Mains Test Series


Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


Reform 101

News:

  1. The new Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill drafted by the Centre.

Important facts:

2.The proposed HECI is the successor to the University Grant Commission (UGC).

3.There are 864 recognised universities and 40,026 colleges in India during 2016-17.

4.However, Gross Enrolment Ratio was only about 26%.

5.At the time of independence, there were only 20 universities and 500 colleges.

6.Earlier, some expert committees and legislation had also advocated changes in education system reforms.

7.At the time when access to skill building and educational opportunity was very important, the Bill will have far reaching implications such as:

  • It will provide expansion and quality of human resource development.
  • The States are represented on the advisory council, giving it a federal character, However, the Centre will have the final say in all matters.
  • There is also proposal to include multi disciplines streams like Architecture and nursing.
  • The Bill will provide major reforms in higher education.
  • Aimed at replacing UGC, once it is done , the technical education regulator AICTE and the teachers’ education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines.

8.Despite having above positive aspects, the Bill is not free from contentious issues such as:

  • The Centre’s decision to shift grant-giving powers for higher education institutions to the Ministry of Human Resource Development or a separate body.
  • The UGC has been doing this so far.
  • Separation of funding decisions from political considerations.

9. The proposed HECI will face the following challenges:

  • Promoting autonomy
  • Access, inclusion and opportunity to all
  • Expansion of quality education
  • Balance on allocation of funds
  • Ensuring transparency
  • Resolutions in the future role of multiple regulatory bodies.
  • The Yash Pal committee  had recommended they should be brought under the umbrella of a single commission.

10. In order to address the above mentioned challenges following reforms are needed:

  • Creation of an agency that has the intellectual corpus to help universities and colleges adapt,
  • The vision to plan for public funding in the emerging spheres of activity.
  • Need to create a workforce that has the requisite skills.
  • The draft Bill have positive attempt in this direction to weed out degree mills and dubious training institutions .
Other key components of draft Bill:

  • Separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education.
  • It takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality and even close down bogus institutions.
  • However, there is no plan to merge all higher education regulators, as was proposed through a planned agency called HEERA.
  • HECI will be in charge of ensuring academic quality in universities and colleges.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development will be responsible for funding universities and colleges.
  • The Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards.
  • The regulators are also authorized to have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.
  • Non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence.
  • Presently UGC had no such powers. It can only release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees.

UGC VS  HECI

1. The UGC’s regulatory power included quality assessment and giving grants. The HECI will just ensure academic quality while MHRD will give grants to institutions.

2. The UGC conducted inspections to assess institutions. The HECI will practically do away with these and shift to a regime of “transparent disclosures” instead.

3.  The UGC published lists of  bogus institutions once in a while. The HECI will be empowered to shutdown sub-standard and bogus institutions. Non –compliance by institutions  could also lead to jail terms.

 

GS: 2

International Relations:

‘Grey-listing’ nothing new: Pak.

News:

  1. The global financial watchdog Financial Action Task Force( FATF) has placed Pakistan on the “grey list” for failing to curb terror financing.

Important facts:

2. The announcement comes a day after Pakistan submitted a Comprehensive 26 Action Plan to the FATF to chock funding of military groups.

3. The decision was taken at the FATF’s plenary session held in Paris.

4. However, there has been no formal announcement by the FATF so far.

5. In Feb it was agreed that an Action Plan would be negotiated between Pakistan and FATE members

6. Implications of this on Pakistan:

  • The placement on greylist could hurt Pakistan economy and its international standing.

7. Financial Action Task Force( FATF):

  • Is an inter-governmental body established in 1989.
  • It was established by a Group of Seven (G-7) Summit in Paris
  • It was established to combat money laundering, terror financing, and other related threats to the integrity of international financial system
  • The FATF is therefore a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.

 

Iran not just an energy supplier: Ansari

News:

  1. Former Vice-President Hamid Ansari highlighted the importance of India- Iran relations.

Important facts:

2.While highlighting the importance of relation between the two nations, he stress on following pointers:

  • Iran ensures overland connectivity between Eurasia and India and it is not just an energy supplier.
  • The government should take into consideration the “totality” of India’s ties with Iran.
  • For India, Iran is a land power on the other side of Pakistan that provides with an alternative route to Afghanistan.
  • Iran has borders with large number of countries that India could not access because of the barrier that Pakistan posed to India overland connectivity plans.
  • India’s infrastructure-building activities in Afghanistan are done with the support from Iran.
  • Iran has the port of Chabahar where India has invested because access to Afghanistan is crucial for India.
  • During the war of 1971, the government of Shah was pro-Pakistan, but still India maintained ties with that government and that relationship helped India address energy security need.

3.Mr Ansari’s statement came in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand to cut down energy imports drastically from the country.

  1. His statement came a day after Mr Trump’s envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that India should adhere to the November 4 deadline and reduce energy import from Iran.
  2. She said, Iran is a major threat to the world and Tehran’s violations of its nuclear commitments and alleged sponsorship of terrorism made it the “next North Korea”.
  3. In an interview to TV channel, Ms Haley also called India to “rethink its relationship with Iran”.
  4. The comments by Ms Haley appear to be a part of a concerted campaign by the U.S. to ensure that India, Iran’s second biggest oil importer after China, cut its oil trade.

 

Government schemes:

We want best healthcare at the lowest cost: Modi

News:

  1. The foundational stone for the National centre for Ageing was laid down by PM Modi at AIIMS.

Important facts:

2.PM inaugurated a 1 km motorable tunnel connecting the AIIMS main building to its trauma facility to transfer patients.

3.The construction of the tunnel started in 2012.

  1. The purpose is to provide best healthcare at cheaper cost and modern hospitals.

5.Government’s step in achieving best healthcare:

a)The  government has introduced National Health Policy to ensure low cost treatment for every citizen and to eradicate the causes of diseases.

b) The government’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat, as a part of which 1.5 lakh sub-centres are being converted into health and wellness centres.

c) The National Health Protection Scheme , aims to provide a cover of Rs 5 lakh a family a year to 10 crore vulnerable families.

6. India is committed to eradicate TB by 2025.

7. PM also inaugurated power grid Vishram Sadan at AIIMS.

 

GS: 3

Economy:

Gadkari meets top banks to seek credit for projects

News:

  1. The Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari recently met representatives from financial institutions asking them to extend credit for road development projects.

Important facts:

2. The meeting was an attempt to reach out to country’s banks and insurance companies for extending credits for developmental projects.

3. The financial institutions are reluctant to do so because of their non-performing assets.

4. The Ministry has announced 104 projects under the Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM), of which 56 have reached financial closure.

5. Remaining projects, have six months time period for arranging funds.

6. Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM):

  • The HAM is a variant of public-private partnership, which was launched by the government in January 2016.
  • Through this model, the government bears 40% of the cost of the project and the rest comes from the developer.
  • The National Highways Authority of India is responsible for collecting toll on these projects and pays the developer a fixed annual fee for a specific period.

 

India ‘waiting and watching’ Iran issue unfold before taking a decision: Pradhan

News:

  1. Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan says, we will do business with whoever gives us oil, gas on good terms.

Important facts:

2. His statement was the outcome of the U.S.’ announcement that it will impose sanctions on any country importing oil from Iran after November 4.

3. Minister also says that India is open to do business with any country that is offering favourable terms on oil.

4. The size and growth potential of the Indian market had played a larger role in convincing the OPEC nations to increase their supply by one million barrels per day and also mitigating higher costs incurred by ‘Asian Premium’ charged by Middle Eastern countries.

5. The Minister also highlights the good relationship India was fostering with West Asia and how this was to India’s benefit.

6. The UAE will open the bid round in 3-4 months in which India is looking at participating in partnership with a UAE company.

7. India’s relations with countries like UAE and Saudi Arabai has improved.

8. Increased production by the OPEC nations would have an effect on petrol prices in India.

 

Now, it’s PM’s word on kharif MSP

News:

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reassurance to farmers for Kharif crops.

Important facts:

2.Mr Modi, gave assurance to farmer’s that government will approve Minimum Support prices(MSP) at 150% of input costs for kharif crops.

3.Modi’s assurance comes as farmer’s group has started agitating on the lack of announcement on MSP rates.

4.He also assured farmers that the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for sugar cane for the 2018-19 season would be announced soon.

5.The FRP will also incentivise farmers whose crops have a sugar recovery rate higher than 9.5%.

6.The MSPs act a price signal for farmers and usually announced in early June, when sowing begins.

7.With growing sugar mill’s arrears to cane farmers, the government has approved following measures:

  • Production subsidy,
  • Buffer stock,
  • Minimum retail price
  • Hike in import duties,
  • Steps to increase ethanol production from cane.

8.The NITI Aayog’s proposal to ensure MSP:

  • Make states responsible for procurement, storage and disposal of crops, with partial financial support from the Centre.
  • Pay farmers the price difference between market rates and MSP without any crop procurement
  • Involve procurement by private agencies and traders at MSP rates.

 

‘Reserves firepower to help stem rupee’s losses’

News:

  1. The centre government affirmed that India has adequate foreign exchange reserves to deal with the current volatility.

Important facts:

  1. India’s volatility is driven by the following factors:
  • Proposed U.S. sanctions on Iran
  • The mismatch in demand and supply of oil
  • Ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China could impact exports from emerging markets including India.
  • Downfall in Rupee (about 7% this year, making it the worst performing currency in Asia).
  1. Impacts:
  • Trade deficit is expected in upcoming years.
  • Rise in oil prices could further widen the trade deficit, which inconsequence can put pressure on rupee.
  1. Presently the country’s forex reserves is approx. $410 billion
  2. The forex reserve situation is much better compared to 2013 crisis.
  3. India has witnessed increased forex reserves,services exports and inflow of remittances.
  4. Recently RBI has raised repo rates by 25 basis points.
  5. The increase in the key repo rate could squeeze credit for companies as well as lead to some cuts in capital spending by the government.
  6. The government could further raise funds through foreign currency non- repatriable (FCNR) deposits, sovereign bonds or other routes to increase reserves.
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