The Draft National Educational Policy 2019, has put forward a number of recommendations for strengthening the school education system in India.
It has recommended to expand the ambit of the Right to Education Act to include early childhood education and secondary education i.e. from the age 3 to 18 years. Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of 6 to 14 years.
The draft policy has recommended reconfiguration of curriculum and pedagogy in a “5+3+3+4” design, which recognises different stages of development of cognitive abilities in children. This corresponds to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory stage), 11-14 (middle stage), and 14-18 (secondary stage).
For pre-primary education, it has recommended a) increased investment in existing anganwadi centres, b) locating anganwadi centres in primary schools, c) encouraging primary schools to add pre-school, and d) building high-quality standalone pre-schools in areas where existing anganwadis and primary schools are substandard.
It has recommended continuance of the three-language formula and proposed flexibility in the choice of languages, as long as students can show proficiency in any three languages.
It has further mooted for a revision in the National Curriculum Framework 2005 by the end of 2020. It has advocated reduction in curriculum load and reorientation of curriculum to promote ethical reasoning, digital literacy, scientific temper, social responsibility etc.
The policy has advocated revamping the board exam structure. It has suggested that students should be allowed to sit for the examination twice in any given school year. Further, a modular approach should be adopted in which a student is able to sit for the Board exam in a range of subjects across eight semesters.
At present, the Department of School Education (DSE) in a state is in charge of operation, regulation and policy-making. However, the draft policy has recommended decentralisation, with each of these functions carried out by separate bodies- a) ‘Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog’ (Education Commission at national level, headed by the PM) for policy making, b) Operations to be carried out by DSE and c) State School Regulatory Authority should oversee regulation aspects.
The Draft National Education Policy, 2019 has observed several quality related deficiencies in the existing early childhood learning programmes. These include a) poor performance of Anganwadis in educational aspects of Early Childhood Care and Education, b) substandard pedagogy and c) lack of qualiﬁed and trained educators.
The draft policy has recommended that ambit of the Right to Education Act should be expanded to include early childhood education and secondary education i.e. from the age 3 to 18 years. Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of 6 to 14 years.
The draft policy has also recommended that the early childhood education should be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) as part of the school system. Currently, private pre-schools and anganwadis provide early childhood education to the children in 3-6 years age group. The Anganwadis are overseen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD).
The policy also recommends that the mandate of the NCERT should expanded to include the development of a Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Education.
It has also suggested that the Anganwadi system should be strengthened and expanded to include a robust education component. Further, the Anganwadis and pre-schools should be co-located with primary schools wherever possible.
A BJP MP has advocated that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) should be shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The ED is a specialized financial investigation agency. At present, it functions under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.
The ED is mandated to deal with matters pertaining to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) is a Civil Law which deals with investigations into suspected contraventions of the Foreign Exchange Laws and Regulations.
Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 is a criminal law that provides for investigation, arrest and prosecution of offenders found to be involved in Money Laundering.
Under the present system, the ED cannot independently register a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). It has to mandatorily take cognizance of a case registered under other laws like the IPC, Passport Act etc.
It has been argued that the ED predominantly consists of officers from the Finance Ministry who do not have adequate expertise or training in matters pertaining to the IPC or other such laws which are perquisite to deal with PMLA.
Thus, it has been advocated the PMLA and also the ED should be move to Home Ministry for more efficacy in dealing with matters related to money laundering.
The Indian Space Research Organisation has scheduled the launch of Chandrayaan 2 mission between 9th and 16th July. Chandrayaan 2 is India’s second lunar mission which will be launched aboard a GSLV-Mk III rocket.
Chandrayaan 2 will comprise of an Orbiter, Lander named ‘Vikram’ and Rover named ‘Pragyan’. The orbiter will circle the moon and provide information about its surface, while the lander will make a soft landing on the surface and send out the rover. The rover will be used mostly for in situ experiments.
According to ISRO Chandrayaan-2 will be the most complex mission undertaken by ISRO. It is because the landing on moon involves multiple challenges.
Firstly, ensuring trajectory accuracy is a major challenge. Since, the distance between moon and earth is large, navigating such a large distance poses many challenges as trajectory is influenced by the non-uniform gravity of the earth and moon, gravitational pull of other astronomical bodies, solar radiation pressure, and the moons true orbital motion.
Secondly, deep space communication is a challenge, as owing to the large distance from earth and limited on- board power, radio signals used for communication are weak with heavy background noise.
Thirdly, Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) and Lunar capture is a major challenge. As the moon’s location is continually changing due to orbital motion, the intersection of Chandrayaan 2 and the Moon’s path has to be predicted sufficiently in advance with a high level of accuracy.
Fourthly, while soft landing on the moon, the on-board NGC and propulsion system has to work in union, autonomously, and automatically for a successful landing. Further, the landing site landscape features should not result in a communication shadow area.
Fifthly, orbiting around the moon is a challenge. This is because, lunar gravity is ‘lumpy’ due to uneven mass distribution under its surface and the influences the orbit of the spacecraft.
Sixthly, lunar dust is major issue. The lunar dust stick to most surfaces, causing a disruption in deployment mechanisms, solar panel performance, and NGC sensor performances.
Finally, the extreme temperature and hard vacuum (caused by the ambient pressure) makes the lunar surface extremely hostile environment for lander and rover operations.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019. The order amends the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
The new amendments has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up foreigner tribunals (FTs) to identify suspected foreigners illegally residing in India. Earlier only the Centre had the power to set up FTs.
Currently, the quasi-judicial foreigner tribunals are unique to Assam and were set up under the Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964.
In other parts of India, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, the person is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946. The illegal foreigner is then subject to a prison term of 3 months to 8 years. Once the jail term is over, they are kept in detention centres until deportation to the country of origin.
Recently, out of the apprehension that there would be an influx of petitions in the foreigners’ tribunals once the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) is published on July 31st 2019, the MHA has decided to extend assistance to the Assam government in setting up 1,000 foreigner’s tribunals.
With the amendments to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, the Centre has also empowered individuals to approach these tribunals. This has been done give adequate opportunity to those not included in the final NRC. Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect.
Further, the amended order has allowed District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.
The Asia Pacific Group(APG) has conveyed to Pakistan that its action plans on terrorist groups were inadequate after it was grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force(FATF) for terror financing.
APG has said that Pakistan has time until September,2019 to either comply with the demands made by FATF members or it could be blacklisted.The blacklisting will prevent institutions like IMF from financially supporting Pakistan which is anticipating a financial crisis.
In June 2018,FATF had decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list.It means downgrading of the country by institutions like IMF,World Bank,ADB,EU and also reduction in risk rating by Moody’s, Fitch and S&P.
The APG is the FATF-style regional body for the Asia-Pacific region.APG was founded in Bangkok,Thailand in 1997 as an autonomous regional anti-money laundering body by unanimous agreement among 13 original founding members.
The Asia Pacific Group currently consists of 41 members including India.It is focused on ensuring that its members effectively implement the international standards against money laundering,terrorist financing and proliferation financing related to weapons of mass destruction.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
The objectives of the FATF are to (a) set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures (b) for combating money laundering (c)terrorist financing and (d) other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
Recently,G20 finance ministers at a meeting Japan has agreed to compile common rules to close loopholes used by global tech giants to reduce their corporate taxes.
Global technology firms such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and others face criticism for cutting their tax bills by booking profits in low-tax countries regardless of the location of the end customer.Such practices are seen by many as unfair.
The G20’s debate on changes to the tax code is focused on two pillars -:The first pillar was to divide up the rights to tax a company where its goods or services are sold even if it does not have a physical presence in that country.
The second pillar was to decide on a global minimum tax rate to prevent companies from finding a way to book profits in low-tax or offshore havens.
The new rules would mean higher tax burdens for large multinational firms but would also make it harder for countries like Ireland to attract foreign direct investment with the promise of ultra-low corporate tax rates.
Britain and France have been among the most vocal proponents of proposals to tax big tech companies.However,countries such as the United States has expressed concern that US companies were being unfairly targeted in a broad push to update the global corporate tax code.
G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies formed in 1999.The group accounts for 85% of world GDP and two-thirds of the population.They have no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.
During the meeting of G-20 finance ministers in Japan,Indian Finance Minister has called on G-20 countries to adopt principle of ‘significant economic presence’ to address challenges to tax profits made by the digital companies.
The concept of Significant Economic Presence was introduced in the Income-Tax Act,1961 from April 1,2018.
This was introduced to tax the income of the non-resident arising from transactions relating to any goods, services or property in India, including allowing download of data or software or carrying on business activities in India through digital means.
India has also raised the issue of greater participation of the medium and small scale enterprises(MSMEs) in developing countries to boost the domestic as well as global trade.
Further,India has asked for close cooperation among the G20 member nations to deal with fugitive economic offenders who flee their countries to escape the consequences of the law.
India has passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act,2018 that seeks to confiscate properties and assets of economic offenders that evade prosecution by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
Economic offences with a value of more than Rs 100 crores which are listed in the schedule of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act come under the purview of this law.
India has also asked for development of a common defensive toolkit of measures to deal with non-compliant tax jurisdictions that refuse to share tax-related information.
India has said that G20 should further expand the network of automatic exchange of financial account information (AEOI) by identifying jurisdictions including developing countries and financial centres that are relevant but have not yet committed to any timeline.
Automatic Exchange of Information(AEOI) provides for the exchange of non-resident financial account information with the tax authorities in the account holder’s country of residence.It reduces the possibility of tax evasion.
Automotive industry has opposed the government’s proposal to ban sales of non-electric three-wheelers by 2023 and two-wheelers of less than 150cc by 2025 terming it as an impractical and untimely move.
Recently,Union Ministry of road and transport in consultations with NITI Aayog had proposed that all three-wheelers and two-wheelers below 150cc will need to go electric by 2023 and 2025 respectively.
However,Society of Indian Automobile Association(SIAM) has opposed the idea by terming it as impractical and untimely as that would only adversely affect the world’s number one two/three-wheeler industry but may not help in making electric vehicles acceptable to the customer and the market.
SIAM said that the automotive industry is currently facing multiple challenges including shifting to BS-VI emission norms in the shortest time-frame ever with investments of close to Rs 80,000 crore.
It stated that the government should rather carry out wider consultations before finalisation of goals and timelines for electric mobility.
Indian Government has also launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric vehicles in India(FAME India) to encourage Electric Vehicles.
FAME is part of the government’s two-pronged strategy to place India as a key driver in the global mobility revolution.The strategy is (a)boost domestic manufacturing by insisting on minimum of 50% local content in e-vehicles and (b)create massive size and scale for electric vehicles in the country to make the investments made in the sector viable.
The FAME II is an expanded version of FAME I,launched in 2015 which aimed to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing ecosystem.
India and Myanmar has decided to hold a high-level meeting in Imphal, Manipur to bring the two countries closer.
During the meeting,the two nations are likely to discuss issues related to (a)supply of fuel from Assam to Myanmar (b)overnight stay of Indians at Tamu (Myanmar border town) and (c)medical tourism among others.
As a part of its Act East’ policy,India and Myanmar have shared a cordial relationship.India has been extending developmental assistance to Myanmar over several years.
On the other hand,Myanmarese Army has also been helping Indian army in eliminating military and administrative camps of Northeast militant groups taking shelter in Myanmar.
Further,experts have underlined the need to revamp the transport system in and around Imphal so that it should be the gateway for trade and other bilateral ties with Southeast Asian countries.
Hong Kong has plunged into a fresh political crisis after thousands of people took to the streets to protest against a proposed extradition bill.
The extradition bill could allow China to target political opponents who are in Hong Kong.The Bill would allow suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China to face trial.
The changes will also allow for requests to Hong Kong that they hand over people accused of crimes in Taiwan and Macau too to China.
Supporters of the law have said Hong Kong courts will have the final say over whether or not to grant such requests and suspects accused of political and religious crimes will not be sent to mainland China for a trial.
But critics say people in Hong Kong would face unfair trial and violent treatment under what they say is China’s unfair court system and it would lead to the city losing more of its independence.
Hong Kong is a region in southeast Asia smaller than the area of Greater London.It was run by the UK until 1997 when control of the city was handed over to China under special agreement,
The special agreement called as one country,two systems means that Hong Kong still has a number of differences to the rest of China.The city has its own laws,its own courts and its residents enjoy certain freedoms unavailable to people who live in mainland China.
The government is planning to introduce a tax on cash withdrawals of Rs 10 lakh in a year.The government is planning this move to discourage use of paper currency, promote digital payments as well as crack down on black money.
Further,the government is also considering mandating Aadhaar authentication for all high-value cash withdrawals as the government believes that the move will make it easy to track individuals and keep tax returns in check.
Recently,the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) had announced that it has decided to do away with the charges on NEFT and RTGS transfers.This move was taken to promote digital transactions.
These decisions are in line with other rules mandated by the government to keep cash transactions in check.
Earlier,the government had made digital or cheque payments mandatory for businesses to claim benefits of business expenses.Following this rule,large companies are now making wage payments of more than Rs 10,000 through cheque or via bank transfer.
In 2016,high-level panel of chief ministers headed by then Andhra Pradesh CM had also recommended reintroduction of the tax on withdrawals of over Rs 50,000 among other measures to check cash use after demonetisation.However, the cash withdrawal tax was not implemented.
The US could offer India the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet if India cancels the S-400 air defence system deal with Russia.The US has increased pressure on India over the S-400 deal that was signed in October,2018.
US official had said that India should not assume that it will get a waiver from U.S. sanctions if it goes ahead with its purchase of the S-400 Triumf missile system from Russia.
India is also keeping a close watch on what happens with Turkey that has already signed up for the S-400 and has been threatened by the US with sanctions and the cancellation of its contract for F-35s.
Further,India’s planned defence procurement of S-400 Triumf missile system from Russia could potentially come under US sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
USA’s National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) allows the President to grant waivers from CAATSA sanctions under certain conditions.Under the Act,US President is also empowered to impose sanctions on persons engaged in a significant transaction with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
S-400 Triumf Missile System is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM). It is capable of engaging aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles, and has a terminal ballistic missile defense capability. It has an operational range of over 400 kms.
The S-400 Triumf is known as the SA-21 Growler by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). NATO members consider the S-400 a major threat because of its long range.