DEFENCE  

India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Agni-V tested successfully

  • This was the fifth test of the missile and the third consecutive one from a canister on a road mobile launcher.
  • All the five missions have been successful.
  • Agni-V is the most advanced missile in the Agni series with new technologies incorporated in it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.
  • Agni-v is a 3 stagesolid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile and has a range of more than 5000km.
  • It has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India.
  • Agni V is part of the Agni series of missiles, one of the missile systems under the original Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

Why is this missile strategically important?

  • Agni-V, with a range of over 5,000 km, is India’s longest range ballistic missile and can reach most parts of China.
  • This makes it the mainstay of India’s triad to deliver nuclear weapons.

  ECONOMY:  

India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Steel ministry seeks abolition of cooking coal import tax

  • India’s steel ministry is seeking to remove import tax on coking coal to soften the impact of rising costs on users of the key steel-making fuel
  • The department has also proposed removing taxes on ferrochrome and ferro-nickel, ingredients used in making stainless steel
  • This will promote the production of the alloy crucial for the plan to boost domestic manufacturing

Why rise in prices?

  • Benchmark prices of premium coking coal have risen 34% over the past year after cyclone Debbie affected supplies from Australia, the biggest shipper of the commodity
  • Prices may spike again if another similar weather disruption occurs

Basics-Import duties

  • Import duty is a tax collected on imports and some exports by the customs authorities of a country
  • It is usually based on the value of the goods that are imported
  • There are two distinct goals to import duties: to raise income for local government and to give a market advantage to locally grown or produced goods that are not subject to import duties
  • A third related goal is sometimes to penalize a particular nation by charging high import duties on its products
  • Around the world, several organizations and treaties have direct impacts on import duties. These may be WTO or other regional groupings or even FTAs
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Towards solar powered agriculture

Efforts done by different state governments

  • Maharashtra is solarising its agricultural feeders by installing solar power plants at the substation level, through competitive bidding
  • Karnataka is promoting solar pumps for existing grid-connected farmers under a net-metering regime.
  • This regime allows them to generate additional income by feeding back surplus energy into the grid

Are we heading towards in the right direction?

  • Despite the diversity of approaches and significant government subsidies, only about 1,42,000 pumps have been deployed till date against a target of one million pumps by 2021.

How solar pumps can help?

  • In India, 53% of the net-sown area is still rain-fed
  • Solar pumps hold potential to enhance irrigation access, advance low-carbon agriculture, reduce the burden of rising electricity subsidies, and improve the resilience of farmers against a changing climate

What can be done?

  • Target marginal farmers with smaller solar pumps, particularly in areas with good groundwater development potential.
  • Couple solar pump deployment with micro-irrigation and water harvesting interventions at the farm and community levels(due to limited water availability in some areas)
  • In regions with already good penetration of electric pumps, prefer feeder solarisation through competitive bidding over solarisation of individual pumps(as solarising individual grid-connected pumps is the costliest approach for the government to expand irrigation cover)
  • In regions with prevailing local water markets, promote community-owned solar pumps(for competitive prices)
  • Encourage sharing of solar pumps among farmers through farmer extension programmes
  • Provide interest-subsidy to farmers combined with reduced capital subsidy to enable large-scale deployment of solar pumps in a shorter span of time(for covering great number of farmers)
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Rooftop solar installation

Context: Rooftop solar installation target difficult to achieve

  • Against a target of 10,000 MW for March 31, 2018, the achievement as of the last day of 2017 was 923 MW for rooftop solar installation
  • The government of India wants the country to have 100,000 MW of solar capacity by March 2022 — 60,000 MW from large plants and 40,000 MW from rooftops
  • The target for rooftop plants appears unattainable

Reasons behind this

  • Not an attractive alternative
  • For individual house owners, rooftop solar is still not an attractive alternative to the subsidized power supplied by the electricity distribution companies (discoms)
  • Discoms find ways of preventing big consumers such as factories, shopping malls from putting up rooftop solar plants and generating their own power because these are the customers from which discoms derive their sustenance.
  • Net metering not allowed/partially allowed.
  • Many states disallow ‘net metering’, which measures the power put into the grid by the rooftop plants.
  • Others impose a cap on the capacity allowed for net metering.
  • Bias for large size.
  • The government-owned SECI, a renewable energy facilitating company, would come out with tenders on behalf of interested discoms.
  • The bidders who quote the least tariff will put up the rooftop plants and sell power to the discom.
  • By selecting the rooftop plants only through competitive bidding, the proposed policy comes with a bias for large size.

What can be done to promote rooftop solar installations?

  • Government can provide generation-based incentives (GBI) to users opting for rooftop solar
  • A similar scheme served the wind industry well until it was scrapped last year
  • A suitably structured GBI would lower the prices for the discoms to be attracted to it.

Basics-Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd. (SECI)

  • It is a company of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India, established to facilitate the implementation of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission
  • It was set up as a Non-for-Profit Company to promote solar energy in India
  • It is the only public sector undertaking dedicated to the solar energy sector
  • The company also has a power-trading license and is active in this domain through trading of solar power from projects set up under the schemes being implemented by it
  • The company’s mandate has been broadened to cover the entire renewable energy domain and the company will be renamed to Renewable Energy Corporation of India (RECI).It will take up development of all segments of renewable energy namely, geo-thermal, off-shore wind, tidal etc. apart from solar energy.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Rising Income inequality in India: oxfam report

  • The richest 1 percent in India cornered 73 percent of the wealth generated in the country last year.
  • 67 crore Indians comprising the population’s poorest half saw their wealth rise by just 1 percent.

Changes since Last Year

  • Last year’s survey had shown that India’s richest 1 percent held a huge 58 percent of the country’s total wealth –higher than the global figure of about 50 percent.
  • The wealth of India’s richest 1 percent increased by over Rs 20.9 lakh crore during 2017 — an amount equivalent to total budget of the central government in 2017-18.

‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ report

  • All these findings are a part of the survey released by the international rights group Oxfam.
  • The annual Oxfam survey is keenly watched and is discussed in detail at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
  • Rising income and gender inequality is among the key talking points for the world leaders at the summit.

Status of Income Inequality

  • In India, it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year.
  • In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.

Rising Billionaires

  • 2017 saw an unprecedented increase in the number of billionaires, at a rate of one every two days.
  • The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system.
  • Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day.
  • The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

India improves global talent competitiveness ranking to 81st position

  • India has moved up on a global index of talent competitiveness to the 81st position.
  • India has improved its position from 92nd last year.
  • India was at the 89th place in 2016 on the index.

About the Index

  • The index measures how countries grow, attract and retain talent.
  • It is released every year on the first day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting.
  • The study was released by Adecco, Insead and Tata Communications this year.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

  • India’s exceptional performance in exporting information technology (IT) services has been instrumental in its integration with the global economy.
  • But this growth story has been under threat in the wake of anti-globalization and protectionist measures in major destination markets.

Challenges being faced by India’s IT industry

  • Uncertainty caused by the Hire American-Buy American movement unleashed by the Donald Trump administration.
  • The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is set to kick in from May, will also create difficult challenges for the outsourcing industry.
  • The GDPR has more advanced rules on data privacy as compared to the India-EU free-trade agreement.

Trade negotiations by India

  • India’s focus in trade negotiations has been mainly on temporary movement of professionals (mode 4) and outsourcing using telecommunication services (mode 1).
  • Countries put significant restrictions on mode 4 and many countries, including the US, UK and, Australia, have increased such restrictions in recent times.

What can India do for increasing its services exports?

India should focus on attracting more foreign consumers in its territory, referred to as mode 2 in services trade parlance.This is because of three reasons:

  • First, most of the countries do not put severe restrictions on this mode and had also liberalized it in their World Trade Organization commitments.Enhancing trade through this mode is not dependent on importing countries, rather on the actions that are within the ambit of the exporting country.
  • Second, the three sectors that are most important for mode 2—tourism services, education services and medical tourism—also have a high employment multiplier.An increase in foreign consumers will not only lead to enhanced foreign exchange earnings but also an increase in employment opportunities.
  • Third, much-required diversification in India’s services exports basket could also be achieved through this refocusing. India’s services exports are often termed a “one-trick pony” to indicate overreliance on IT services exports. An increase in mode 2 exports will lead to services exports diversification not only within the services sectors but also in terms of destination markets.

Tourism Potential

  • India has 36 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Thailand have half the number of these sites.But those countries attracted double tourists as compared to India.
  • India needs to build an image of a tourist-friendly globalized nation that warmly welcomes an outsider who might have different ethnicity, language or food habits

Education Potential

  • India has a potential for developing itself as an education hub for students from South and South-East Asia, and Africa.
  • Many reputed foreign educational institutions have not been able to set up their Indian campuses as relevant legislative amendments have remained as drafts.
  • Fast action in this direction could lead to more international institutions and student flow in India.

Medical Potential

  • A number of hospitals in India are providing advanced treatment at much lower costs compared to the developed world.They are able to attract patients from neighbouring countries and Africa.
  • There are still issues around obtaining health visas, accessing good quality hospitals, following up treatments, etc.
  • An improved infrastructure, a more friendly national ethos to foreigners and a greater sense of commitment and ethics among professionals can work wonders in this sector.

Way forward

  • India’s key demand areas (mode 1 and mode 4) are unlikely to see any positive momentum in the near future.It’s time to shift gear and focus on mode 2 where enhancing efficiency and boosting services exports depend primarily on domestic measures and not on removing restrictive measures by foreign countries.
  • This will also help in achieving national employment goals and benefit domestic consumers.

  ENVIRONMENT:  

Can we still avoid the climate tipping point

Can we still avoid the climate tipping point

  • According to a British journal ‘Nature’, the rise in average global temperature by the end of the century is likely to be about 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • This is off by a huge margin from 2 degrees Celsius scenario which has been considered by the global scientific community as the upper threshold that the Earth’s environment can withstand. Beyond which irreversible changes in the global climate are likely to occur.
  • While the 2 degrees Celsius threshold looks unlikely now, we, however, can still minimize its impact while simultaneously developing infrastructure to face the worst scenario. Some suggestions are:
    1. Model of development: We need to fundamentally change our northern model of development which is based on the excessive resource consumption. This model is ecologically unsustainable for the planet.
    2. Natural environment as a fundamental right: We ought to treat the natural environment as a fundamental right and ask politicians to ensure it. Political will flows from the people—when citizens care, politicians too act.
    3. Regional, national and local strategies: Rather than a single grand national or global strategy, we need to focus on regional, national and local strategies.
    4. Fossil-free energy future: The falling price of renewable energy has made its cost comparable to fossil fuel in many parts of the world. This is likely to accelerate the transition towards a fossil-free future.
    5. Developing countries need to focus more on adaptation than mitigation: As the impact of climate change becomes increasingly visible, developing countries like India, need to focus more on adaptation than mitigation. They need to develop infrastructure to rehabilitate people in their coastal areas, meet food demand with changing rain patterns and manage immigration caused by climate change.
  • Investing in energy-efficient appliances, powering homes with renewable energy, reducing water waste, using public transport and other measures can help in lowering the national, and ultimately the global, carbon profile.
World energy and environment conference

World energy and environment conference

  • The 5th Series World Energy and Environment Conference and Exhibition 2018 is being organised by The World Energy and Environment Council at Bahrain.
  • The theme of the conference is “Shifting to Clean, Renewable Energy in Time of Transition”.
  • The Conference raises and sets the bar higher for global debate, dialogue, engagement and cooperation.
Impact of Microwaves on environment

Impact of Microwaves on environment

  • The first ever comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of microwaves was carried out by researchers at the University of Manchester.
  • The study used life cycle assessment (LCA) to estimate the impacts of microwaves, taking into account their manufacture, use and end-of-life waste management.
  • Altogether, the research team investigated 12 different environmental factors, including climate change, depletion of natural resources and ecological toxicity.
  • Microwaves account for the largest percentage of sales of all type of ovens in the European Union (EU), with numbers set to reach nearly 135 million by 2020.

Findings of Study

  • Microwaves emit 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in the EU. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 6.8 million cars.
  • The electricity consumption by microwaves has the biggest impact on the environment. Microwaves across the EU consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour (TWh) of electricity every year. This is equivalent to the annual electricity generated by three large gas power plants.

Way Forward

  • The Efforts to reduce consumption should focus on improving consumer awareness and behaviour to use appliances more efficiently.
Govt seeks tech solutions for waste management

Govt seeks tech solutions for waste management

  • The science and technology ministry has called for a concept note in waste management technologies by 31 January from interested academic institutes and research & development (R&D) organizations. The government is seeking technological solutions for managing the huge untreated waste across the country.

Problem of waste Management

  • Around 62 million tonnes (mt) of solid waste is generated in India every year but only 43 mt is collected and a mere 12 mt treated.
  • About 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day but of that, only 9,000 tonnes is collected and processed.
  • India generates 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste annually, which is rising at the rate of 5% a year.
  • The waste is not only leading to poor sanitary conditions but also damaging the environment.

The government is looking at organizations to participate in developing technologies for:

  • Biomedical waste: setting up a demo plant for hazardous waste in an institute or university.
  • Agricultural waste (stubble management): to find an alternative to crop burning.
  • Electronic waste: developing simple indigenous material recovery technology.
  • Besides these, other major areas that are on the government’s radar are urban and rural solid waste and industrial waste.
  • The move is part of government’s concept of ‘waste to wealth’.
Automated Moorings

Automated Moorings

  • India is all set to have its own automated ocean pollution observation system called Automated Moorings.
  • It will help keep a tab on ocean pollution levels apart from offering insights on how the marine system is changing.
  • The system is being developed by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) will become functional by April this year.
  • The new ocean data acquisition system will do away with the present practice of collecting water samples from sea and studying their pollution levels thereafter.
  • This is a very effective system for getting the data about the ocean pollution.
  • It will help in monitoring the pollution level of the ocean water and the impact of climate change.

Water becoming anoxic

  • It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of the pollution in the ocean is from lands with marine debris, especially plastics, killing thousands of seabirds, mammals and sea turtles every year.
  • There are reports that the water is becoming anoxic and it could change the marine system. Anoxic waters are areas of sea water that are depleted of dissolved oxygen.
Rooftop Solar Power still in cold

Rooftop Solar Power still in cold

  • Against a target of 10,000 MW for March 31, 2018, the achievement as of the last day of 2017 was 923 MW for rooftop solar installation.
  • The government of India wants the country to have 100,000 MW of solar capacity by March 2022 — 60,000 MW from large plants and 40,000 MW from rooftops.

The target for rooftop plants appears unattainable. Reasons are

  • Not an attractive alternative: For individual house owners, rooftop solar is still not an attractive alternative to the subsidized power supplied by the electricity distribution companies (discoms).
  • Net metering not allowed/partially allowed:
    • Many states disallow ‘net metering’, which measures the power put into the grid by the rooftop plants.
    • Others impose a cap on the capacity allowed for net metering.

Way Forward

  • Government can provide generation-based incentives (GBI) to users opting for rooftop solar. A suitably structured GBI would lower the prices for the discoms to be attracted to it.

Facts in the News

  • Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) has won the 18th Energy Globe World Award -2017 as the one and only organisation from India. KISS won the award in 'Fire' Category for green initiatives undertaken by this institute that reduces the ecological footprint for large scale cooking.
  • The President of India has appointed Smt Anandiben Patel as the Governor of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Government has named nine new smart cities. The number of cities picked under the project now stands at 99. The nine cities chosen in the fourth round are -Bareilly, Moradabad and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Erode in Tamil Nadu, Bihar Sharif in Bihar, Silvasa in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Diu in Daman and Diu, Kavarati in Lakshadweep and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh.

  INTERNAL SECURITY:  

Home Ministry pitches for Budapest convention on cyber security

Home Ministry pitches for Budapest convention on cyber security

  • India was reconsidering its position on becoming a member of the Budapest Convention.
  • This was because of the surge in cybercrime, especially after a push for digital India.

Opposition by Intelligence Bureau

  • IB argues that sharing data with foreign law enforcement agencies infringes on national sovereignty and may jeopardize the rights of individuals.

Budapest Convention

  • The Convention on Cybercrime, also known as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is the first international treaty seeking to address Internet and computer crime by harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among nations.
  • It was drawn up by the Council of Europe.
  • It was opened for signature in Budapest, on 23 November 2001 and it entered into force on 1 July 2004.
  • The Convention is the first international treaty on crimes committed via the Internet and other computer networks, dealing particularly with infringements of copyright, computer-related fraud, child pornography, hate crimes, and violations of network security.
  • It also provides procedural law tools to make investigation of cybercrime and securing of e-evidence in relation to any crime more effective.
  • The convention allows international police and judicial cooperation on cybercrime and e-evidence.
  • The Convention has 56 members, including the US and the UK.

  INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS:  

India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

India joins the Australian Group

  • India has admitted as the 43rd member of the Australia Group.
  • The group is an informal bloc of countries that keeps a tight control over exports of substances used in the making of chemical weapons

Why is it Important?

  • With its admission into the Australia Group, India is now part of three of the four key export control groups in the world.
  • This includes the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement.
  • The only export control group that India is not a part of is the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Basics-The Australian Group

  • The Australia Group is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) and an informal group of countries (now joined by the European Commission) established in 1985 (after the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984) to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
  • The group, initially consisting of 15 members, held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in September 1989. With the incorporation of India on January 19, 2018, it now has 43 members, including Australia, the European Commission, all 28 member states of the European Union, Ukraine, and Argentina.
  • The name comes from Australia’s initiative to create the group. Australia manages the secretariat.
  • Delegations representing the members meet every year in Paris, France.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

India pushes for concluding balanced RCEP deal that includes services pact

  • India has insisted on concluding a “balanced and collectively satisfactory” Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
  • India wants a services pact to be included in the agreement.

Why India wants services pact in RCEP?

  • Services are becoming a dominant driver of growth in both developed and developing countries.
  • Services contribute almost two-thirds of India’s GDP.
  • Surplus in services trade finances almost half of India’s trade deficit.
  • India is pushing for greater liberalization in services sectors for easier movement of its professionals to RCEP member countries.

About RCEP

  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
  • RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
  • RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement which includes several Asian and American nations but excludes China and India.
  • In 2017, prospective RCEP member states accounted for a population of 3.4 billion people with a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP, PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 39 percent of the world’s GDP, with the combined GDPs of China and India making up more than half that amount.

  POLITY & GOVERNANCE  

NPPA fixes retail price of 30 drug formulations

NPPA fixes retail price of 30 drug formulations

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed/revised ceiling prices/retail prices of 33 formulations under Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013. It includes those used for treatment of diabetes, bacterial infections and high blood pressure.

About NPPA

  • NPPA is an organization of the Government of India which was established, inter alia, to fix/ revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country, under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995.
  • The regulator implements and enforces the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order.
  • The NPPA is mandated to fix/revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country.
  • It also monitors the prices of decontrolled drugs in order to keep them at reasonable levels.
  • It is also entrusted with the task of recovering amounts overcharged by manufacturers for the controlled drugs from the consumers.
  • It also monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
Election Commission recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

Election Commission recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

  • The Election Commission has recommended to the President the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs of Delhi Assembly on charges of holding an ‘Office of Profit’.
  • The 20 AAP legislators have been accused of being unconstitutionally appointed as parliamentary secretaries to aid various ministers of the Delhi government.
  • The president is bound to act on advice of Election commission.

Office of Profit

  • If an MLA or an MP holds a government office and receives benefits from it, then that office is termed as an “office of profit”.
  • A person will be disqualified if he holds an office of profit under the central or state government, other than an office declared not to disqualify its holder by a law passed by Parliament or state legislature.(Article 102 and 191)

Reason for Disqualification

  • The aim of this provision is to preserve the independence of the legislature by keeping its members away from any temptations from the executive.
  • Makers of the Constitution wanted that legislators should not feel obligated to the Executive in any way, which could influence them while discharging legislative functions.
Bharat Ke Veer

Bharat Ke Veer

  • The government has launched an official anthem for “Bharat Ke Veer”. The anthem is sung and composed by singer Kailash Kher.

Bharat Ke Veer

  • It is an initiative with a corpus fund to help the families of paramilitary troopers killed in the line of duty.
  • It is an IT based platform, with an objective to enable willing donors to contribute towards the family of a braveheart who sacrificed his/her life in line of duty.
  • The amount so donated will be credited to the account of ‘Next of Kin’ of those Central Armed Police Force/Central Para Military Force soldiers.
  • To ensure maximum coverage, a cap of 15 lakh rupees is imposed.
  • The donors would be alerted if the amount exceeds, so that they can choose to divert part of the donation to another braveheart account or to the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus.

  SOCIAL ISSUES  

Annual Status of Education Report

Annual Status of Education Report

  • Annual Status of Education Report (commonly known as the ASER report) is the ASER Centre's flagship activity, a household-based survey that collects information on children's schooling status and basic learning outcomes in almost every rural district in the country.
  • ASER Centre is Pratham's autonomous research and assessment unit.
  • Pratham is an NGO which focuses on high-quality, low-cost, and replicable interventions to address gaps in the education system.

New inclusions in Survey

  • This year ASER surveyed students in the age group of 14-18 years, unlike the last 12 years when it focused on students in elementary schools.
  • This time ASER teams went beyond basics and surveyed students on activity in schools, ability to solve problems, exposure, awareness and aspirations.
  • This was done in order to gauge the ability of adolescents aged 14-18 years to lead productive lives as adults.

Findings of report: Learning Outcomes

  • Only 5% of the respondents in the survey reported doing any kind of vocational course.
  • A significant section of secondary level students find it difficult to read standard texts meant for junior classes or locate their own State on the map.
  • 25% of the students cannot read a basic text in their own language fluently.
  • 40% of 18-year-olds cannot read a simple sentence in English.
  • Only 43% of the youth could solve an arithmetic problem involving division of a three-digit number by a single digit.
  • The survey finds that while 86% of adolescents are enrolled in schools, they are under-equipped to contribute to the economy in any meaningful way.
  • The ASER data point to a massive digital divide, with 61% of respondents stating they had never used the Internet, and 56% a computer, while mobile telephony was accessible to 73%.
  • More girls drop out of school than boys between ages 14-18.

Enrolment at the elementary level

  • India has achieved universal enrolment at the elementary level.
  • This is a great achievement, but getting students to school is only the beginning of human capital formation.
  • The insights available from successive studies point to progress being made in raw enrolment of children in school, but miserable failures in achieving learning outcomes
  • The drop in the enrolment rate in secondary education (78.5%), shows that something is wrong in our quality of instruction.

Comparison between private unaided schools and government schools

  • Private unaided schools have much better learning outcomes per unit of expenditure.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, most private unaided schools are inexpensive
  • 80% of them charge a fee that is lower than the government's per-pupil expenditure (PPE).
  • In terms of learning outcomes, both private and government schools performed poorly, but private schools perform better.
  • Despite qualified teachers, mid-day meals and free admissions, 13 million students left government schools between 2011 and 2016. While private school enrolment increased by 17 million in that duration. Clearly, people are choosing private schools for their better service.

Way Forward: For young between 14-18 years

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act should cover the entire spectrum of 18 years, and not confine itself to those aged 6 to 14.
  • Guaranteed inclusion will empower those in the 14-18 age group who are not enrolled anywhere, and help them acquire finishing education.

For Girls

  • Policies such as free bicycles to girls in Bihar have been successful in increasing enrolment by improving mobility.
  • Building gender-specific toilets in schools is another measure that helps in improving girls' enrolment.

School Coupons

  • The government should support children education by giving school coupons to all underprivileged students.
  • The students can choose to spend the coupons in their government school, or give it to a private school.
  • This will increase the purchasing power of all parents and allow them to send their child to school for more years, or send them to a better school.
Haj Subsidy

Haj Subsidy

  • The government has abolished the subsidy being given to Haj pilgrims every year. The government said it will use the subsidy funds to empower the minorities.
  • In 2012, a Supreme Court order directed the Haj subsidy to be gradually phased out in the coming ten years. The government had been steadily declining the amount of subsidy offered to Haj pilgrims each year.
  • In 2017, a Central Haj Committee meeting decided to do away with the subsidy by the following year.
Education and Fertility

Education and Fertility

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4)

  • It was carried out in 2015-16.
  • The total fertility rate has declined to 2.2, marginally above the replacement rate of 2.1. This is substantial progress from 2005-2006, when NFHS-3 pegged the rate at 2.7.
  • The fertility rate in 23 states and Union territories-including all the southern states-is below the replacement rate.
  • It is substantially higher in a number of states in central, east and north-east India. Bihar, for instance, has the highest rate at 3.41, followed by Meghalaya at 3.04 and Uttar Pradesh and Nagaland at 2.74

Relationship between Fertility and Education

  • Women with 12 years or more of schooling have a fertility rate of 1.7, while women with no schooling have an average rate of 3.1.
  • Higher levels of schooling mean lower levels of teenage pregnancy. In the 15-19 cohort, as many as one-fifth of the women with no schooling have begun childbearing, while only 1 in 25 women in the same cohort who have had 12 years or more of schooling have done so.
  • The median birth interval in the 15-19 age group is 22.6 months while Birth intervals smaller than 24 months "are associated with increased health risks for both mothers and newborns.

Implications of Low Levels of Education

  • Lack of education robs women of reproductive control, feeding into India's maternal and child health problem.
  • Combined with younger pregnancies and higher childbearing rates, it also constrains women's economic choices.
  • This, in turn, reinforces a lack of reproductive control-44% of women who are unemployed use modern contraceptives while 60% of women who are employed for cash do so-perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Contraceptive Usage

  • The most popular contraceptive method by far, at 36%, is female sterilization.
  • Male sterilization-a less invasive and easier method with a much lower chance of medical complications-accounts for a mere 0.3%
  • Male condom usage is low as well, at 5.6%.
  • Only 54% of women were informed of other available contraceptive methods while 47% of women were informed of the possible side effects of their chosen method.
  • NFHS-4 shows improvement in almost all metrics from the 2005-06 NFHS-3. Now, they must focus on enabling educational and economic opportunities for women.
Vajra Prahar

Maharashtra govt rolls out 1 & reservation for orphans

  • Maharashtra government has announced a 1% reservation in the open category for orphans in the state. Officials say Maharashtra is, perhaps, the first state to bring such a policy.
  • The historic decision is aimed at social and economic empowerment of such children. This will help orphans get education and employment, especially in government services.

  MISCELLANIES:  

India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA)

  • The program aims to provide assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month.
  • PMSMA guarantees a minimum package of antenatal care services to women in their 2nd/3rd trimesters of pregnancy at designated government health facilities.
  • The programme follows a systematic approach for engagement with private sector which includes motivating private practitioners to volunteer for the campaign; developing strategies for generating awareness and appealing to the private sector to participate in the Abhiyan at government health facilities.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

INSV Tarini

Context

  • An all-woman Indian Navy team on Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini has successfully crossed the notoriously rough Drake Passage, as they rounded Cape Horn off the Southern tip of South America, sometimes called the Mount Everest of sailing.

About INSV Tarini

  • INSV Tarini is a 56 foot sailing vessel built in India by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd, Goa.
  • It was inducted into the Indian Navy recently in February 2017.
  • It has Raymarine navigation suite and an array of satellite communication systems for perfect navigation anywhere in the world.
  • It showcases the ‘Make in India’ initiative on the International forum.

Navika Sagar Parikrama

  • The voyage of NavikaSagarParikrama began from Goa coast in September 2017 and will be finishing around March 2018. The expedition will be covered in five legs, with stop-overs at 4 ports: Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), and Cape Town (South Africa).
  • The project is considered essential towards promoting Ocean Sailing activities in the Indian Navy along with showcasing the Government’s support for empowering women.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Nirman Samvaad

  • It is A one-day Mega Conclave, a first ever interaction between the Ministry of Railways and the Construction Industry. The conclave was held recently in New Delhi.
  • It was aimed at taking measures to ensure expeditious implementation of ambitious Railway Infrastructure Development Plans.
  • It also aims to streamline procedures and remove bottlenecks to ensure the fast track implementation of projects on the railways.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

iCreate

Context

  • Prime Minister Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu recently dedicated to the nation the iCreate facility located on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

About iCreate

  • iCreate is an independent centre created with the objective of facilitating entrepreneurship through a blend of creativity, innovation, engineering, product design and leveraging emerging technologies to deal with major issues such as food security, water, connectivity, cybersecurity, IT and electronics, energy, bio-medical equipment and devices etc.
  • iCreate aims to develop an ecosystem in India to generate quality entrepreneurs.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Cyber Surakshit Bharat

  • Conceptualized with the mission to spread awareness about cybercrime and building capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across all government departments, Cyber Surakshit Bharat will be operated on the three principles of Awareness, Education and Enablement.
  • The primary objective is to keep our data safe and protected.
  • It will include an awareness program on the importance of cybersecurity; a series of workshops on best practices and enablement of the officials with cybersecurity health tool kits to manage and mitigate cyber threats.
  • Significance: Cyber Surakshit Bharat is the first public-private partnership of its kind and will leverage the expertise of the IT industry in cybersecurity.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Jiyo Parsi scheme

  • JiyoParsi is a Government of India supported scheme to arrest the decline in population of the Parsi Zoroastrian Community in India.
  • The JiyoParsi Scheme comprises of three components: Advocacy Component, Health of the Community Component and Medical Component.
  • The main objective of the “JiyoParsi” scheme is to reverse the declining trend of Parsi population by adopting a scientific protocol and structured interventions, stabilize their population and increase the population of Parsis in India.
India switzerland signs data sharing agreement on black money

Kilopower project

  • The Kilopower project is a near-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable fission nuclear power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces.
  • The principal goal of the project is to sufficiently develop and test nuclear power system technologies by 2018 so fission power can be a viable option for NASA decision makers to consider when making their informed selection of exploration surface systems.

Significance

  • Kilopower tackles a few different problems in spacecraft design: existing nuclear power systems rely on a fuel we've essentially run out of, solar power becomes increasingly feeble the further from the sun the spacecraft goes, and more complicated space activities-like those involving humans-would require significantly stronger power supplies than current projects.

Benefits

  • The technology could power habitats and life-support systems, enable astronauts to mine resources, recharge rovers and run processing equipment to transform resources such as ice on the planet into oxygen, water and fuel.
  • It could also potentially augment electrically powered spacecraft propulsion systems on missions to the outer planets.
;