4year UG courses in, M.Phil. out in new education policy

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

The Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy.

Key Details:

  • This is the first new education policy in 34 years.
  • A panel headed by former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was made public and opened for feedback in May 2019.
  • The policy draft has been approved. The Ministry of Human Resource and Development has been renamed as Education Ministry.

Key Highlights:

Replacing 10+2 structure of school curricula with a 5+3+3+4 format: 

  • The 10+2 system will be divided into 5+3+3+4 format.
  • This means the first five years of school will comprise of the foundation stage. The next three years will be divided into a preparatory stage from classes 3 to 5. Later, there will be three years of middle stage (classes 6 to 8), and four years of secondary stage (classes 9 to 12).
  • Schools will not have any rigid formation of streams of arts, commerce, science, etc. and students can take up whichever courses they want.
  • A new curricular framework is to be introduced, including the pre-school and Anganwadi years.
  • A National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will ensure basic skills at the Class 3 level by 2025.
  • Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards.
  • Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner.

Language issues:

  • Language issues caused the most outrage, as the original draft called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students. That clause was subsequently dropped.
  • There will be greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any State. The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and students.
  • Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education.
  • Other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
  • The medium of instruction till at least Grade 5, and preferably till Grade 8 and beyond will be in Home Language/Mother tongue/Regional Language.

Inclusive Education:

  • Inclusion is a theme of the Policy beyond technology as well.
  • As per the Ministry, under NEP, efforts will be made to incentivise the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs.
  • Private Higher Educational Institutions will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of scholarships to their students.
  • The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
  • Regions such as aspirational districts, which have large numbers of students facing economic, social or caste barriers will be designated as ‘Special Educational Zones’.
  • Special funds have been earmarked for special education.
  • The NEP emphasises universal access to schools, and aims to bring two crore out-of-school children back into the educational mainstream.
  • It also aims to double the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035. 

Gender Inclusion Fund

  • The Centre will also set up a ‘Gender-Inclusion Fund’ to build the country’s capacity to provide equitable quality education to all girls and transgender students.
  • The fund will be available to States to implement priorities determined by the Central government critical for assisting female and transgender children in gaining access to education.

Multi-disciplinary approach:

  • Standalone Higher Education Institutes and professional education institutes will be evolved into multi-disciplinary institutes.
  • By 2049, all higher education institutions (HEIs) should aim to become multidisciplinary institutions, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students, as per the data shared by MHRD.
  • Further, by 2030, the aim is to set up at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district.

Exit options in degree courses: 

  • The undergraduate degree, which is of 3 to 4-year duration will have multiple exit options.
  • After completing one year, if a student decides to drop out, s/he will get a certificate in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas.
  • On dropping out after two and three years, students will get a diploma and a Bachelor’s degree, respectively.
  • The four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s program, however, will be the preferred option and will give a degree with research if a student has pursued a project along with it.
  • Phil. degree would be abolished.
  • It would establish a common higher education regulator with fee fixation for both private and public institutions.

Academic Bank of Credit:

  • The ABC will digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized HEIs so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned.
  • Currently, a similar programme is being run where a student can opt for a course related to their degree on SWAYAM – online portal by the government, and credits associated with that course will be given to the student and help in their assessment for their degree course also.

Teacher Education:

  • By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four-year integrated B. Ed degree.

Technology in Education:

  • The policy has proposed the setting up of a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, etc., for both school and higher education.
  • A dedicated unit for the purpose of creating digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be set up in the ministry.

Natesa of Rajasthan temple returns to India

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Why in news:

A rare sandstone idol smuggled out of the country in 1998 is returning to India after 22 years.

Key Details:

  • The idol of Natesa is a rare sandstone idol in the 9th-century Prathihara style of Rajasthan.
  • It is a brilliant depiction of Lord Shiva.
  • A beautiful depiction of Nandi is shown behind the right leg of the Natesa icon.
  • It is originally from the Ghateswara Temple at Baroli, Rajasthan.
  • In 2002, the Rajasthan Police had opened an investigation titled “Operation Blackhole” against Vaman Ghiya.
  • Vaman Ghiya was arrested in 2003, standing accused of having stolen 20,000 pieces of art and laundering them via a host of Swiss front companies.
  • In 2014, the conviction was quashed by an appeals court (Rajasthan High court) because of procedural irregularities during the police prosecution and also because India had not repatriated even a single piece of art allegedly smuggled abroad by Ghiya.
  • It is opined that the restitution of the Natesa idol provides impetus to reopen the Vaman Ghiya case, resurrect Operation Blackhole and go after thousands of artefacts stolen since the 1960s.

WTO to set up dispute panels against India

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has accepted the request of Chinese Taipei and Japan for setting up panels in an ICT tariff case against India.

Background:

  • The three panels have been set up to decide on New Delhi’s move to levy 10% customs duty on mobile phones and some other ICT products for the first time in July 2017 which it increased to 15% that year.
  • The duties were further increased to 20% despite opposition from a number of WTO members.
  • India has stated that these ICT products are part of WTO’s Information Technology Products (ITA-2) agreement, and New Delhi is not part of this pact.
  • India is a part of ITA-1, signed in 1997.
  • The EU, US, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Japan and Thailand initiated consultations with India on the matter claiming that the move substantially affects them.

Key Details:

  • Earlier, India had blocked the first request of these two countries for setting up a dispute settlement panel at the WTO. According to the trade dispute norms of WTO, if a request comes for the second time, the panel is formed.
  • The panels would determine whether India’s customs duties on imports of certain information and communications technology (ICT) products infringe WTO norms or not.
  • The number of panels against India’s import duties on ICT goods now stands at three.
  • The first panel was set up on EU’s requests.
  • EU, Japan and Taiwan want a single panel citing similar disputes. However, India has refused a single panel stating that there are vast differences in complaints.
  • Losing the disputes would make China the main beneficiary as India imported $15.7 billion of electronics, telecom equipment and computer hardware from that country in FY20.

Protesting is a fundamental right: UN

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

A UN committee has reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right.

Key Details:

  • The independent experts on the Human Rights Committee published a fresh interpretation of the right of peaceful assembly.
  • It offers comprehensive legal guidance about where and how it applies and also outlines governments’ obligations.
  • The committee is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under Article 21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.
  • The experts have opined that the right to protest peacefully is the foundation of a democratic society and that everyone, including children, foreign nationals, women, migrant workers, asylum-seekers and refugees, can exercise the right.

Background:

  • Recently, there have been public protests in India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the proposed National Register of Citizens.
  • The government’s handling of the protests has invited criticism from certain sections. The administrations have been blamed of arbitrary imposition of section 144.
  • Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area.
  • Section 144 of CrPC generally prohibits public gathering.
  • Section 144 has been used in the past to impose restrictions as a means to prevent protests that can lead to unrest or riots.
  • The administration has defended its actions, as being preventive in nature and to avoid violence and damage to public property.

Key Details:

India as a functioning democracy:

  • The Preamble of the Constitution states that India is a democratic republic.
  • Democracies are founded on two core political rights.
  • The right of every citizen to freely elect their governmentand when dissatisfied with its performance, to vote it out of power in a legitimately held election (Article 326).
  • The people have the right to question and challenge the government’s proposals or decisions. This allows the citizens to politically participate not only during but between elections. This involves a broader conception of democracy that embodies active and not passive citizenship.
  • Democracy requires that the voice of the people be heard by those in power and decisions be reached after proper discussion and consultation.
  • Public protests for legitimate causes and concerns are the hallmark of a free, democratic society. They constitute our political freedoms.
  • The right to protest is a fundamental political right basic to a democratic society.

Holding the government accountable:

  • The protests perform an important function of holding the government in power accountable to its actions and decisions.
  • The cluster of inter-related political rights of expression, association, assembly, petition and protest is meant to ensure that the government works in the interests of the citizenry.
  • The citizens can act as watchdogs and constantly monitor the government’s acts.
  • They play an important role of helping to recognize and rectify mistakes.
  • An elected government may stray from the constitutional course, go against the interests of the people, become unresponsive and refuse to listen. In such conditions, pressure against the government can be built through public protests.
  • This is similar to the multiparty system provided for in the Constitution, where Opposition parties are viewed as valuable adversaries and not enemies.

Fundamental rights:

  • The right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the Indian Constitution via Article 19(1)(a) which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression and Article 19(1)(b) which assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. More on Right to Freedom.
  • The right to free speech and expression can be also interpreted as the right to freely express an opinion on the conduct of the government.
  • The right to association can also be the right to associate for political purposes, which might involve challenging government decisions.
  • The right to peaceably assemble allows political parties and citizenship bodies to question and object to acts of the government by demonstrations, agitations and public meetings.
  • The Supreme Court has reiterated that the right to protest is a fundamental right through its verdicts in many cases.
  • In the case of Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union of India & Ors.,the Supreme Court has held that citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action.
  • In the Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of Indiacase, the SC held similar views on right to protest.

Inclusive approach:

  • Street protests and demonstration movements are particularly important for those outside the mainstream, or those not educated formally.
  • They provide an opportunity for even the most illiterate and powerless personto show dissent. Street protests help involve many people in the movement.
  • Abraham Lincoln had once noted that “the right of the people to peaceably assemble is a constitutional substitute for revolution”.

Concerns:

Restraints on Right to protest:

  • The right to protest, to publicly question and force the government to answer, is a fundamental political right of the people that flows directly from a democratic reading of Article 19. For this, the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are necessary.
  • The arbitrary restraint on the exercise of such rights by the imposition of Section 144 is a concern.
  • Section 144 is to be imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger of events that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property thus limiting it to only emergency situations.

Intolerance towards dissent:

  • The arbitrary imposition of Sec 144 highlights the inability of the government to tolerate dissent.
  • It also reflects the incapacity of the government to discuss, deliberate or listen.

Way forward:

  • The people opposing the CAA have the right to protest and express their opinions. The government needs to acknowledge the right to dissent and protest for all Indians.
  • Notably, Article 19(1)(3) states that the rights are subject to “reasonable restrictions” in the interest of public order. There is the need to ensure there is no violence or damage to public property in the protests.

Antibiotics in livestock a worry

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

In a survey report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the issue of extensive misuse of antibiotics in the dairy sector has surfaced.

Issues:

  • CSE’s assessment shows that dairy farmers indiscriminately use antibiotics for diseases such as mastitis.
  • Mastitis is an infection/inflammation of the udder, a common ailment in dairy animals.
  • The antibiotics used include critically important antibiotics (CIAs) for humans.
  • The WHO has warned that they should be preserved in view of the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.
  • Farmers often inject animals based on their own judgment of signs and symptoms of a disease without any veterinary supervision.
  • The residues of antibiotics remain largely untested in milk.
  • There is an inadequate focus on testing for antibiotic residues in the milk collected by some State federations, which process it and sell packaged milk and dairy products under popular brands.
  • While milk sold directly to consumers is not tested, contrary to what one would expect, processed milk sold in packets is also largely unchecked for antibiotic residues.
  • Food being produced in a chemical-intensive manner, consequently fuelling antibiotic resistance, is a matter of concern.

Way Forward:

  • The wise use of antibiotics is not a substitute for, but a complement to, good sanitation and husbandry practices.
  • Extensive use of low-level antibiotics in feeds has brought about concern for potential harmful effects due to the development of resistant strains of organisms in host animals that might compromise animal as well as human health.
  • Veterinary supervision is essential in treating dairy animals. It must be ensured that antibiotics are not available without a prescription.
  • Focus must be laid on routine surveillance and testing for antibiotic residues in the milk collected before being processed and sold.
  • The abused antibiotics, despite a law against it, are easily available without the prescription of a registered veterinarian and stocked at farms. Effective implementation of the laws is the key.
  • It is important to completely stop the use of critically important antibiotics and penalise their use.
  • Stakeholders must work with farmers and the agriculture-dairy sectors to innovate on solutions.

Antibiotic Resistance:

  • Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.
  • Bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. These bacteria may infect humans and animals, and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.

Rafales arrive at Ambala airbase

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The first five of the 36 Rafale fighter jets have arrived in India from France.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is scheduled to induct the first batch of five Rafale fighter jets from France at the Air Force Station.

Key Details:

  • These five include three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft.
  • They would be inducted into the Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Significance:

  • It is a powerful symbol of the strategic partnership between India and France.
  • The introduction of Meteor Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile is widely recognised as a game-changer in air combat with a range of over 150 km.
  • The SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and the MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles into the IAF’s inventory will give the force an edge in the neighbourhood.
    • The Storm Shadow/SCALP is a long-range, air-launched, stand-off attack missile. It is capable of engaging the targets precisely in any weather conditions during day and night.
    • MICA is the multi-mission air-to-air missile system for the Rafale. It has a high level of tactical flexibility in order to meet Beyond Visual Range (BVR) multi-target/multi-shoot.