should be penalised and derecognised if continuous violations occur.
- Every school should declare prominently that it is RTE compliant — and the admission procedure, including deadlines, should be displayed at the school premises.
- On the government side of things, funds need to be released in a timely manner, so that it inspires confidence in schools to fill all the vacancies.
Section 12 (1) (c) of the RTE Act recognises the need for inclusion, and explicitly establishes responsibility on all stakeholders to contribute towards this goal.
Its only after all the stakeholders involved work in cooperation and in true spirit that the RTE Act will serve its purpose.
Connecting the dots:
- Complications related to various provisions of the RTE Act need to be addressed in order to ensure that education in India become inclusive. Elucidate.