- Amitabha Bhattacharya, Professor, Michigan State University, discuss the major reforms needed in higher education and designing the successor regime to the UGC.
2. The draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill put in public domain now.
3. The HECI will replace University Grant Commission (UGC).
4. The new Bill will cover all fields of education except medical, agriculture and institutions set up under the Central and State Acts, excluding those of national importance.
5. The purpose of creating new Bill :
- To provide more autonomy.
- Facilitate holistic growth.
- Offer greater opportunities to Indian students at affordable cost.
- More multi-disciplinary in nature.
- Reform in higher education.
- Replacing UGC, once it is done, the technical education regulator AICTE and the teacher’s education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines
6. Main points of departure in the proposed Bill:
- Separation between academic functions and grant-giving ones.
- The former to be discharged by the HECI and the latter by the Ministry of HRD directly.
- The academic functions includes- promoting the quality of instructions, comprehensive and holistic growth of education and research in a competitive global environment.
7. Need for single regulatory body:
- To cope with the ever increasing complexity of the sector.
- Rapidly expanding number of institutions
- Deteriorating standards in the quality of students of the job market.
8. Regime of multiple regulators:
- It started in mid 1980’s.
- Various professional bodies also started asserting themselves as regulators in early 90’s.
- This period also mark a galloping period of growth with setting up many private universities.
9. Concern areas:
- The proposed Bill seeks to empower the HECI with all academic functions, however its role vis-à-vis professional bodies is unclear.
- Depriving HECI from funding functions.
- The MHRD has been directly funding institutions of national importance.
- The funding scheme of state universities, which account for more than 50% of the student enrolment, requires to be clearly worked out.
- It is sought to be done through the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan or RUSA.
- Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and 12 members.
- The secretary of HECI will be an officer of the rank of joint secretary
12. Functions of HECI:
- Improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes.
- Evaluation of academic performance by institutions
- Mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology, etc.
- It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions.
- Provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions.
- Lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law (including state list).
- Specifying norms and standards for grant of autonomy.
- The proposed Bill has to be situated in the context of certain new initiatives like granting autonomy to institutions like IIM.
- Quantum jump in public expenditure is required in the following sector:
- Making the universities major issues like making the universities the hub of scientific and technological research,
- restoring the value of education in social sciences and the humanities,
- ensuring that poor and meritorious students can afford to be educated in subjects of their choice,
- improving the quality of instruction to enhance the employability of the students,
- Addressing the concerns of faculty shortage, etc.
14. UGC vs HCEI:
15. 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.
16. The UGC conducted inspections to assess institutions. The HECI will practically do away with these and shift to a regime of “transparent disclosures” instead.
17. 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.
- The Union Ministry of Finance has amended Intellectual Property rules.
2. The rules were amended to revoke the power vested with Customs authorities to seize imported products based on complaints of patent infringement.
3. Recently, the Ministry made two amendments to the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules, 2007.
- The Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Amendment Rules, 2018, omits all reference to the Patents Act, 1970.
- Another amendment obliges the right-holder to notify the Commissioner of Customs of any amendment, cancellation, suspension or reaction that concern Intellectual Property rights.
4.The amended law will allow the Customs authorities to cancel his patent from its records based on the order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB).
5. In the past, mobile phone companies have faced issues because of the earlier rules.
- The Supreme Court asked the government to take immediate steps for the appointment of Lokpal.
2. The centre asked the government to file an affidavit, detailing the steps it would take for the appointment of Lokpal, the anti-graft ombudsman.
3. The next hearing for the case is scheduled for July 17.
4. In May, the Lokpal selection committee, had appointed former Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi as eminent jurist to the panel that will short-list candidates.
5. Composition of Selection Committee:
- Prime Minister as its head.
- Chief Justice of India
- Lok Sabha Speaker
6. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, was not implemented because there was no Leader of the Opposition in the 16th Lok Sabha.
7. The 2013 law includes the Leader of Opposition (LoP) as a member of the selection committee.
8. The Act intends the LoP to be part of the selection committee.
9. However, last year, the apex court made it clear that appointment process need not be stalled merely because of absence of the LoP.
10. The judgment rejected the government’s views that appointment process should wait till the Act was amended to replace the LOP with the leader of the single largest opposition party.
- The Supreme Court extended deadline for publication of final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam by a month.
2.The deadline extended from 30 June to 30 July on account of floods in three districts in State.
3.The deadline extension was demanded because State is affected by floods.
4.The extension came after the government and state NRC coordinator agreed to adhere to the new deadline.
5.The first draft of the NRC was published in December as per the apex court directions.
6.The first draft, list of state’s capital, was established where the names of 1.9 core people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated.
7.The Registrar General of India will be responsible for publication of final list to segregate Indian citizens from who illegally entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
8.The final NRC will count only those as Indian citizens who can prove their residency in Assam on or before 21 March, 1971.
9.Those names that do not appear in the list cease to be Assamese citizens and will be tagged as illegal immigrants of Assam.
10.Assam faced an influx of immigrants from Bangladesh.
11.The claim for such cases would be held at Foreigners Tribunal.
12.National Register of Citizens(NRC):
- NRC contains names of Indian citizens of Assam.
- The NRC was prepared in 1951 after the Census of 1951.
- The NRC updation of 2014-16 across Assam includes the names of those persons who appear in the NRC 1951 or in any of the Electoral Rolls till 1971.
- Eligibility criteria for inclusion in NRC:
- Persons included in the 1951 census
- Persons on the Electoral Rolls up to midnight 24 March 1971
- Descendants of the above-mentioned persons.
- Persons who came to Assam on or after 1 January 1966 but before 25 March 1971 and registered themselves in accordance to the rules made by the Central Government with the Foreigners Registration Regional Officer (FRRO).
- Those who have not been declared as illegal migrants or foreigners by the authority.
- The Supreme Court extended time period for creating away-from reactor (AFR) facility.
2. The apex court allows the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd(NPCIL) an extension of time till April 30, 2022, to build AFR facility to store spent nuclear fuel from the Kudankulam power plant.
3. The decision was taken by three judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
4. The court rejected the demands by advocate Prashant Bhushan to shut down the plant till the facility was ready.
5. Mr Bhutan said that continued operation of the plant without “deep underground repository” to store radioactive spent fuel can led to catastrophe.
6. The bench, however, made it clear that no further extension of time shall be granted to the corporation for setting up of the AFR at the nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu.
7. The apex court had earlier allowed the Centre to operationalise the nuclear plant subject to compliance of various safety measures including the safe storage of the spent nuclear fuel.
8. In 2013, the court granted five years to NPCIL, till July 2018, to build the storage unit.
9. About Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP):
- Is the single largest nuclear power station in India.
- It is situated in Koondankulam in the in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.
- It is scheduled to have six VVER-1000 reactors with an installed capacity of 6,000 MW of electricity.
- It has been built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company and NPCIL.
- Unit 1 of the plant was synchronised with the southern power grid in October 2013 and is generating electricity to its warranted limit of 1000 MW.
- Unit 2 with capacity 1,000 MW had achieved first criticality in July 2016. It was grid-connected in August 2016 and its commercial operation started in October 2016.
- The power generated from the plant will provide electricity to Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and Karnataka.
- The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) directed Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu and other states.
2.The decision was taken in CWMA’s first meeting held in New Delhi, with representatives from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
3.The meeting was held because Karnataka decided to appeal in the Supreme Court against the formation of Cauvery Water Management Authority.
4.Karnataka has been asked to release 31 tmcft water to Tamil Nadu in July.
5.Karnataka had released an extra of 3 tmcft of water from Cauvery n June owing to the heavy rainfall in the river’s catchment areas.
6.However, the meeting did not discuss Karnataka’s decision to challenge the Constitution of the CWMA in the Supreme Court.
7.Karnataka decided to appeal in the Supreme Court against the formation of CWMA.
8.According to a Supreme Court order on February 16, Karnataka needs to release 177.25 TMC to TN. The Court had reduced the latter’s share of 192 TMC as ordained by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal.
9.The authority’s order came after Karnataka had made public its objection to the composition of CWMA on June 30.
10.Karnataka raised objections about the distribution of water and is wary of “outside” interference in the distribution.
11.In case of Puducherry, the authority directed that the existing arrangement for the supply of water to Puducherry by Tamil Nadu will continue.
12.The next meeting of the CWMA would be held in July to review the implementation of the orders passed by the authority in the first meeting.
Some value addition points:
13.Constitutional Provisions and Legislations:
- The Constitutional Provision for Interstate water dispute has been laid down in Article 262
- The Article 262 provides for a specific law enacted by Parliament to adjudicate water disputes. It also bars jurisdiction of all courts, including the Supreme Court, on the same.
- The Cauvery River originates in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, flows into Tamil Nadu, and reaches the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar.
- Parts of three Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka – and the Union Territory of Pondicherry lie in the Cauvery basin.
- The river’s upper hilly catchment lies in Karnataka and Kerala. Its lower part lies in the plains of Tamil Nadu.
- Karnataka is the upper riparian state where the river originates; Tamil Nadu is a lower riparian state.
- Recently, the Goods and Services Tax(GST) has completed its first anniversary.
2. GST was launched on 1st July, 2017.
3. There are many implementation issues related to GST such as:
- The IT functioning of the Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN)has not been satisfactory.
- The structure of the tax rate has led to complexity. With different tax slab categories, it has become difficult to classify goods and has further added to confusion among consumers.
- Under anti-profiteering, businesses are required to pass on the benefits of reduction in tax rates and increase in input tax credit to any supply of goods and services.
- Many goods and services are outside the ambit of GST such as electricity, alcohol, petroleum goods and real estate which further adds to the complexity and confusion over GST.
- The E-Way Bill system had also faced a setback due to various technological issues
4. Despite above issues, the GST has taken firm root and is altering the economic landscape positively.
5. Entry of over 4.5 million entities in the country’s tax net is one aspect of positivity. This expansion of the tax net will further help in increase direct tax collections.
6. Finance Minister Piyush Goyal is confident that the average monthly collections this year could touch Rs 110,000 crore.
7. Way ahead:
- The GST council must purse a time bound approach to execute plans already announced to ease taxpayer’s woes, such as e-wallet for exporter.
- There must be road map to bring excluded products-petroleum, real estate, electricity, alcohol, into the GST net.
GST- A Brief Overview
- GST is a single tax on the supply of goods and services
- It is considered to be a destination based tax as it is applied on goods and services at the place where final/actual consumption happens
- GST is applied to all goods other than crude petroleum, motor spirit, diesel, aviation turbine fuel and natural gas and alcohol for human consumption
- There are four slabs for taxes for both goods and services- 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. Although GST aimed at levying a uniform tax rate on all products and services, four different tax slabs were introduced because daily necessities could not be subject to the same rate as luxury items.
- ‘Dual’ GST Model:
- Central GST (CGST) levied by Centre
- State GST (SGST) levied by State
- Integrated GST (IGST) –levied by Central Government on inter-State supply of goods and services.
- UTGST – Union territory GST, collected by union territory government
- China is working on a super-powerful rocket that would be capable of delivering heavier payloads into low orbit than NASA.
2. By 2030, the Long March-9 rocket under development will be able to carry 140 tonnes into low-Earth orbit
3. This compares to the 20 tonnes deliverable by Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket or the 64 tonnes of Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy.
4. It would also outstrip the 130 tonnes of NASA’s Space Launch System, which is due to become operational in 2020.
5. About Long March-9
- China’s Long March-9 would have a core stage measuring 10 metres in diameter and boast four powerful boosters, each with a diameter of five metres.
- The rocket could be used in manner lunar landings, deep space exploration or constructing a space-based solar power plant.
- China is also working on a reusable space rocket, which is expected to make it maiden fight in 2021.
- The first stage and the boosters will be retrieved after a vertical landing.
- China is pouring billions into its military run space pogrammes, with the aim to finally catch up with the U.S. and Russia.
- China is also planning to build a base on the moon.