22 February , 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Navigating the storm - (Editorial) - Economy
  • Voice vote as constitutional subterfuge - (Lead Article) - Polity & Governance
  • The blank pages in India's online learning experience - (Article) - Social Justice
  • Clean energy post COVID-19 - (Article) - Environment
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Navigating the storm (Editorial)| Page – 06        

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: 15th Finance Commission Recommendations| UPSC

    A pair of balanced scales representing the Union of India and the States, the cover visual of the Fifteenth Finance Commission’s report for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26, seeks to highlight the Commission’s endeavour to maintain an equitable approach at a time when the Centre and States are facing unprecedented revenue stress and fiscal demands. The Centre has accepted much of the Commission’s broad recommendations, including giving States a 41% share of the divisible pool of taxes and revenue deficit grants of nearly ₹2.95-lakh crore for 17 States over the next five years. It has also acceded to the Commission’s suggestion to make grants towards urban and rural local bodies conditional upon States setting up their own finance commissions and publishing online the accounts of local bodies. And 60% of these grants will be further linked to these bodies’ providing sanitation and water services. There is an ‘in-principle’ nod to the panel’s suggestion to set up a non-lapsable dedicated fund to support defence and internal security modernisation — a response to the Centre’s belated request to examine if such a fund can be considered for funding defence capex beyond normal Budget allocations. While the panel has suggested moving ₹1.53-lakh crore out of the Consolidated Fund of India over five years to partly finance this, the Centre has said the funding nitty-gritties will be examined later. States would monitor how the modalities here evolve, even as they have reason to fret about the Centre’s non-committal response to the Commission’s recommendations of sector-specific and other grants for them adding up to about ₹1.8-lakh crore.

    It is up to the Centre now to ensure that States do not feel short-changed from the new fiscal framework, given their frayed ties over GST compensation dues. States have also been steadily losing out, given the Centre’s penchant to raise more cesses and surcharges that do not have to be shared. This Budget has seen an encore with the agriculture infrastructure development cess. One wishes the Commission had at least noted its displeasure on this practice, like its predecessors did. Unlike them, however, the N.K. Singh-led panel had to cope with a tumultuous shift in the domestic and global macro-economic landscape. At home, the Planning Commission was dissolved and GST introduced. The panel’s tenure was extended by a year, requiring it to give an interim report first, with its work culminating in a virtual zero-visibility zone as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out months before its deadline. Given these pressures and the difficulties in projecting the economy’s path, the Commission has done well. It has resisted the Centre’s nudge to review what it felt was a too-generous 42% share granted to States by the previous Commission, and deftly dealt with most of the unusual terms of reference foisted on it. As N.T. Rama Rao said, India lives in the States. If the Centre takes them along, it might help attain the balance envisaged by the Commission, which is needed to drive the country onto a double-engine growth trajectory from the current nadir.

    XV-FINANCE COMMISSION –

    Our choices in how to invest for the growth phase will come next. And, with these, we

    must not only remedy the damage but think ahead to the future. We do not expect the world to return to the way it was before. The new normal will not be the old normal. The psychological effects of seeing a known, but abstract, risk becoming real will last and manifest itself in how we travel, socialise and invest. The economic and social effects of gaps in education, health, closure of businesses, and dramatic acceleration of the digital, the remote and the automated world will remain with us. But we do expect new opportunities to emerge in the rebound, whether it be through digital leadership and analytical innovation for smarter human development, health protecting biotechnology and pharmaceutical advances informed by both traditional wisdom and cutting edge, clean technology for thriving in a zero-carbon future or, simply, the inevitable post-Covid shuffling of supply chains and locations. We may not see these changes clearly, and the post-Covid horizon may appear too distant for comfort, but we must prepare now and be ready.

    It certainly makes our task more difficult. In this spirit, and in this time, we seek not only

    to fulfil the traditional mandate of the Finance Commission to allocate revenues across levels of government, but also to put in place and reinforce the structures, habits and building blocks to increase our adaptability as a nation, a Union of States, and a partner in a more sustainable global trajectory for human development.

    However, we must not dwell only on the present. We must look ahead. From that perspective, it is clear that we must invest now in building greater agility – greater ability to move and think quickly and easily, in a world that is characterised by increasingly rapid change. It is against this truly unprecedented global context, and its domestic macroeconomic and fiscal backdrop, and with these goals in mind, that the Fifteenth Finance Commission of India submits its report to the President of India.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Voice vote as constitutional subterfuge | Page – 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance| Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Concerns over passage of Bills through Voice Votes| UPSC   

    The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed by the State’s Legislative Council on Monday, February 8. The Bill had already been passed by the Legislative Assembly where the State government enjoys a majority. But the prospect of the Bill passing the Upper House was doubtful as the Opposition parties — the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) — have a majority in the Council; and both were opposed to the Bill. But the law was passed by the Council despite the lack of a majority. Instead of having a division vote based on actual voting as is usual and as the Opposition members had demanded, the presiding officer just declared the Bill passed by voice vote without any division.

    Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha provide for the different methods of Division in the House.  The rules provide for four methods of voting in Rajya Sabha.  By two methods the votes are not recorded and through the remaining two the votes are recorded as a permanent record.  These methods are described below:

    1. Voice vote;
    2. Counting;
    3. Division by automatic vote recorder; and
    4. Division by going into the Lobbies.

    Rule 158 – Lok Sabha Rules - Voting shall be by division whenever a motion has to be carried by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting.

    LOK SABHA

    Any matter requiring the decision of the House is decided by means of a question put by the Chair on a motion made by a member. At the conclusion of a debate, the Chair puts the question to the House. Those in favour of the motion are invited to say ‘Aye’ and those against to say ‘No’ and then the Chair says ‘I think the Ayes (or the Noes, as the case may be) have it’. If the opinion of the Chair as to the decision goes unchallenged, he repeats twice, “The Ayes (or the Noes, as the case may be) have it”; and the question before the House is determined accordingly. If the opinion of the Chair is challenged by any member or member exclaiming ‘The Noes (or Ayes) have it’, the Chair directs that the Lobbies be cleared.

    The division bells ring for three and a half minutes. Immediately after the bells stop ringing, all the doors leading to inner Lobby are closed to prevent entry or exit through the doors in the House till the conclusion of the Division. After the Lobbies are cleared, the Chair puts the question for a second time and declares whether in her/his opinion, the ‘Ayes’ or the ‘Noes’ have it. If the opinion so declared is again challenged, the Chair orders that votes be recorded by Division.

    There are three methods of holding a Division i.e. (i) by operating the Automatic Vote Recorder, (ii) by distributing ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ slips in the House, and (iii) by members going into the Lobbies. However, the method of recording of votes in Lobbies has become obsolete ever since the installation of Automatic Vote Recording machine. This procedure has not been used for the last two decades.

    Under the Automatic Vote Recorder system, each member casts vote of her/his choice from the seat allotted to her/him by pressing the specific button provided for the purpose. A push-button-set containing Light Emitting Diode (LED) and four push buttons—a green button for ‘AYES’, a red button for ‘NOES’, a yellow button for ‘ABSTAIN’ and a white button for ‘PRESENT’ together with a vote Initiation Switch Assembly has been provided on the seat of each member.

    A copy of the print out of every such Division result together with the corrections recorded by members through the Division Clerks is put up on the Notice Board in the Outer Lobby as soon as possible to enable members to check that their votes have been correctly recorded. Any discrepancy noticed by a member in the print out should be reported to the Secretary-General in writing without delay.

    Corrections in votes recorded by Members by operating the Automatic Vote Recording Equipment - A member who is not able to record her/his vote by pressing the button due to any reason considered sufficient may with the permission of the Chair, have her/ his vote recorded before the result of the Division is announced. If a member finds that she/ he has voted by mistake by pressing the wrong button or voted from wrong seat, she/he may be allowed to correct her/his mistake, provided she/he brings it to the notice of the Chair before the result of the Division is announced.

    Secret Ballot - Secret voting, if any, is held on similar lines except that the lights on the Individual Result Display Panel flashes only white light with the sound of start and end of voting to show that the vote has been recorded. The result of the voting is displayed on the Total Result Display Panel only.

    Recording of votes by distribution of slips - The method of recording of votes by members on ‘Aye’ and ‘No’ slips is generally resorted to in the following eventualities:— (1) due to sudden failure of the working of automatic Vote Recording Equipment; and (2) at the commencement of the new Lok Sabha, before seats/division numbers have been allotted to members.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: The blank pages in India’s online learning experience | Page - 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance| Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Digital Education in India: Initiatives, Challenges and Strategies| UPSC   

    Context- The world is presently grappling with the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the social, economic and political spheres. In short COVID-19 has affected all sectors. However, there are areas where countries such as India should be more worried about. One of them is education.

    (From syllabus this topic can be connected to Social issues(paper 1),Social justice- issues relating to development sector like Education),Governance (paper 2), In paper 4 Ethics(value inculcation and online education).

    Why?

    • Around 300 million children across all age groups are reported to be out of school in India now (the number is of the period when all schools were closed)
    • The education sector faces issues
    1. challenges of delivery, especially of pedagogical processes,
    2. classroom assessment frameworks, (As many must have missed content offered on the various e-mail platforms )
    3. students’ support and teacher-student engagement.
    4. poor access to digital data
    • The children were burdened with household/farm work; girl students in particular were apprehensive of being given away in marriage.
    • The lockdown happened during the last quarter of the academic year which led to the postponement of examinations and the curtailment of the prescribed syllabi. 
    • Digital learning has failed to take into account existing divides — spatial, digital, gender and class. A recent UNICEF report points out that the massive school closures exposed the uneven distribution of technology that is needed to facilitate remote learning. 
    • Many States lacked adequate digital infrastructure and even teachers were poorly equipped to teach. (Also, they were not consulted before the initiative.)

    Impact-

    • The chances for an education-enabled social and economic mobility appear to be grim in the country.(individual as well as community level)
    • Following closure of schools, boys became inattentive to studies while girls, with lesser opportunities, were more involved in household chores. (more dropouts led to poverty which is a mother of many evils for eg- insurgency, terrorism etc). Also can be related to demographic dividend utility) as failure to utilize demo graphic dividend  led to humongous crisis- can be related to economy.
    • With their educational routine having been disrupted, children, in many cases, have also forgotten what they learnt earlier. Again, the decision to postpone the board examinations and to allow automatic promotion to the higher classes is bound to affect the quality.
    • Without going school by sitting in home, they are losing the benefit of school environment conditioning..( this can be connected to preamble values like Secularism, Equality, Fraternity etc)
    • The abilities of the families and communities concerned to support the educational journeys of the children have been found to be affected. (A survey promoted by the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, 2020 -3,176 households of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi, found that in families which faced cash and food shortages, only 50% of the boys and girls were confident of returning to school)
    • The long closure of schools has also meant the disruption of a range of activities such as the mid-day meal scheme, the school health programme and pre-metric scholarships to girl children.(played key role in enrolment as well as regular attendance)
    • It will impact the future of our nation and the reason for enacting 86Th Amendment Act( Connected to Polity)

    Case Study- States such as Rajasthan, the education of girl children is still a challenge. The State is positioned precariously — the second worst in overall literacy rates in India and the lowest literacy rate among the females (NSS,2017-18); 20% of girls in the age group 15-16 were out of school against the national average of 13.5 (Annual Status of Education Report 2018). Despite pioneering initiatives in education such as the Lok Jumbish and Shiksha Karmi projects, Rajasthan continues to flounder in systemic issues of education that relate to quality, equity and gender 

    Below are some distinct advantages of digital education for students and teachers:

    • Easy access to information that is customized and suited to the learning needs of students.
    • Increased mobility and flexibility that gives learners the opportunity to choose their time and place of learning.
    • Use of technology tools helps to make the learning process more interactive and collaborative where all learners converge to create a learning experience that transcends geographical boundaries.
    • Increased collaboration among teachers and educators in real-time results in ‘Connected Classrooms’ that make way for better coordination and sharing of insights.
    • A personalized learning experience made possible by use of technology, helps students to learn at a pace that is best suited to their needs.
    • Interactive digital tools are way more impactful than printed textbooks. As a result, learners are more actively involved, leading to higher retention and recall of learning material.
    • Digital learning creates ‘smarter’ students with greater accountability for their learning process stemming from immediate feedback and performance analytics, customized learning paths, peer-benchmarking opportunities and more.
    • Direct and favourable impact on the environment, owing to the need for less paper, thereby helping to cut costs and maximize resources.

    Initiative Taken by government-

    • Push to the digital distance learning method. The focus was on the use of text/video/audio content through SMS, WhatsApp, radio and TV programmes to reach out to students and engage them.
    • The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development in March 2020 started sharing free e-learning platforms. They included
    1. Diksha portal which has e-learning content aligned to the curriculum,
    2. e-Pathshala, an app by the National Council of Educational Research and Training for Classes 1 to 12 in multiple languages.
    3. SWAYAM hosts 1,900 complete courses including teaching videos, computer weekly assignments, examinations and credit transfers, aimed both at school (Classes 1 to 12) and higher education.
    4. SWAYAM Prabha is a group of 32 direct to home channels devoted to the telecasting of educational programmes. While this looks fairly impressive, there are many pitfalls.

    (Initiatives Can be related to Prelims)

    What should be done

    • when schools finally reopen in the country, the number of children returning to class has to be closely
    • More than just the numbers, the authorities have to realistically assess the level of understanding of students who have returned to schools after ‘digital learning’ at home. (As majority of children, especially girl students, have missed out much on the various e-mail platforms offered.)
    • Collaboration with NGO (As schools run by the non-governmental organisation sector did fairly well during the interregnum. these schools did not go online. Instead, teachers visited individual students at home. They also taught children in small groups.
    • Digital learning have only exposed the wide digital divide between the rich and the poor and the urban and rural areas. Education planning has to be context specific, gender responsive and inclusive.  For this measures should include access to online education, removal of barriers in pre-metric scholarships and ensuring the provision of mid-day meals, iron and folic acid tablets and provision of personal hygiene products to girl students even when schools are closed.
    • Once schools reopen finally, the authorities should establish the re-enrolment of children as mandated by the National Education Policy 2020.
    • Mass outreach programmes should be developed with civil society to encourage re-enrolment.
    • Remedial tuitions and counselling are advisable, along with scholarships, targeted cash transfers and other entitlements to retain the poorest at school. (consider making secondary education for girls free.)
    • The governments to keep the budgetary share of education to 6% of GDP, as emphasised by the President of India.

    (Can be connected to achieve target set by SDG)

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Clean energy post COVID-19| Page - 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Biodiversity

    Sub Theme: Initiatives taken by Government to tackle Climate Change| UPSC   

    Context:

    • A new report, titled Shaping a Sustainable Energy Future in Asia and the Pacific: A greener, more resilient and inclusive energy system, released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) shows that energy demand reductions have mainly impacted fossil fuels and depressed oil and gas prices.
    • Renewable energy development in countries across the region, such as China and India, continued at a healthy pace throughout 2020.

    So let us look at the steps/actions which India has taken for Renewable/Green Energy systems:

    National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): Launched in 2008, India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) identifies a number of measures that simultaneously advance the country’s development and climate change related objectives of adaptation and mitigation through focused National Missions.

    National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE): Under it, The Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme was designed on the concept of reduction in Specific Energy Consumption.

    National Solar Mission: It  aims to increase the share of solar energy in the total energy mix. Under the total target of 100 GW, 32.5 GW of solar electric generation capacity has been installed.

    National Water Mission: It focuses on monitoring of ground water, aquifer mapping, capacity building, water quality monitoring and other baseline studies. It seeks to increase water use efficiency by 20%.

    National Mission for a Green India : It seeks to increase tree and forest cover by 5 mha. It also seeks to increase the quality of existing forests by additional 5 mha.

    National Mission on Sustainable Habitat: It is being implemented through three programmes: Atal Mission on Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, Swachh Bharat Mission, and Smart Cities Mission. Energy Conservation Building Rules 2018 for commercial buildings has been made mandatory.

    National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture: It aims at enhancing food security and protection of resources. Key targets include covering 3.5 lakh hectare of area under organic farming, 3.70 under precision irrigation, 4.0 lakh hectare under System of Rice Intensification, 3.41 lakh hectare under diversification to less water consuming crop, 3.09 lakh hectare additional area under plantation in arable land and 7 bypass protein feed making. The mission has resulted in the formation of National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture, a network project. 

    National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem : It aims to evolve suitable management and policy measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan Ecosystem.

    National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change: It seeks to build a knowledge system that would inform and support national action for ecologically sustainable development. Key achievements include setting up of 11 Centres of Excellence and 10 State Climate Change Centres.

    Climate Change Action Program (CCAP): Central sector scheme to build and support capacity at central and state levels, strengthening scientific and analytical capacity for climate change assessment, establishing appropriate institutional framework and implementing climate actions.

    Energy Efficiency Measures: Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) 2017 prescribes energy performance standards for new commercial buildings to be constructed across India to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in energy use by 2030 translating to energy savings of about 300 Billion Units by 2030 and peak demand reduction of over 15 GW in a year. Schemes like UJALA for LED bulb distribution has crossed 360 million whereas under street light national program, 10 million conventional streetlights have been replaced by LED street lights thus cumulatively saving 43 million tons of CO2 emission.

    Promotion of Electric Vehicles: National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) scheme was formulated in 2015 to promote manufacturing and sustainable growth of electric and hybrid vehicle technology

    Promotion of Bio-fuels: The National Bio-fuels Policy 2018 targets 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol and 5 per cent blending of biodiesel in diesel by 2030.

    Separate Fund for Climate Change: National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (2015) supports concrete adaptation activities for the States/UTs that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and are not covered under on-going schemes. The Scheme has been taken as Central Sector Scheme with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as the National Implementing Entity.

    National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs) on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities: The Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs in 2011 developed a concept of NVG for adoption by the corporate sector. In 2012, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), mandated the Annual Business Responsibility Reporting (ABRR), a reporting framework based on the National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs) on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business released by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. These guidelines serve as a driver to pursue sustainable management practices.

    Green Bonds: Green bonds are debt securities issued by financial, non-financial or public entities where the proceeds are used to finance 100 per cent green projects and assets. India has the second largest Emerging green bond market after China. A number of Government agencies have contributed to issuance: Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) and the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC). In 2018, the SBI entered the market with an US$ 650 million Certified Climate Bond.

    International Platform on Sustainable Finance (IPSF): The IPSF acknowledges the global nature of financial markets which has the potential to help finance the transition to a green, low carbon and climate resilient economy by linking financing needs to the global sources of funding. India joined the International Platform on Sustainable Finance (IPSF) in October 2019.

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