Society related issues:
Cabinet approves education reforms(The Hindu)
What has happened?
Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar on Thursday announced that the Cabinet has approved a slew of reforms for school education in the country, in what could be considered as the SarvaShiksha Abhiyan-2 project
Schemes to be integrated:The SSA, the Rashtriya MadhyamikShiksha Abhiyan and teacher training would be integrated into a single scheme from Classes 1 to 12
Timeline of the scheme: The integrated scheme will be in place from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020, with an estimated allocation of Rs. 75,000 crore over the period, a 20% increase over the current allocation.
Aim of the scheme
- Universalizing access to school education: It aims to support the States in universalising access to school education from pre-nursery to Class 12 across the country
- Focus on educationally backward: The government would focus on educationally backward districts, disabled students and women.
- Digital Blackboards in the classroom: There would be a shift to digital blackboards from Class 9 to college education in the next five years
- Learning based outcome incentive: The government will provide a 20% incentive to the States for a learning-outcome based education.
- Early introduction of skill courses: Now functional from Class 9 to Class 12 — would begin from Class 6 in future. This was aimed at enhancing the employability of students.
- Interest free education loans: The Centre has also approved an increase in the outlay for making educational loans interest-free for students with modest financial means for studying in universities and colleges charging high fees
Should gambling be legalised?(The Hindu Opinion)
Gambling is ubiquitous in Indian society: people bet on animal fights on streets, they make bets while playing cards and before cricket matches. As the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke correctly said, “Gambling is a principle inherent in human nature.”
Existing law on gambling
The primary law on which States have framed their gambling legislation is an archaic, British-era law called the Public Gambling Act, 1867
Why legalise gambling?
- Controlling balck money: Legalizing the activity will not only help curtail an important source of black money that is used by criminal syndicates, but also bring massive revenue to the state exchequer, which can be used for various constructive social schemes.
- Source of tax revenue: Size of the gambling market in India is about $60 billion so the government could earn tens of thousands of crores as tax revenue by legalising sports betting
Additionally, if online gambling and casinos are also permitted, the estimated tax revenue would be much higher.
- Employment opportunities: Globally, wherever gambling is regulated, it has created a massive avenue for employment generation. For instance, the regulated gambling industry in the U.S. employs over 2.5 lakh people, while over 1 lakh individuals are employed in this sector in the U.K.
- Morally not correct: Gambling is not morally correct in the Indian context.
- An addiction: It is responsible for addiction, loss of livelihoods and bankruptcy.
These concerns are unfounded.
- Gambling prevalent from ancient times: Gambling has been prevalent in society since ancient times and has been accepted as a form of recreation on various social occasions
- Gambling is still rampant in spite of being illegal: As regards the concerns about gambling and betting leading to addiction and bankruptcy, it must be noted that even though gambling is largely illegal, it is still rampant and unchecked.
What should be done?
- Regulatory framework will help people
A robust regulatory framework governing the gaming sector will ensure that people do not fall prey to the excesses of gambling
- Awareness campaigns
Awareness campaigns should educate people about the perils of excessive gambling
- Vulnerable sections shouldn’t have access
Minors, habitual gamblers and vulnerable sections should be excluded from having access to gaming facilities
- Limits on the amounts wagered
Limits must be imposed on the amounts that can be wagered, based on a person’s financial capabilities.
What has happened?
India is Japan’s “most important” partner in its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, as both countries agreed to step up cooperation in their “Special Strategic and Global Partnership” during annual consultations and exchanged yen loan agreements for $1.4 billion.
Countries exchange loan agreements worth $1.4 billion
Both the leaders witnessed the exchange of documents for loans from Japan to India for projects including the Mumbai metro line from Cuffe Parade, a sea water desalinisation plant and a intelligent transport system to reduce traffic congestion in Chennai, tree-planting schemes in Himachal Pradesh as well as loans for the North East connectivity project.
What has happened?
India’s plans to get a foothold in the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles received a setback after its President Danny Faure told Parliament earlier this week that he will not take up the Assomption island project deal with India for ratification
Why: Because the opposition leader said he would not back deal
This announcement came after Wavell John Charles Ramkalawan, the leader of the Opposition of Seychelles (an ethnic Indian), said that he would oppose the deal.
Failed outreach:Significantly, the leader of the Opposition was hosted here in January as India tried to get him on board for the key project, which was rejected by the Indian Ocean country earlier this week.
What has happened?
The Union government cannot disclose details of the Rafale deal as India and France had recently signed an agreement to protect classified information exchanged between the two sides, according to officials
Govt. cites secrecy deal with France
The government told Parliament this week that the two sides signed the agreement when French President Emmanuel Macron visited India on March 10.
Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information
- This new treaty would replace an agreement of 2008 and is the reason why the government would not disclose details of the deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France, officials point out.
- This agreement defines the common security regulations applicable to any exchange of classified and protected information between the two countries
- The new pact is significant in the wake of the Opposition, especially the Congress, alleging a financial scandal in the purchase of the 36 Rafale fighter jets through a government-to-government deal, instead of the 126 fighter aircraft deal through competitive tendering that was under way.
Indian Constitution and Polity:
What has happened?
With the Central government not coming out with a scheme on the Cauvery issue within the six-week period stipulated by the Supreme Court — which ended on Thursday — the Tamil Nadu government has decided to approach the court with a contempt petition.
- On February 16, delivering its judgment, the Supreme Court set a deadline of six weeks for the Centre to frame a scheme for the implementation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) given in February 2007.
- The court, while dealing with appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala against the final award, had also stated that “no extension shall be granted for framing of the scheme on any ground.”
Tackling prejudice(The Hindu Opinion)
What has happened?
Nearly a month after ShanaviPonnusamy, a transwoman from Tamil Nadu, wrote to the President alleging that Air India had denied her a cabin crew job despite her clearing the written exam, the Ministry of Social Justice sent a Bill on transgender rights to the Cabinet, with amendments as suggested by a Standing Committee
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, is a result of the 2014 Supreme Court judgment recognising transgenders as the third gender and safeguarding their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution
- Apart from welfare schemes for the community, the Bill also lists obligations of establishments as well as recognisable offences against the community
- Harassment of a transgender employee is an offence that carries with it a punishment of not less than six months imprisonment
What needs to be done?
- Enabling environment: An enabling environment needs to be created, be it in education institutes or workplaces
- Sensitizing workforce: In protecting the rights and dignity of the community
- Implementation of the laws: While laws to safeguard these rights are the first step, more important is to ensure their implementation
- Formation of National Council for Transgender Persons: The Bill recommends the formation of a National Council for Transgender Persons that is tasked with monitoring and evaluating policies formulated for transgender persons
- Representation in Rajya Sabha: This may pave the way for fulfilling the community’s long-standing demand for representation in the Rajya Sabha.
- Need of Vocational programs in creative fields: Leading voices from the community have called for vocational programmes in creative fields, a recommendation made by the Standing Committee too.
Integration into the workforce is a challenge
- They Drop out:While they are recruited by State agencies, police departments, and home guards, many have dropped out, especially those undergoing gender transition
- Making more money in traditional ways:Eunuchs say they make more money through traditional practices like mangti , so why would they tie themselves down to a desk job?
Keeping contracts alive(The Hindu Opinion)
The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill 2017
Objective: to ensure completion of infrastructure projects
What is the intended purpose of the bill?
- Project completion: The Bill intends to direct the courts away from the usual practice of closing a case after a grant of monetary damages to the injured party to the contract. Instead, it pushes courts to direct parties to complete the promised project
- The Bill is an improvement on the Specific Relief Act of 1963 under which payment of damages was the rule and specific performance of contracts an “exception”
Other amendments proposed
- Substituted performance: It proposes for the substituted performance of contracts. That is, when a contract is broken, the party who suffers would be entitled to get the contract performed by a third party or by his own agency to recover expenses and costs, including compensation from the party who failed to perform his part of the contract. This would be an alternative remedy at the option of the party who suffers the broken contract
- The Bill also proposes to enable courts to engage experts on specific issues and to secure their attendance
- A new Section 20A is proposed for infrastructure project contracts. This provides that the court shall not grant injunction in any suit, where it appears to it that granting injunction would cause hindrance or delay in the continuance or completion of the infrastructure project
- Nodal agency: The Department of Economic Affairs is the nodal agency for specifying various categories of projects and infrastructure sub-sectors, which is provided as Schedule to the Bill. The Department may amend the Schedule relating to any such category or sub-sectors.
Union Law Minister has said that the government is “preparing” to file a review petition against the top court’s ruling on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that puts a stop to immediate arrests in complaints filed under its provisions
In a recent order, the Supreme Court had banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Act. The court had laid down stringent guidelines such as written permission from the appointing authority before a public servant could be arrested
An indefinite freeze on corruption and criminal trials granted by constitutional courts, especially High Courts in the cases of the rich and powerful, have often led to delay and denial of the fundamental right to speedy justice, the Supreme Court has observed
What has happened?
The Supreme Court has held that any stay of a criminal or corruption trial, or even a civil case, will be valid only for six months
- Even if a stay is granted for six months, the trial court should fix a date for the trial to commence immediately after the expiry of the stay. Trial proceedings will, by default, begin after the period of stay is over
Extension can be given
The order to stay trial will be extended after six months only in “exceptional cases” and that too in a judicial order which fully explains the reasons for the extension
‘Bharatmala to hit 25 toll projects’(The Hindu)
The 44 new economic corridors (EC) proposed to be built under the Bharatmala network, designed on the shortest possible route connecting the origin and destination, would impact the existing highway networks by directly competing with a few stretches, including some existing Build Own Transfer (BOT) (toll) road projects, ICRA said in a report
Relevant info for Prelims
It is the second largest highways construction project in the country since NHDP, under which almost 50,000 km or highway roads were targeted across the country.
- Bharatmala envisions 44 economic corridors across the country at a cost of at least Rs 5 lakh crore
- The Bharatmala corridors have been mapped as per traffic density and economic relevance of the cities that will be connected with the help of the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics
- Project includes economic corridors of around 9,000 km, inter-corridor and feeder routes of around 6,000 km, 5,000 km roads under the National Corridors Efficiency Program, border and international connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, coastal and port connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, expressways of around 800 km and 10,000 km of NHDP roads. The total length in phase 1 comes to around 34,800 km
- The newer roads are expected to increase the speed of vehicles and decrease supply chain costs from the current average 18 per cent to six per cent
- The project includes construction of feeder routes alongside national highways.
- Around 80% of Bharatmala will be based on a government funded, engineering procurement and construction (EPC) model while the rest will be a hybrid-annuity public private partnership
Science and Technology:
Major initiative to control BP, diabetes(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The Health Department of Kerala is launching a major initiative as part of a national programme for developing a registry for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with focus on management of diabetes and hypertension
- The State government has now chosen to integrate this programme, announced by the Ministry of Health in 2017-18, with two other initiatives, one of which is the India Hypertension Management Initiative (IHMI), a national programme being implemented by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)and Vital Strategies
- Under the IHMI initiative, an expert committee has developed and revised hypertension and diabetes management protocols in such a way that henceforth the specified drugs in the protocol alone will be purchased and distributed by the State to PHCs. The aim is to make the treatment schedule more patient-friendly and to improve adherence
- The other is developing Quality Standards for the implementation of Standard Treatment Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of primary hypertension in Kerala, for which the State is partnering with the Imperial College, London, and World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Everyone over 30 years in the designated area will be screened under each ASHA for diabetes and hypertension at primary health centres (PHC) through outreach camps and household surveys
- The screening at the Primary Health Centre level has already been initiated while field-level screening will be taken up soon
- Blood pressure and blood sugar levels will be routinely checked for anyone above 18 years coming to the sub-centres or clinics and protocol-based management will be initiated for those with diabetes or hypertension
- The target Blood Pressure is below 140/90 mmHg for those below 80 years and below 150/90 mmHg for those above 80 years
- The target routine blood sugar (RBS) should be less than 140 mg/dl
- The patients will be followed-up for one year to ensure treatment adherence
- The separate module for the programme has been integrated into the e-health platform so that details of every patient is recorded, analysed and systematically followed up for an entire year to measure the impact of the protocol-based management of diabetes and hypertension
GSAT-6A gives India bigger eye in the sky(The Hindu)
Launch of GSAT-6A by ISRO
What has happened?
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully placed a communication satellite GSAT-6A in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. It was carried on board the GSLV F-08 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre
A Communication Satellite
- Vikas Engine:The GSAT-6A is a communication satellite that incorporates the high-thrust Vikas engine
- Complement GSAT-6:It will complement the GSAT-6, which is already in orbit
- Antenna of 6m in diameter:The GSAT-6A’s antenna has a diameter of six metres — it can be unfurled and opened like an umbrella once it reaches its prescribed orbit
These two satellites i.e. GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A combined will provide platforms for development of advanced technologies such as the unfurlable antenna, hand-held devices, and ground networks
Himalayas warmest on record: researchers(The Hindu)
What has happened?
Recent decades have been the wettest and warmest on record in the Himalayas, say researchers who are alarmed that a “warming signature” has led to an overall rise in mercury level
‘Global warming impacting glaciers’
Rising temperatures in western Himalayas:They warn that the impact of global warming is clearly evident over the northwestern Himalayas in the form of rising temperatures in the last 25 years.
The maximum, minimum and mean temperatures in the Himalayas saw a total increase of 0.9 degree, 0.19 degree and 0.65 degree, respectively, over a quarter of a century.
However, the warming was not consistent across the Himalayas
Greater Himalayas sees the highest rise in temperatures:The highest rise in mean temperature was seen in the Greater Himalayas at 0.87 degree Celsius (1991-2015), followed by the Karakoram Himalayas.
Rise in mercury related with glacier retreat
The rise in mercury is in agreement with the comparatively higher rate of glacier retreat in the Greater Himalayas than in the Karakoram Himalayas
Study titled: “Recent Wintertime Climatic Variability Over the North West Himalayan Cryosphere”
By SASE: Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory based in Chandigarh