9 PM Daily Brief – August 27th,2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Current affairs brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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9 PM for Main examination

GS-1

  1. Three Years of the Abolition of Triple Talaq

GS-2

  1. Education reforms- NRA
  2. Overhaul of education system
  3. UGC Versus States
  4. New legal framework for Outer space

GS-3

  1. Agricultural market reforms: a step towards farming sector
  2. Service Sector: Need relief package

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Three Years of the Abolition of Triple Talaq

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-1- Society

Context: Three years of Supreme Court judgement on abolition of Triple Talaq.

What is Instant Triple Talaq?

  • It is a distorted form of Talaq used by a Muslim man to divorce his wife by just uttering ‘Talaq’ three times. It is practised mainly by the Hanafis, a sub sect of Sunni Muslims in India.

Supreme Court Judgement on Triple Talaq

  • A five-judge bench in 2017 declared by a majority of 3:2 that instant Triple Talaq is unconstitutional
  • Constitution Bench did not accept the argument that instant talaq is essential to Islam and, therefore, deserves constitutional protection under Article 25.
  • The main ground on which the practise has been struck down is that the practise is arbitrary and depends on the whims of the husband.
  • The court ruled that the practice was against Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
  • It suggested the government to bring a legislation banning triple talaq.

Muslim Women (Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019

  • The Act defines talaq as “talaq-e-bidat or any other similar form of talaq having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce”.
  • The Act declares the so-called talaq-e-bidat to be “void and illegal” and also makes it an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term up to three years and fine.
  • The offence is to be cognisable but compoundable. A person arrested for the offence can be released on bail by the court after hearing the wife and being satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.
  • The Act also enables the court to order subsistence allowance for the wife and children dependent on her, as also for placing minor children in her custody.
  • The proper way of divorce by men as prescribed by the Quran and other authentic sources of Muslim law remains unaffected by the Act

2.Education reforms- NRA

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Education

Context: National Recruitment Agency and CET promise transparency for employers and job aspirants, it would greatly enhance ease of living for the youth.

The national recruitment agency and CET

  • The historic and revolutionary recruitment reform in the form of National Recruitment Agency (NRA) by the Union Cabinet will eliminate multiple testsand save time as well as resources.
  • The NRA will conduct a Common Eligibility Test (CET) to screen/shortlist candidatesfor the Group B and C (non-technical) posts.
  • The NRA will have representatives from the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs) and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
  • On average, 5-3 crore candidates appear for about 1.25 lakh vacancies in the central governmentevery year and aspirants have to take different exams that are conducted by various agencies for central government jobs.
  • Next year onwards one can apply for a vacancy with the respective agency based on the score they get in CET.
  • The NRA would be convenient and cost effectivefor the candidates as avoidable/repetitive expenditure, law and order/security-related issues and venue-related problems would reduce.

 Other governance reforms by the current government

  • It is no longer required to get documents attested by a gazetted officer as the same was replaced with self-attestation.
  • There are no interviews for lower-rung selections.
  • The abolition of over 1,500 obsolete rules/laws and three-month central government shift as assistant secretaries for IAS officers at the beginning of their career.
  • Amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Actand a new format for the PM’s Excellence Awards.

Positives of the NRA

  • The NRA stands out as a unique model because it is in tune with the current government’s mantra of “Ease of Living for the Young Job Aspirants”by facilitating ease of recruitment, selection and job placement.
  • There will be a special focus on creating examination infrastructure in the 117 Aspirational Districts, which will go a long way in affording access to candidates at a place near where they reside.
  • This will prove a great boon to crores of aspirants residing in hilly, rural and remote areas and most importantly, for female candidates who face a plethora of problems in taking such examinations at different centres at different times.
  • The NRA also envisions conducting mock tests for rural youth and will have a 24×7 helpline and grievance redressal portal.
  • The CET score of the candidate shall remain valid for three years from the date of declaration of the result and the best of the valid scores shall be deemed to be the current score of the candidate and there would be no restriction on the number of attempts to appear in the CET subject to the upper age limit.
  • Relaxation in the upper age limit shall be given to SC/ST/OBC candidates and from other categories as per the extant government policy.

Selection process

  • The NRA shall conduct a separate CET each for the three levels of graduate, higher secondary (12th pass) and the matriculate (10th pass) candidates for those non-technical posts.
  • Final selection for recruitmentshall be made through separate specialised tiers (II, III, etc) of examination, which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies, based on the screening done at the CET score level.
  • The curriculum and standard for this test will be common.
  • The ultimate aim is to reach a stage wherein candidates can schedule their tests at centres of their choice.
  • Tests will be conducted in 12 languages other than Hindi and English in due course and efforts will be made to include all the languages mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

Way forward

  • Other recruitment agencies of the central government should adopt it as well over time and other agencies in the public as well as private domain will be able to adopt the CET if they so choose.
  • The CET score could be shared with other recruiting agencies in the central government, state governments/Union Territories, public sector undertakings and the private sector in a true spirit of cooperative federalism.

3.Overhaul of education system

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Context – Machines can improve quite radically after an overhaul, but social systems like education behave more like living beings as they carry legacies and tendencies rooted in the wider social ethos.

New National Education Policy 2020

Recently cabinet approved a new national education policy which will refine and re-engineer classroom transactions with an aim to:

  1. To reduce curriculum content –It will enhance essential learning, critical thinking and more holistic experiential, discussion and analysis based learning.
  2. New pedagogical structure– It also talks about a revision of the curriculum and pedagogical structure from a 10+2 system to a 5+3+3+4 system design in an effort to optimize learning for students based on cognitive development of children. The new model likely to look like this-
    1. Foundational stage– Students in the age group of 3-8 years will be part of the foundational stage. This stage will be split into two parts, Three years of playschool/ anganwadi and two years in primary school.
    2. Preparatory Schooling Stage- For children between 8-11 years of age in grades 3 to 5. There will be a greater emphasis on experiential learning across the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences, and humanities.
    3. Middle school-For students between 11-14 years in grades 6 to 8. The thrust for this level will be to have a subject-oriented pedagogical learning style.
    4. Secondary level-The final stage is for students between 14-18 years. This stage is again split into two sub-stages: covering grades 9 and 10 in one cohort and grades 11 and 12 in another.

Stages in traditional learning models-

  • Child is familiarized with the alphabet.
  • Child must learn to recognize individual letters and their sounds first.
  • Then move towards recognizing simple words by recognizing the letters that comprise it.
  • Results in prematurely acquired literacy.

Issues with prematurely acquired literacy

  1. Reading without relating– An introduction to the alphabet and being drilled for letter recognition at a very young age is a major source of reading without deriving any meaning or showing any interest.
  2. Acquisition of writingskill- Writing can be meaningful activity when an intended audience begins to matter for the small child. If no need is felt for an audience, acquisition of writing becomes merely the attainment of a mechanical skill.
  3. Prematurely acquired numeracy– Prolonged drills to habituate the child to chant numbers aloud, and then to learn how to manipulate them only damages the bridge that connects numbers with real things or matters of interest and curiosity.

Way forward-

Attaining foundational literacy and numeracy for all children must become an immediate national mission. Students, along with their schools, teachers, parents and communities, must be urgently supported and encouraged in every way possible to help carry out this all-important target and mission, which indeed forms the basis of all future learning.

4.UGC Versus States

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: Gs2: Statutory and regulatory bodies, Centre-State relations

Context: The University Grants Commission (UGC) and the State of Maharashtra are engaged in a vicious legal battle which has put the spotlight on the fraught nature of Centre-state relations in the area of higher education.

More on news:

  • Due to the epidemic and concerns of safety, Maharashtra and some other states have decided to cancel the final year exams for college students.
  • The states are willing to award grades and degrees based on in-semester performance.

Issues involved:

  • Diluting the standards:UGC has stated that this grading system “dilutes standards” and has asked universities to hold exams — online, off-line or blended before September 30.
  • State’s action against division of power: It has encroached on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education which is exclusively reserved for the Parliament under Entry 66 of List I of Schedule VII of the Constitution.
Entry 66:

· Centre’s role as “Coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions”.

· It has been repeatedly used by the Centre to shape the contours of policy and governance.

· It is the basis of the UGC Act of 1956.

  • UGC is taking steps to protect the academic future of students.
  • Reducing job opportunities: MHRD has not directed employers to relax the criteria for new recruitments. Employers are asking for final year degree certificate.
  • Web of acts and bureaucracy:The IIT Act of 1961 led to the JEE and eventually GATE, and the 2016 amendment to the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956 gave us NEET.Thus, entry 66 and few acts have entangled India’s higher education in a web of qualifying and competitive exams, regulatory agencies and professional bodies.
  • Excessive bureaucratic national system of accreditation and rankings for institutions: for instance, thousands of research papers in worthless journals and hundreds of crores spent on exotic research areas.
  • de facto standards encouraging commercialisation: JEE, NEET and GATE have become the de facto standards for education. They encourage coaching and intervene in the state’s ability to provide doctors and engineers from the local population.
  • Excessive centralisation: For instance, Unnat Maharashtra Abhiyan, linking colleges with district administration was refused support by the MHRD.
  • No regional content: for instance, the national curriculum for civil engineering is the same for Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • Outdated Syllabus: for instance, Sociology wends its way through Marx and Weber, ignores key development programmes such as MGNREGA and forbids any regional content.
  • Lack of efforts to achieve goals of NEP : The new National Education Policy (NEP) claims that the purpose of higher education is to “enable personal accomplishment and enlightenment, constructive public engagement, and productive contribution to society
    • However, efforts have not been made to evolve standards and link higher education with concrete societal goals.

Possible implications:

  • Poor student employability.
  • Reluctance of the states to invest in higher education: case study on local problems has been absent in the curricula.
  • Disconnect of curricula and teachers with the real world leading to dilution of standards.
  • Elite central institutions such as the IITs or IISERs soak up the most of funds given by centre.

Way forward:

  • Connect societal needs and professions with training and research.
  • Evidence-based policy makingfor national curricula and nationalised testing.
  • It is time for the states to create a system which opens up professional opportunities, standards and training for our youth to serve their community, of achieving excellence through relevance.

5.New legal framework for Outer space

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context– As ambitious space missions are proliferating with advances in commercial space flight, there are concerns about possible indiscriminate space mining, interplanetary contamination and militarization of outer space.

Space event launched during the COVID-19 pandemic

  1. Mars mission– The launch of mission to Mars by China and US, along with the UAE’s Mars orbiter.
  2. Space-X– The first astronaut trip to orbit on a commercial enterprise.
  3. Navigation satellite– China’s launched new rival of GPS called BEIDOU and making to the elite group of countries with their own global navigation satellite system [GNSS].
  4. Space weapon– The US accused Russia of test- firing an anti-satellite weapon in space.

Positive Implications of Space technology

  1. Low latency Internet system – Starlink is a satellite constellation being constructed by Space-X to provide global Internet access.It transcend the digital divide and provide everyone, everywhere access to services such as distance education and telemedicine.
  2. Space data or big data from space – Space technology is being utilized to collect and analyze data to deliver clear insights in weather forecasting, global logistic, crop harvesting and disaster response.
  3. Space manufacturing– It includes manufacturing of very few materials that can only be made in the microgravity environment of space and have sufficient value back on Earth.

For example- ZBLAN – A fiber optic material that may lead to much lower signal losses per length of fiber than anything that can be made on Earth.

Legal Principles for outer space-The United Nations General Assembly adopted five declarations and legal principles:

  • The Outer Space Treaty (1967):Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
  • The Rescue Agreement (1968): Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
  • The Liability Convention (1972):Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.
  • The Registration Convention (1976):Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
  • The Moon Agreement (1984):Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

Major challenges in utilizing full potential of Outer Space

  1. Outdated space laws-
  • As the outer space becomes democratized, commercialized and crowded, the multilateral framework for its governance is becoming outdated.
  • Space laws do not have dispute settlement mechanism.
  • The laws are silent on collisions and debris and offer insufficient guidance on interference with the others space assets.
  1. State-centric legal framework-
  • The legislation is state-centric, placing responsibility on states alone.
  • Lack of alignmentof domestic and international frameworks will start a damaging free-for-all competition for celestial resources.
  1. Misuse of strategic position-
  • Military purpose– Commercial satellite data could be acquired by the government to monitor military movement.
  • Space military weapon– Some countries send payload into space that looks capable of being a military weapon. These kinds of test produce substantial debris that could damage other satellite.

Way forward-

There is dire need of space legislation which will enable coherence across technical, legal, commercial, diplomatic and defence goals for all participating parties. It is a high time for the world to frame new laws that address global governance, regulatory and arms control issues in outer space.

6.Agricultural market reforms: a step towards farming sector

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3- Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints

Context- The recent reforms in agricultural marketing have brought a sea change in policy.

Agricultural market reforms initiated through following ordinances:

  1. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020,
  2. The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 and
  3. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020.

Reforms in Agricultural marketing

  1. Encourage private investment- Theremoval of restrictions under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) should help attract private investment in agriculture and help farmers of cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion and potato, which have been adversely affected by the policy regime hitherto that discouraged private investment.
  1. Empower inter- state trade- The two new ordinances are expected to enable inter- state trade and promote contract farming, thereby providing a large number of options to farmers.

Challenges in implementing the policies

  1. Policy credibility problem- This situation arises when a decision maker’s preferences change over time in such a way that the preferences are inconsistent at different points in time.
  2. Centre- State relations- Although the ordinances were passed by the Central government; however the implementation of the programme vests with the States. States face several problems in legislating and implementing the programmes. Thus, Centre must coordinate with the States to solve the problems in order to implement these programmes.
  3. State- State relations- Inter- State trade involves movements of goods across the State boundaries. Thus, coordination among various states is necessary to implement the programme efficiently.
  4. Multiple market failure- The absence of credit and insurance markets may lead a farmer to depend upon the local input dealer or the middleman to meet his farming needs. This will constrain his choice of output markets.

Programmes formulated by Central Government

  1. Electronic National Agricultural Market (e-NAM)
  • The e-NAM was launched in 2016.
  • It was intended to be a market- based mechanism for efficient price discovery by the farmers.
  • States needed to amend their respective Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts to put in place three pre-requisites for the success of this programme-
  1. A single licence across the State,
  2. A single- point levy of the market fee and
  3. Electronic auctioning in all the markets.

However, several states could not carry out these amendments and the e-NAM proved to be far less effective than desired.

  1. Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)
  • It was launched in 2018.
  • The main objective of this programme was to provide an assured price to farmers that ensured a return of at least 50 per cent more than the cost of cultivation.
  • It was confined to pulses and oilseeds to limit the fiscal costs.
  • The main planks of this scheme were public procurement, deficiency payments and private procurement.

However, only public procurement was carried out in a meaningful way. Deficiency payments were only implemented on a pilot basis in Madhya Pradesh and Private procurement was not initiated in any state.

  1. Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PMKISAN)
  • It was launched in 2019.
  • In this scheme a certain amount is directly transfer to eligible farmers. It involved a fixed payment of Rs. 6,000 per annum to each farm household with a budgetary outlay of Rs. 75,000 crore.
  • This programme has worked reasonably well so far with many states.

Way Forward

Consistency in policy, collaborative approach and complementary reforms are necessary for the success of the recent agricultural market reforms. Centre need to engage more with the states to implement the policies efficiently.

7.Service Sector: Need relief package

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: Gs3: Effects of Liberalization on the Economy, Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.

Context: Government needs to focus on service sector in the forthcoming Foreign trade policy(FTP) to revive the Indian economy.

Service sector: Engine of growth

  • The economic reforms during the 1990’s aided the growth of service sector owing to large availability of skilled manpoweras a result of state-supported higher education.
  • India’s economy directly transited from an agricultural oriented economy to a services-led growth economy without much improvements in the manufacturing sector.
  • The neglect of the manufacturing sector has resulted in its stagnant growth (around 16 per cent for the last 3 decades) which is very short of the 2022 target of 25 per cent.
  • With the decline of Manufacturing sectors contribution to India’s GDP, India’s growth story has been driven mostly by services, which has contributed 55% to India’s GDP.
  • It has also led to increased service exports(38 per cent of total exports) and increased FDI in service sector that amounts to two-thirds of total FDI inflows into India

Pandemic and service sector in India

  • Tourism Industry: which contributes a significant 10 per cent to India’s GDP is witnessing loss of jobs and revenues.
  • Aviation sector:it is expected to have lost $3.6 billion in the last three months along with knock-out effect on employment, production and the economy as a whole.
  • No stimulus/Atmanirbhar package: Neglecting tertiary sector will also nullify the current relief provisions for the primary and secondary sectors. The package announced by Centre had a strong focus on the MSME sector, employee provident fund, power distribution companies and taxation.
  • Contraction in service sector: The Nikkei India PMI Index stood at 57.5 in February, up from 55.5 in January. However, IHS Markit India Services Index reports that the services sector has been contracting for five consecutive months since March, with an index of 34.2.
  • To ensure compliance with WTO: The government is also in the process of scrapping or rationalising most of the export-incentive schemes including the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS), Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS), schemes related to export-oriented units and the Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme.

Way forward:

  • Short term measures:
    • The government needs to make cuts in VAT, which ranges from 0-30 per cent on aviation fuel, make provisions for GST holidays, compensate for wages of workers under distress and draft flexible terms for working capital credit.
    • Announce schemes-based export incentives and provides interim relief by continuing with the existing schemes.
  • Long term measure:capital infusion and appropriate relaxation in relevant sectors will help the economy to survive the pandemic.

9 PM for Preliminary examination

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