Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS
1. Stringency Index – Impact on Education in India
UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS paper II : Social Issues
Sub Theme: Education |UPSC
Context: India implemented one of the most severe lockdowns and this led to maximum number of days for which schools were closed. These restrictions have impacted the Stringency Index of India as it reached to a high score of 99 in April 2020.
The Stringency Index
The Stringency Index is part of the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) and is calculated based on nine parameters including school and workplace closures, cancellation of public events, restrictions on gathering size, closing public transport, restrictions on internal movement and international travel, stay at home requirements and public information campaigns. A higher score (ranging between 0 and 100) indicates a higher level of strictness in the response by the country.
Covid stringency index in India, February 2020 – June 2021: For that indicator, we provide data for India from February 2020 to June 2021. The average value for India during that period was 72 index with a minimum of 10 index in February 2020 and a maximum of 99 index in April 2020.
Steps Taken in India differed from Rest of the World
- The extreme approach taken by India for complete school closure for 503 days contrasted with steps taken by other countries.
- In March 2020, Europe began resuming in-person schooling for certain groups of children or certain localities. This was not done in India.
- The Oxford Stringency Index shows that less affluent countries such as Uruguay and Vietnam, also took a more measured approach, imposing the severest policy responses in education only for 140 and 212 days.
- India’s education policy response was similar to that of Brazil despite less severity of disease witnessed in India as compared to Brazil.
- Relaxation in India for schools was provided only for higher classes.
- Trauma of second wave has created more fears for schools becoming the epicenter for another wave of disease.
Impact on children’s education
- Youngest and the poorest among Indian children – Dalits, tribals and others, and lacking devices and electricity have struggled with online classes.
- This also highlights the impact of digital divide on children’s learning outcome from poor financial households whose parents cannot afford online devices – smart phone or computer.
- Learning outcomes for such children are unclear despite increased usage of DIKSHA Portal.
|An initiative of the National Council of Educational Research and Training under Ministry of Education. The DIKSHA platform offers engaging learning material, relevant to the prescribed school curriculum, to teachers, students and parents.|
Concerns of Online Learning
- Inter-American Development Bank in its report concludes that students had learned only 27% of the in-person equivalent under remote learning.
- In the online mode of education, risk of dropout increased by a factor of 2.5.
- National Coalition on the Education Emergency, an NGO indicate that teachers are unprepared for online teaching.
- Introducing bridge courses or remedial classes may not fill the void left due to closure of schools for a long period of time.
- Allowing students to pass through next grade by trimming the syllabus will not help the students in the long run as lack of necessary knowledge and skills may haunt them in the future.
What needs to be done?
- Each school should prepare a safe school opening and child support plan, and should receive technical help from the government.
- An ‘Education Emergency Room’ should be set up in every district to coordinate, implement and monitor local plans.
- There is a need for coordinating efforts in schools for health, sanitation and transportation.
- Children who could attend bridge course or online course should be focussed and local authorities should chalk out plan to address educational needs of such students.
- Develop tools to help teachers make quick diagnoses of students’ learning gaps and use this understanding to train and encourage teachers to support children’s recovery.
- Develop appropriate tools to measure educational trajectory and outcome of each student.
- To improve India’s Stringency Index, government need to develop infrastructure so as to implement best practices of world in order to impart education to our school going children.
|Question for Mains
Considering India’s high score on Stringency Index, highlight the impact of learning outcomes for school going students and also suggest measures to improve India’s Stringency Index. (150 Words)
2. Parliament is abdicating its oversight role
UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS paper 2 : Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Working of Parliament | UPSC
Context: Repeated disruptions during Monsoon Session of Parliament led to its adjournment sine die two days ahead of the schedule. This meant that many important issues had not been discussed such as epidemic response and strategy, Chinese incursion into Ladakh, economic situation, rising prices of many essential items and farmers’ problems, Pegasus snooping scandal to name a few.
Impact of Disruption
- 21 hours 14 minutes utilised of the sanctioned 96 hours
- Productivity of the session declined to 22%
- Of the 18 Bills passed by Lok Sabha, only one was debated.
- Every Bill introduced during the session was passed within the session without being referred to Parliamentary Committees for scrutiny.
- Bills Sent to Parliamentary Committees have seen a decline:
|Lok Sabha||Percentage of Bills sent to Committees|
|15th Lok Sabha||71%|
|16th Lok Sabha||27%|
|17th Lok Sabha (Present)||12% so far|
- There was an amendment moved in the Rajya Sabha to refer the Tribunals Reform Bill to a select committee of that House, and the motion was rejected by 79 votes to 44. Given that there are currently 232 members, this indicates that nearly half the members were absent during the vote. This highlights growing disinterest of Members to attend Sessions of Parliament.
- There were hardly any debate on policy issues – 1 in Rajya Sabha and None in Lok Sabha.
- A large supplementary Budget was passed in less than 10 minutes without even one member speaking on it.
- The additional grant required to meet the required expenditure of the government is called Supplementary Grants. When grants, authorised by the Parliament, fall short of the required expenditure, an estimate is presented before the Parliament for Supplementary or Additional grants. These grants are presented and passed by the Parliament before the end of the financial year.
|Article 115 – Supplementary, additional or excess grants
Article 116 – Votes on account, votes of credit and exceptional grants
Past Observations on Functioning of Parliament & State Legislatures
Increased disruptions of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies (SLA) has impacted legislature’s core functioning of law making through discussions.
Why is declining working hours of Parliament & State Assemblies a Concern?
- Lack of debates on key issues impacts governance
- Lack of discussion in turn affects ordinary citizens lives in multiple ways
- Shows lack of concern by elected members and their performance deficit goes unaccounted
- Results in passing of budget of various departments without any discussion. This leads to disproportionate and unbalanced allocation of resources
- Budget passed without discussion shows lack of coordination with opposition members
- Increasing use of Ordinance route to pass legislation by Centre and states.
BROAD FRAMEWORK OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORMS TO IMPROVE LEGISLATURE’S FUNCTIONING & PRODUCTIVITY
- Both pre and post Legislative Impact Assessment to be ensured for quality and informed law making for creating wider awareness about the targeted outcomes by bringing out social, economic, environmental and administrative impacts besides the involvement of all stakeholders in law making;
- Ensuring effective functioning of the Department Related Standing Committees of Parliament through longer tenures instead of reconstitution every year as at present besides promoting specialisation by nomination on the committees based on academic backgrounds and their re-nomination on the same committees for longer period. I would like to discuss this issue with the Speaker, Lok Sabha for further action.
- Women Reservation – Taking forward the legislation in the Parliament for reservation of women in legislatures whose representation is at present only about 13%.
- Number of Sittings – A minimum number of sittings for both the Parliament and State Legislatures per year to be appropriately prescribed and compliance ensured.
- Enforceable Code of Conduct – Law makers should abide by the Rules of the House and political parties to take responsibility in this regard by evolving and enforcing a code of conduct.
- Rules on Interruptions of Proceedings – Making rules that automatically take effect against erring Members in case of interruptions and disruptions;
- Roster System – Political parties to evolve roster system for ensuring attendance of at least 50% of their members in the legislatures all through the proceedings of the House everyday to address the issue of lack of quorum.
- Publication of Reports – Secretariats of legislatures to publish regular reports on the attendance of members inside during the proceedings and the extent of their participation in the form of questions raised, debates participated in etc.;
- Opportunities for New Entrants – Legislature parties to ensure that the new entrants and back benchers are given adequate opportunities to participate in the debates instead of fielding only a select and established few.
- Prevent Criminalisation of Politics – To evolve a new political consciousness under which tickets to contest elections will not be given merely on the criteria of winnability by political parties to address the problem of rising number of legislators with criminal backgrounds.
- Review Anti-Defection Law – To review the functioning of the Anti-Defection Law to address grey areas like incentivising members to resort to activities that invite expulsion from the parties besides stipulating specific time frame for deciding on defection matters by the Presiding Officers of Legislatures.
- Review Whip System – To review the functioning of ‘Whip System‘ which is being alleged to be stifling even reasonable dissent from the party position even on non-consequential matters and rationalise the norms for issuing Whip to enable some degree of freedom of expression without adversely affecting stability of the Government;
- Tribunals for MPs – Setting up special courts/tribunals for time bound adjudication on criminal complaints against legislators and election related matters.
- Action against Non-Ethical Conduct – Timely and effective action against legislators for non-ethical conduct.
- Governments to be responsive to the views and concerns of the Opposition – and the Opposition to be responsible and constructive while resorting to the available parliamentary instruments like Adjournment Motions and during participation in the debates and both sides to avoid cynical and adversarial position just for the sake of it.
- Simultaneous Elections – Consensus to be built on the proposal for simultaneous elections so that governance is not adversely impacted on account of staggered and continuous polls across the country and also to address the problem of rising money power in elections.
These reforms will improve functioning of Parliament, quality of law making thereby increasing trust of citizens in parliamentary democracy.
3. Satellite mission: two stages completed but third failed
UPSC Syllabus: Mains |GS paper III : Science & technology
Sub Theme: Satellite | UPSC
The GSLV-F10 rocket, which blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on Thursday, with the purpose of launching the Earth Observation Satellite EOS-3 into space, failed in its mission due to a “performance anomaly”.
The mission suffered a major failure in the third stage. It appears that while the first two stages separated without a hitch, the ignition of the third stage, the cryogenic stage, did not take place as programmed.
The GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle)
- The GSLV Mark III is the largest launch vehicle built by India.
- GSLV-MK III can put a communication satellite of 4 tonnes into geo-synchronous orbit or 10 tonnes satellite into low earth orbit
- These satellites can weigh up to 2,500 kg and are first launched into transfer orbits that have a distance from Earth of 170 km at closest approach and about 35,975 km at furthest approach which is close to the height of the geosynchronous orbit. From this transfer orbit, the satellite is set free into a geosynchronous orbit.
- The 3 stages of GSLV are solid boosters, liquid motor and indigenous cryogenic upper stage.
- A cryogenic rocket engine is a rocket engine that uses a cryogenic fuel or oxidizer, that is, its fuel or oxidizer (or both) are gases liquefied and stored at very low temperature.
- A Cryogenic rocket stage is more efficient and provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant it burns compared to solid and earth-storable liquid propellant rocket stages. Specific impulse achievable with cryogenic propellants (liquid Hydrogen and liquid Oxygen) is much higher compared to earth storable liquid and solid propellants, giving it a substantial payload advantage.
- Oxygen liquefies at -183 deg C and Hydrogen at -253 deg C also entails complex ground support systems like propellant storage and filling systems, cryo engine and stage test facilities, transportation and handling of cryo fluids and related safety aspects.
4. Retail inflation eases to 5.6% in July
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims : Economy
Sub Theme: Inflation | UPSC
The headline inflation, as measured by CPI has reduced to 5.6% in July 2021 from 6.26% in June 2021. The decline in the rate of inflation has been attributed to the decline in the prices of food commodities such as Fruits and Vegetables, Pulses, Sugar etc.
Headline and Core Inflation
The headline inflation simply refers to the inflation in the CPI (or WPI) covering all the categories of goods and services. On the other hand, the core inflation excludes the volatile categories such as food and fuel to measure the increase in the prices of goods and services. Hence, a drastic fall in the food and fuel prices can bring down the headline inflation by a to a large extent. However, the core inflation may remain unaffected.
Note: Presently, the RBI is targeting the CPI headline rate of inflation (and not Core Inflation)
5. India, Saudi Arabia begin naval exercise
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims : International Relations
Sub Theme: Naval Exercise | UPSC
The maiden bilateral naval exercise between India and Saudi Arabia named ‘AL–Mohed AL–Hindi’ got under way on Thursday.
The sea phase of the three day long maiden bilateral exercise ‘Al – Mohed Al – Hindi’ between Indian Navy and Royal Saudi Naval Force commenced on Thursday (12 Aug, 2021), off the coast of Al Jubail. Indian Navy participated with its indigenously built stealth destroyer INS Kochi with two integral Sea King helicopters. The Royal Saudi Navy was represented by missile corvette Badr along with two FACs.