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9 PM for Mains examination
- Digital education challenges
- Destroying the unity of purpose- Parliamentary Committee
- Draft report on Non personal Data: Gopalakrishnan committee
- COVID 19 – Policy window for overdue reforms
- GST compensation Standoff
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Digital education challenges
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-2- Education
Context: Shift from teacher-class based teaching to digital-education will need multi-dimensional efforts over time as “digital” India is not prepared for digital education yet.
Education in India
- Tackle poverty: Education would facilitate in tackling poverty by providing new oppurtunities.
- National Knowledge Commission (NKC) (2004-2009): it has an emphasis on expansion, excellence, and equity and brings the idea of educational transformation for 21st-century needs into the mainstream thinking of the government.
- Impact of the recommendations of the Commission: it led to opening of almost 900 universities, many new IITs and IIMs, increased funding for education in the 11th Five-Year Plan and the Right to Education Bill.
- The New Education Policy 2020: It puts education at the forefront of the national agenda and is positive as a statement of intent.
- GDP on education: In 2020-2021, the government spent only 3.2 per cent of GDP on education which is less from 4.14 per cent in 2014-2015, whereas allocating 6 per cent of GDP on education is proposed in NEP 2020.
- Education crisis: schools and colleges campuses will be closed through 2020 due to an increasing number of COVID cases and this could extend to 2021. Proper planning is required as merely hoping for best won’t help.
Issues with online education
There are serious issues related to access, devices, content, curation, teachers, training, testing, exams, grades, funding, facilities, salaries, parents and fees.
- Lack of access to internet: It is estimated that only about 25 per cent of Indian households have an internet facility whereas the number is 15% in rural households. The marginalised, rural and poor populations would be worst affected.
- Lack of resources: appropriate platforms, technology, tools, interactivity, curation, content and a lot more is required for digital education, government schools and colleges are underprepared.
- Lack of a proper policy on digital education: parents are being asked to pay full fees to be able to pay their staff and maintain facilities and financial model is falling apart in the country because of lack of a proper infrastructure and multiple languages.
Two bold initiatives were taken to help digital education in the future in the past:
- NOFN — National Optical Fibre Network (Now called Bharat Network) to connect all 2,50,000 panchayats at the cost of over Rs 40,000 crores and the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund was used to build NOFN.
- NOFN was planned as a part of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) to enable the free flow of information to all. However, is still not completely operational, after almost eight years as many rural areas telecom operators did not want to serve due to lack of profitability.
- The National Knowledge Network (NKN): It was established as a high bandwidth, low latency network to connect all knowledge-creating organisations comprising IITs, IIMs, universities, research labs and other e-governance institutions up to the district level.
- It was aimed at encouraging collaborative development and building a repository of knowledge in all fields.
- Only a few institutions take full advantage of it because of a lack of understanding, local facilities, funding and technical expertise.
- The government’s entire e-Gov programme works on the backbone of NKN.
- IT-based teaching system: Free 100 Mbps to 1Gbps bandwidth was planned at each panchayat under NOFN and NKN to build an IT-based teaching system, which could address the shortage of teachers.
- The present teacher-centric education and IT-based teaching were not in sync because of the old mind set and vested interests.
- A long time and substantial resources are required and parents should pay only when services are delivered to their satisfaction.
- NOFN and NKN should be used to connect all our schools and improve the digital education ecosystem.
2.Destroying the unity of purpose- Parliamentary Committee
Source- The Indian Express
Syllabus- GS 2- Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
Context- The open confrontation between the chairman of the IT Committee, Shashi Tharoor, and a senior member of the Committee has the potential to destroy the healthy convention and practices followed by parliamentary committees.
- They are established to study and deal with various matters that cannot be directly handled by the legislature due to their volume.
- Indian Constitution mentions two kinds of parliamentary committees under Article 118 (1) of the constitution-
- Standing Committees
- Ad Hoc Committees
Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure of conducting business are regulated as per rules made by the two houses under Article 118 (1) of the constitution.
Role of Parliamentary Committees
- They are created to scrutinise governmental activities. After finding out the facts about a particular matter, they make recommendations to the government. Although their recommendations are directory and not mandatory.
- They also monitor the functioning of the executive branch.
- Strength of the committees–
- They function in a non- party basis which makes them a unique experiment by the parliamentarians who are otherwise divided on party lines.
- They try to find the truth and expose the shortcomings of the governments before the House and public, so that government would work more responsibly towards the public cause.
- Rules and practices-
- They do not permit a minister to be a member of the committee. So, members do not have to take a political stand on issues before the committee as they do in the house.
- Ministers are not allowed to appear as witnesses to give evidence before the committees.
- They do not allow the presence of the media in the meetings of the committees.
- The proceedings are confidential and no one is permitted to make it public.
Present controversy in IT Committee
- Witness – It centres on the right of the chairman to call an official from Facebook as a witness.
- Rights of chairman – There is no specific rule which defines the rights of the chairman. Rather it funcltions as per established conventions.
- If such practice is adopted then only those witnesses who are suggested by the majority can be called for examination and it may be deprived of the benefit of neutral witnesses.
Rules of the House- The speaker decision is final when it comes to relevance of the evidence submitted by the person. This makes two things clear-
- The question of whether a witness is relevant or not will be decided by the Speaker and not through a vote in the committee.
- The decision of the Speaker is confined to the question of relevance only. In other words, the selection of a witness can be challenged only on the ground of relevance to the subject.
Therefore, this being the position as per the House rules, the present controversy could have been avoided.
Parliamentary committees need to follow sensible and healthy traditions and conventions, which is essential for the effective functioning of the parliamentary committees. It also strengthens the institution of Parliament as well as the democratic values.
3.Draft report on Non personal Data: Gopalakrishnan committee
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Context: Recently, the Gopalakrishnan Committee on developing a governance framework for non-personal data has put out its draft report.
- The non-personal data generated in the country can be allowed to be harnessed by various domestic companies and entities.
- Set up a new authority which would be empowered to monitor the use and mining of such non-personal data.
- Categories: The committee has classified non-personal data into three main categories:
- Public Non-Personal Data: All the data collected by government and its agencies such as census, data collected by municipal corporations on the total tax receipts in a particular period or any information collected during execution of all publicly funded works
- Community Non-Personal Data: Any data about a set of people who have either the same geographic location, religion, job or other common social interests. For example, the data collected by ride-hailing apps, electricity distribution companies among others.
- Private non-personal data: It can be defined as those which are produced by individuals which can be derived from application of proprietary software or knowledge.
Significance of the recommendations:
- New technologies: For example, aggregate data from land registries can tell us a lot about land use patterns. Data related to traffic flows can be used to guide traffic management.
- Reducing digital dependence: Data collected from various communities are considered to be ‘owned’ by the relevant community.
- Such ‘community ownership’ means that the data should be shared back with all those who need it in society, whether to develop domestic digital businesses or for producing important digital public goods.
- Governance framework: The Gopalakrishnan Committee report does not adequately address governance frameworks around government data sets.
- State surveillance: Report did not raise concerns about state interference in the private data ecosystem. The report largely focuses on the dangers posed by data collection by private sector entities.
- State’s interventionist approach: Even the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee report of 2018 highlighted the need to restrict the growing power of the state to carry out surveillance.
- Inability to enforce guidelines: It means that data sets released by governments are often lack quality, thereby reducing re-usability.
- Cybersecurity: Issue of inadequate India’s cybersecurity framework was also not addressed in report.
Why the Data should be open to citizens ?
- Data are funded by public: Most of non-personal data sets held by the government result from taxpayer funding.
- To ensure accountability: Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, mandates the disclosure of government data on a suo moto basis.
- Transparency: The state should be transparent about information that it has.
- Avoid Duplication : By permitting the reuse of government data sets, we avoid the need for duplication.
- Ensure Free flow of information: One of the nine pillars of the Digital India Policy is “information for all”.
- In accordance with Government policies: The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012 requires all non-sensitive information held by public authorities to be made publicly accessible in machine readable formats.
- The government has also set up an Open Government Data Platform to provide open access to data sets held by ministries and other agencies of the government.
- Evaluate what is going wrong with existing policies and practice pertaining to government data, and deliberated on how these can be addressed.
- Reforming how the government itself deals with citizens’ data.
- Develop state capacity to govern the data ecosystem.
4.COVID 19 – Policy window for overdue reforms
Source- Indian Express
Syllabus- GS 3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment
Context- Post pandemic, the government needs to undertake key reforms to utilize the global demand.
Effects of COVID-19
- GST shortfall– The GST compensation requirement is estimated to be around Rs 3 lakh crore this year, while the cess collection is expected to be around Rs 65,000 crore – an estimated compensation shortfall of Rs 2.35 lakh crore.
- GDP contraction– India’s economy shrank nearly 25 percent in the last quarter, the most drastic fall in past decades.
- Unemployment– India’s overall unemployment rate for the month of July stood at 7.43 percent, down from nearly 28 percent during the month of April.
Factors in India’s favour
- Unsustainable Chinese GDP– The trade issues with US has affected many Chinese companies and its global trade. Moreover, its domestic consumption is not sufficient to substitute for global trade loss.
- China’s border conflicts– China’s military overreach is unifying the region and creating coalitions and alliances which may favor India.
- Low oil price– Muted global growth means oil prices will remain low; which can prove advantageous to India.
- Global demand of software talent – The global digitization super cycle creates demand for software talent which India’s youth can provide with their skills.
- Developed countries ageing problem– Most rich countries with their ageing populations, creaking health systems, and huge public debt will struggle to grow. Whereas India is yet to reap its demographic dividend.
Government needs to bring reforms in following for being more productive
Government needs to create an environment for entrepreneurs, firms, and citizens with key reforms that will give them economic ‘Poorna Swaraj’ and take per capita income of $2,500 to $10,000 in next five years. Risk adverse bureaucracy need an attitude change for better governance of all.
5.GST compensation Standoff
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus- GS 3- Government Budgeting
Context- Differences of opinion have emerged between Centre and states at the 41st Goods and Service Tax [GST] Council meeting over compensation deficit.
- GST- Goods and Services Tax, is an indirect tax which has replaced many indirect taxes in India such as the excise duty, VAT, services tax, etc. GST is a single domestic indirect tax law for the entire country.
GST [Compensation to States] Act, 2017
- States are guaranteed compensation for loss of revenue on account of implementation of GST for a transition period of five years (2017-22).
- The compensation assures an annualized 14% growth rate from the base year of 2015-16.
- States no longer possess taxation rights after most taxes, barring those on petroleum, alcohol, and stamp duty, were subsumed under GST.
Distinction in shortfall
- Pending payment– GST compensation payments to states have been pending since April, with the pending amount for April-July estimated at Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
- GST revenue gap – The GST compensation requirement is estimated to be around Rs 3 lakh crore this year, while the cess collection is expected to be around Rs 65,000 crore – an estimated compensation shortfall of Rs 2.35 lakh crore.
Options made by the Centre
Option 1 –
- Special borrowing window – To provide a special borrowing window to states, in consultation with the RBI, which has to be repaid by the states after 5 years.
- A 0.5 percent relaxation in the borrowing limit under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management [FRBM] Act would be provided.
- Meeting the GST compensation gap of this year.
- No Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act relaxation has been mentioned for this option.
Challenges for central government
- Options rejected– Several States have rejected both options. Some states like Tamil Nadu, have urged the Centre to rethink in view of their essential and urgent spending needs to curb the pandemic and spur growth.
- Compensation cess levied on demerit goods will stay on beyond 2022. This may hurt few sectors such as auto sector.
Centre need to resolve this impasse in a way that future GST reforms do not fall victim to the trust deficit engendered by this standoff, the pandemic response is strengthened and all-round government capital spending to bolster sagging demand not derailed.
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