31 March, 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu
- A road to progress (Social Justice)
- Remoteness is no hindrance to academic excellence - (Social Justice)
- Jaishankar says India backs Afghan-Taliban dialogue - (International Relations)
- Work with India on funding infra, Sitharaman urges NDB - (International Relations)
UPSC Current Affairs: Remoteness is no hindrance to academic excellence | Page – 06
UPSC Syllabus: GS Paper II – Social Issues
Sub Theme: Ideal learning outcomes| Issues with Higher Education system | UPSC
The article is a response to an earlier article “ Too many IITs, unrealistic expectations” (The Hindu, February 20)” where the authors tried to explore the idea as to how many Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) should India have, and what should these institutes try to achieve?. And it ultimately concluded that there should be between 10 to 12 IITs, that these institutes ought to be situated in big urban areas, and that they should focus on being “crown jewels”.
Since the article which appears today is a response, it also focuses on IITs. But from the perspective of UPSC Mains Examination, Higher education in general in more important.
- the syllabus of GS II: Issues relating to health and education
- Essay (Education topic almost every year )
- In this particular discussion we are going to take a look at (Description)
- Ideal learning outcomes
- Issues with Higher Education system
- Measures that can be taken to resolve the above issues:
FROM essay POV
Ideal learning outcomes
- There are three ideal learning outcomes of higher education.
- To provide knowledge in the relevant discipline to the students.
- Since higher education students are on the verge of joining the workforce, it is expected that their education will also impart them with the skills needed for their jobs/enterprises.
- Character Development
- students are expected to play a constructive role in shaping the society and the world at large using the values and ideals of a modern, progressive society; the teaching-learning process is expected to mould their character accordingly.
So and obvious questions that arises is that on how many of India’s higher learning institutions, and the students within them, are able to fulfil any or all of these ideal learning outcomes.
FROM GS II POV
Issues with Higher Education system
- Shortage of resources:
- Bulk of the enrolment in higher education is handled by state universities and their affiliated colleges.
- However, these state universities receive very small amounts of grants in comparison.
- Nearly 65% of the University Grants Commission (UGC) budget is utilised by the central universities and their colleges while state universities and their affiliated colleges get only the remaining 35%.
- Low Enrolment:
- According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report 2018-19, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is only 26.3%, which is quite low as compared to the developed as well as, other developing countries.
- With the increase of enrolments at the school level, the supply of higher education institutes is insufficient to meet the growing demand in the country.
- Issues of faculties
- According to UGC, the total number of sanctioned teaching posts in various Central Universities are 16,699 for professors, 4,731 for associate professors, and 9,585 for assistant professors.
- The Committee reasoned that this could be due to two reasons:
- young students don’t find the teaching profession attractive;
- the recruitment process is long and involves too many procedural formalities.
- Lack of accountability for teachers
- At present, there is no mechanism for ensuring the accountability and performance of professors in universities and colleges. This is unlike foreign universities where the performance of college faculty is evaluated by their peers and students.
- Low Quality of Education:
- Ensuring quality in higher education is amongst the foremost challenges being faced in India today.
- a large number of colleges and universities in India are unable to meet the minimum requirements laid down by the UGC and our universities are not in position to mark their place among the top universities of the world.
- Most courses do not address industry demands
- That there is a huge gulf between the curriculum taught in the colleges and actual job requirements is universally known.
- It is common to hear even the brightest of students mention that they learnt more on the job than through their curriculum in college. If this is indeed the universal reality, why should we bestow so much importance on a syllabus?
- Low levels of Vocational component
- From 61st round of NSSO survey (2004–2005) to 66th round of NSSO survey (2009–2010), the population in the age group of 15–29 years who had received formal vocational education reduced from 2.37 to 1.96% and those who had received non-formal vocational education declined from 7.74 to 4.80%
- Most courses do not address industry demands
- Lack of autonomy
- Need for Autonomy
- Academic Freedom
- Promote Research Ecosystem
- Avoid Red-tapism
- To weed out corruption
- Need of Digital Economy
- Impact on GER
- While most central and state universities are guided by the aforesaid regulations there are a number of institutions established outside the aforesaid regulatory purview for the want of autonomy in their functioning. IITs and IIMs which are established outside the Indian university system are an example of this category.
- 3 tier regulation architecture
- While the universities in India are established by a law, either central or state law, UGC acts as an over-arching regulatory body at the university level.
- The colleges on the other hand are regulated by way of affiliation to universities. This way the course fee, assessment criteria, admission criteria etc are regulated by the affiliated universities.
- At the course level there are various technical professional councils that regulate the design and content of the course.
- Poor Infrastructure and Facilities:
- Poor infrastructure is another challenge to the higher education system of India, particularly the institutes run by the public sector suffer from poor physical facilities and infrastructure.
- Outdated curriculum
- Outdated, irrelevant curriculum that is dominantly theoretical in nature and has a low scope for creativity.
- There is a wide gap between industry requirements and universities’ curriculum that is the main reason for the low employability of graduates in India.
- Inadequate Research:
- There is inadequate focus on research in higher education institutes.
- There are insufficient resources and facilities, as well as limited numbers of quality faculty to advise students.
- Most of the research scholars are without fellowships or not getting their fellowships on time which directly or indirectly affects their research. Moreover, Indian Higher education institutions are poorly connected to research centres and to industries.
Hence following measures can be taken to resolve the above issues:
- For low resources
- The mobilisation of funds in state universities should be explored through other means such as endowments, contributions from industry, alumni, etc.
- For Teacher vacancies:
- The recruitment process should start well before a post is vacated. In addition, to make the profession of teaching more lucrative, faculty should be encouraged to undertake consultancy projects and be provided financial support for start-ups.
- Accountability and performance of teachers:
- In this context, a system of performance audit of professors based on the feedback given by their students and colleagues should be set up. Other inputs like research papers, publications by teachers should be added in the performance audit in due course of time.
- Lack of employable skills:
- Lack of employable skills in students of technical education has been observed.
- Identification of skill gaps in different sectors and offering courses for enhancing employability in them has been recommended.
- Some strategies in this regard can include:
- Industry Institute Student Training Support,
- Industrial Challenge Open Forum,
- Long Term Student Industry Placement Scheme, and
- Industrial Finishing Schools.
- Accreditation of institutions:
- The Committee notes that accreditation of higher educational institutions needs to be at core of the regulatory arrangement in higher education.
- Further, quality assurance agencies should guarantee basic minimum standards of technical education to meet the industry demand for quality manpower. The National Board of Accreditation should act as a catalyst towards quality enhancement and quality assurance of higher technical education.
- Credit rating agencies, reputed industry associations, media houses and professional bodies should be encouraged to carry forward the process of rating of Indian universities and institutions. A robust rating system will give rise to healthy competition amongst universities and help improve their performance.
UPSC Current Affairs: A road to progress| Page – 07
UPSC Syllabus: GS Paper I – Indian Society | GS Paper II – Social Justice
Sub Theme: Feminisation of Indian agriculture | Challenges faced by Women in Agriculture | UPSC
This article has appeared in the newspaper in the context of the recent celebration of International Women’s day by the Department of Animal Husbandry and dairying. This year, the department has laid special emphasis on showcasing the role of Women in the Dairy sector.
The Women have contributed immensely to the success of the “White Revolution” in India. Presently, there are around 1.9 lakh dairy cooperatives across India with almost around 6 million women members.
The success of the dairy sector has in turn led to social, economic and political empowerment of women. For example, some of the women members of the AMUL dairy have become millionaires by selling milk. Similarly, women-led cooperatives also provide fertile ground for grooming women from rural areas for leadership positions. In many instances, this becomes the first step for women in breaking free from traditional practices.
Hence, keeping in mind, the importance of women in Indian agriculture, let us have a look at various facets of “Feminisation of Indian Agriculture- Present Status, Challenges and Strategies”.
Growing feminization of Indian Agriculture
- With growing rural to urban migration by men, there is ‘feminization’ of agriculture sector, with increasing number of women in multiple roles as cultivators, entrepreneurs, and labourers.
- According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively.
- Further, the Agriculture Census (2010-11) shows that out of an estimated 118.7 million cultivators, 30.3% were females. Similarly, out of an estimated 144.3 million agricultural labourers, 42.6% were females.
Steps taken by the Government
- Earmarking at least 30 per cent of the budget allocation for women beneficiaries in all ongoing schemes/programmes and development activities.
- Initiating women centric activities to ensure benefits of various beneficiary-oriented programs/schemes reach them.
- Focusing on women self-help group (SHG) to connect them to micro-credit through capacity building activities and to provide information and ensuring their representation in different decision-making bodies.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has declared 15th October of every year as Women Farmer’s Day.
Challenges faced by Women in Agriculture
Lack of Ownership
- Research worldwide shows that women with access to land, formal credit and access to market can have much greater impact on agriculture.
- However, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of property right in land mainly on account of the patriarchal set up in our society.
- This lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.
What has to be done?
- Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged.
- Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers.
- As of now, women farmers have hardly any representation in the farmers’ Organisations or hence there is a need to ensure their greater and meaningful participation.
Declining Size of Landholdings
- The land holdings have doubled over the years in India due to which the average size of farms has shrunk.
- Therefore, a majority of women farmers fall under the small and marginal category, having less than 2 ha of land.
- A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns and technology adoption.
What has to be done?
- Collective farming has to be encouraged to make women self-reliant. Training and skills should be imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based dairy activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat).
- Moreover, government flagship schemes such as the National Food Security Mission, Sub-mission on Seed and Planting Material and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana must include women-centric strategies and dedicated expenditure.
Need for Gender Friendly Agricultural Tools
- The female cultivators and labourers generally perform labor-intensive tasks (hoeing, grass cutting, weeding, picking, cotton stick collection, looking after livestock).
- In addition to working on the farm, they have household and familial responsibilities.
- Hence, it is important to have gender-friendly tools and machinery for various farm operations. Most farm machinery is difficult for women to operate.
What has to be done?
Manufacturers should be incentivized to come up with better solutions. Farm machinery banks and custom hiring centres promoted by many State governments can be roped in to provide subsidized rental services to women farmers.
Lack of Access to Resources
- Women generally have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides).
- The Food and Agriculture Organization says that equalizing access to productive resources for female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5% to 4%.
What has to be done?
Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every district can be assigned an additional task to educate and train women farmers about innovative technology along with extension services.
- With women predominant at all levels- production, pre-harvest, post-harvest processing, packaging, marketing- of the agricultural value chain, to increase productivity in agriculture, it is imperative to adopt gender specific interventions.
An ‘inclusive transformative agricultural policy’ should aim at gender-specific interventions to raise productivity of small farm holdings, integrate women as active agents in rural transformation.
UPSC Current Affairs: Jaishankar says India backs Afghan-Taliban dialogue | Pg 10
UPSC Syllabus: GS Paper II – International Relation
Sub Theme: Heart of Asia | Istanbul Process | UPSC
External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar attended the ninth Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) on Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He asserted that Afghanistan needs "double peace" which is peace within and around the country.
About Heart of Asia
The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) is an initiative of the Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey, which was officially launched at a conference hosted by Turkey in Istanbul on 2 November 2011.
- It aims to provide a platform to discuss regional issues such as encouraging economic cooperation, encouraging security and political stability for Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours.
- Its three main areas of cooperation: Political Consultations, Confidence Building Measures, and Cooperation with Regional Organizations.
UPSC Current Affairs: Work with India on funding infra, Sitharaman urges NDB| Page - 14
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Economy
Sub Theme: New Development Bank | UPSC
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION
Consider the following statements: 
- New Development Bank has been set up by APEC.
- The headquarters of New Development Bank is in Shanghai.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Similarly UPSC also ask about other Financial institution like AIIB
With reference to Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), consider the following statements:
- AIIB has more than 80 member nations.
- India is the largest shareholder in AIIB.
- AIIB does not have any members from outside Asia.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Context: Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has urged the New Development Bank (NDB) to consider working closely with India’s new development financing institution for funding infrastructure.
- It is a multilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in 2014.
- Fortaleza Declaration of the 2014 BRICS Summit (6th) stressed that the NDB will strengthen cooperation among BRICS and will supplement the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global development thus contributing to sustainable and balanced growth.
- All the BRICS Member countries hold an equal stake in the bank and the NDB works on their consultative mechanism.
- Objective is to support infrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other underserved, emerging economies
- Headquartered: Shanghai, China.
- Observer statusin the United Nations General Assembly.
- Fostering development of member countries.
- Supporting economic growth.
- Promoting competitiveness and facilitating job creation.
- Building a knowledge sharing platform among developing countries.
- NDB supports public or private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments.
- NDB has so far approved 18 projects in India, including emergency loans of $2 billion to support health spending and economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.