QUESTION : India is largest producer of pulses in the world and still imports large quantities of pulses. Critically examine the reasons for low productivity and major challenges related to pulse production in India.
INCENTIVISING THE PRODUCTION OF PULSES, OILSEEDS
Production Of Pulses And Oilseeds In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
• Oilseeds and pulses play an important role in Indian agriculture because both are rich sources of energy and protein, essential for human diet.
• Thus, a greater focus on domestic production by making pulse and oilseed production more attractive is the need of the hour.
IMPORTANCE OF PULSES :
• Pulses are a crucial and affordable source of protein, fibre and essential vitamins.
• It is a highly water efficient and climate resilient crop that can be grown in drought prone areas.
• It helps in soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and promoting soil microbes.
IMPORTANCE OF OILSEEDS :
• Oilseeds play an important role in food security and improving income of small and marginal farmers.
• India meets 60 % of its edible oils requirements through imports, with palm oil, soyabean oil and sunflower oil garnering the major chunk.
PRODUCTION OF PULSES IN INDIA:
• India currently produces 25 % of the world pulses output.
• The per capita availability of pulses reached 55.9 gram/day, as against Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommendation of 52 gram/day pulse requirement.
• Domestic production of pulses peaked in 2016-17 and 2017-18 when the total production of the five major pulses was 204.7 lakh tonne (LT) and 228 LT respectively.
CHALLENGES FOR PULSE PRODUCTION IN INDIA :
• Pulses being cultivated primarily under rain-fed conditions and on relatively poor soils;
• Production exhibiting wide fluctuations, necessitating imports;
• Cobweb phenomenon comprising the lagged effect whereby price rise/fall during the current marketing year leading to a surplus/shortage) in production in the following crop year;
• Low productivity with average yield at 8 quintals per hectare, against international levels of 9.6 quintals per hectare.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PULSE PRODUCTION IN INDIA :
• Creating multiple engagement platforms to demonstrate the benefits of growing pulses to farmers;
• Ensuring dissemination and successful adoption of various technologies;
• Working on access to R&D and high-yielding varieties;
• Additional area can be brought under cultivation via intercropping and sequential cropping, increasing mechanisation, promotion of bio-fertilisers and micro-irrigation.
• Use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to disseminate important information on prices and weather, impact assessment studies, machine learning techniques, capacity building and skill enhancement.
• Need for stable import policy for pulses along with adequate remuneration for farmers in the event of bumper production, and to recommend tariff measures on imports, in collaboration with stakeholder departments.
o Current import policy has a quota system for tur, urad and moong, and imposition of import duties for chana/gram and masur.
o The quotas for pulses are decided in advance based on production estimates.
o However, significant uncertainty arises due to variations in the initially estimated production and final production.
SUGGESTIONS FOR OILSEED PRODUCTION IN INDIA :
• State governments can procure locally available edible oils and distribute them as part of the Public Distribution System (PDS) basket.
• There is a need for addressing structural supply side issues by
o Incentivising investment in transport, storage and warehouse infrastructure,
o Encouraging small scale industries to take up oil extraction,
o Leveraging existing schemes and funding available under the MSME window
• There is also need for assured procurement under Minimum support price (MSP), as in the case of rice and wheat.
WAY FORWARD :
• Incentivising farmers to cultivate pulses and oilseeds on well irrigated lands;
• Providing transport facilities in mission mode;
• Involving private-sector entrepreneurs for building modern storage infrastructure;
• Enabling sharing of real time data about prices on a dynamic basis using modern satellite technology, so that farmers are well aware of prevailing trends in terms of levels of cultivation, weather forecasts and likely price scenario.
• Better system for easy availability of pulses in the open market throughout the year is needed. Efficient and rigorous enforcement of Essential commodities Act is required. Need-based distribution through PDS would be beneficial.
• Pulse export should be opened up. Currently, imports are free but exports are prohibited.
• To stabilize prices in the long run, we need to increase domestic production by eliminating the risks farmers experience while growing pulses.
The issues faced by both pulses and edible oils are broadly similar. Thus, there is need for long-term measures to boost their production in order to reduce imports and become “Atmanirbhar Bharat” in true sense.
QUESTION : “Sedition is a colonial relic and a broadly worded preventive provision that should only be read as an emergency measure.” Justify this statement by giving the relevance of sedition law considering the present time.
COUNTERING A POLITICAL ACT THAT HAS A LEGAL GARB
Sedition Law and Its restrictions
WHY IN NEWS ?
Sedition cases should be charged only when any act either spoken or written creates incitement into violence or social disturbance.
o Recently, Aisha Sultana, a filmmaker from Lakshadweep, booked for the alleged offenses of sedition and statements prejudicial to national integrity.
o She was alleged to have used the word ‘bioweapon’ in a television discussion while criticising the Lakshadweep Administrator’s actions
o However, MS. Sultana’s case is only one among the numerous sedition cases recently registered in the country.
o Earlier, In Lakshadweep, people were booked for sedition cases even for putting up placards or posters against the Prime Minister.
SEDITION DURING BRITISH INDIA :
o The offense of sedition was introduced in 1870 under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
o In 1922, Mahatma Gandhi was charged with sedition. He described the provision as “perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
o Gandhiji, who himself was a lawyer, made two points in his statement during the trial.
o One, he admitted the charge of preaching disaffection towards the then existing regime.
o Two, he justified his act and said that it was his duty to do so as it is “a sin to have affection for the system under the British Raj.
o Further, explained that Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law.
o If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long as he does not incite violence.
o After this, the British Raj used the draconian provision only when they alleged that a speech or writing resulted in violence or social disturbance. For example,
o Bal Gangadhar Tilak was tried in 1897 on an accusation that the articles in Kesari (Marathi paper owned by him) incited violence that led to the killing of two British officers. Tilak was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 18 months.
SEDITION IN FREE INDIA : KEDAR NATH SINGH CASE
o Kedar Nath Singh case (1962), the assertion made by Gandhiji in the court was indirectly laid down as the law by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
o In Kedar Nath Singh, the accusation was that Kedar Nath, a Forward Communist Party leader, had asserted his belief in a revolution.
o He said that the revolution “in the flames of which the capitalists, zamindars, and the Congress leaders of India…. will be reduced to ashes….”
o The Court said that “comments, however strongly worded, expressing dislike of actions of the Government, without exciting violence, would not be penal.”
o Similarly, in Balwant Singh case (1995), slogans for an independent Sikh nation were found to be not seditious as it did not lead to incitement of violence.
o This proposition was followed consistently, till Vinod Dua (2021) case, where the Court said that a journalist cannot be booked for sedition for expressing dissent.
What is the current situation?
o Even today, the draconian law of sedition is being used against political opponents essentially as a political act.
o Sedition charges are frequently and intentionally being registered solely based on words spoken, written, or tweeted. For example, Aisha Sultana case.
o According to the report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 2016 and 2019 there was a 160% increase in the registration of sedition cases. However, the conviction rate during this period fell from 33.3% to 3.3%.
o This can have a chilling effect on people’s movements.
WAY FORWARD :
o The Supreme Court of India and the High Courts should take Suo Motu cognizance of the incidents, where the state purposefully uses draconian laws to suppress criticism and protest.
o Such Suo Motu proceedings would reflect the kind of judicial activism that our time demands.
o India is the largest democracy of the world and the right to free speech and expression is an essential ingredient of democracy. The expression or thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day should not be considered as sedition.
o Section 124A should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech. The SC caveat, given in Kedar Nath case, on prosecution under the law can check its misuse. It needs to be examined under the changed facts and circumstances and also on the anvil of ever-evolving tests of necessity, proportionality and arbitrariness.
o The higher judiciary should use its supervisory powers to sensitize the magistracy and police to the constitutional provisions protecting free speech.
o The definition of sedition should be narrowed down, to include only the issues pertaining to the territorial integrity of India as well as the sovereignty of the country.
o The word ‘sedition’ is extremely nuanced and needs to be applied with caution. It is like a cannon that ought not to be used to shoot a mouse; but the arsenal also demands possession of cannons, mostly as a deterrent, and on occasion for shooting.
Dissent and criticism are essential ingredients of a robust public debate on policy issues as part of a vibrant democracy. Therefore, every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinised to avoid unwarranted restrictions.
QUESTION : What are the challenges before India becomes a higher education hub? Will India’s national education policy succeed in attracting international students of higher education by achieving the standards of international education?
BLENDED LEARNING WOULDN’T WORK
Higher Education In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
A recent circular by the University Grants Commission (UGC) proposes that all higher educational institutions (HEI) teach 40% of any course online and the rest 60% offline.
BENEFITS BY THE AUTHORITY :
• The concept note circulated by the UGC argues that this “blended model of teaching” and learning paves the way for:
o Increased student engagement in learning,
o Enhanced student-teacher interactions,
o Improved student learning outcomes and
o More flexible teaching and learning environments, among other things.
• The increased opportunity for institutional collaborations at a distance and enhanced self-learning accruing from blended learning (BL).
• BL benefits the teachers as well.
o It shifts the role of the teacher from being a knowledge provider to a coach and mentor.
o It will enable teachers to have a greater influence and effect on students’ learning.
• Further, as against traditional classroom instruction which is teacher-directed, top-down, and one-size-fits-all;
o BL is student-driven, bottom-up, and customized.
• The note adds that BL introduces flexibility in assessment and evaluation patterns as well.
KEY ISSUES IN INDIAN HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM :
1. Education quality: National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in its assessment report pointed out that 68% of institutions in India are of middle or poor quality. Recruitment of undergraduates as teachers, ad-hoc appointments and low pay scale, inadequate teacher training are all factors that have caused a deterioration in the quality of education.
2. Vacancies: Nearly 35% of professor posts and 46% of assistant professor posts out of total sanctioned strength remain vacant across the country.
3. Financing: India barely spends 2.5% of its budgetary allocations on education. This is far below the required amount needed to upgrade the infrastructure at public institutes. Nearly 65% of the University Grants Commission (UGC) budget is utilised by the central universities when the share of state universities in student enrolments is much higher.
4. Inclusiveness and Equal Access: Inter-caste and tribal disparities are prominent in Indian higher education.For Scheduled Castes, Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is 19.9% and for Scheduled Tribes, it is 14.2% as compared to the national GER of 24.5%. Muslims have the lowest rate of enrolment in higher education. Caste-based discrimination in universities leading to suicides e.g. Rohit Vemula case.
5. Privatisation and Regulation: Withdrawal of public sector has left the space open for private institutions that have turned education into a flourishing business. Most of the teachers in private colleges are underpaid and overworked.
6. Curriculum: There is a wide gap between industry requirements and curriculum taught at colleges. This also renders graduates unemployable lacking in specific skill-sets.
7. Autonomy:Over-regulation by regulators such as UGC, MCI, which decide on aspects of standards, appointments, fees structure and curriculum has further deterred new institutions from opening campuses.
8. Academic research: India has barely 119 researchers per million of the population as compared to Japan which has 5300 and US which has 4500. Besides, in the US 4% of science graduates finish the doctorate, in Europe, this number is 7%, but in India barely 0.4% of graduates finish the doctorate.
9. Faculty shortage: Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average. The problem lies in increased demand, and stagnant supply.
10. Poor research: Indian universities persist in separating research and teaching activities. Monetary incentives for academia are practically non-existent, and Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies. Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching.
CHALLENGES AHEAD :
• The latest All India Survey on Higher Education (2019-20) report shows that 60.56% of the 42,343 colleges in India are located in rural areas and 78.6% are privately managed. The questions unanswered is:
o Can these colleges successfully implement BL?
o What would be the cost of such education?
o What is the guarantee that BL will enhance interactions between students and teachers that lead to personality development, character building and career formation?
• Only big corporates are better placed to invest in technology and provide such learning.
• According to datareportal statistics, Internet penetration in India is only 45% as of January 2021.
o This policy will only exacerbate the existing geographical and digital divide resulting in the exclusion of a large number of rural students.
• BL leaves little room for the all-around formation of the student that includes the development of their:
o Intelligent quotient,
o Emotional quotient,
o Social quotient,
o Physical quotient and
o Spiritual quotient.
• The listening part and subsequent interactions with the teacher may get minimised.
• Education in India is driven by a teacher-centred approach.
o Expecting these students to switch over quickly to collaborative and technology-enabled learning will be stressful for them and may accentuate the existing dropout rate in higher education.
HIGHER EDUCATION UNDER NEP 2020 :
• Increase GER to 50 % by 2035
o NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.
• Holistic Multidisciplinary Education
o The policy envisages holistic undergraduate education with a flexible curriculum, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education, and multiple entries and exit points with appropriate certification.
o Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of the best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
o The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
o An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs (Higher Education Institutes) so that these can be transferred and counted towards the final degree earned
o Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
o HECI will have four independent verticals-
National Higher education regulatory council (NHERC) for regulation,
General Education Council (GEC) for standard-setting,
Higher education Grants council for funding and
National Accreditation Council for accreditation.
o Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
• Rationalized Institutional Architecture
o The definition of University will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive universities to Teaching intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting colleges.
• Teacher Education
o A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE, 2021 will be formed by NCERT. Also, by 2030 the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4- year integrated B.Ed degree.
• Open and distance learning
o This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing the gross enrollment ratio.
o Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, etc will be taken.
• Online and digital education
o A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the pandemic in order to ensure preparedness has been covered.
o A dedicated unit for the purpose of building digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.
o Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards.
• Technology in Education
o An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology.
• Adult Education
o The policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
• Financing education
o The central government and state governments will work together to increase the public investment in the education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
WAY FORWARD :
• The government should ensure equity in access to technology and bandwidth for all HEIs across the country free of cost.
• Massive digital training programmes must be arranged for teachers.
• Even the teacher-student ratio needs to be readjusted to implement BL effectively.
o This may require the appointment of a greater number of teachers.
• The design of the curriculum should be decentralised and based on a bottom-up approach.
• More power in such education-related policy making should be vested with the State governments.
• Switching over from a teacher-centric model of learning at schools to the BL mode at the tertiary level will be difficult for learners.
The periodical discussions, feedback mechanisms and support services at all levels would revitalise the implementation of the learning programme of the National Education Policy 2020, BL, and lead to the actualisation of the three cardinal principles of education policy: access, equity and quality.
QUESTION : To what extent can it be said the constituent assembly was a one party body and Critically Examine how Union Government has a unify effect ?
THE ‘UNION GOVERNMENT’ HAS A UNIFYING EFFECT
Central Gover Or Union Government
WHY IN NEWS?
The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to ignore the usage of the term ‘Central government’ in its official communications and replace it with ‘Union government’ is a major step towards regaining the consciousness of our Constitution.
• The term ‘Centre’ is absent in the Constitution as the Constituent Assembly did not want to centralise power.
o The Constituent Assembly did not use the term ‘Centre’ or ‘Central government’ in all of its 395 Articles in 22 Parts and eight Schedules in the original Constitution.
• Seventy-one years since we adopted the Constitution, it is time we regained the original intent of our founding fathers beautifully etched in the parchment as:
o Article 1: India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
• We have the ‘Union’ and the ‘States’ with the executive powers of the Union wielded by the President acting on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
• Even though we have no reference to the ‘Central government’ in the Constitution, the General Clauses Act, 1897 gives a definition for it.
o The ‘Central government’ for all practical purposes is the President after the commencement of the Constitution.
o Therefore, the real question is whether such a definition for ‘Central government’ is constitutional as the Constitution itself does not approve of centralising power.
• The members of the Constituent Assembly were very cautious of not using the word ‘Centre’ or ‘Central government’ in the Constitution as they intended to keep away the tendency of centralising of powers in one unit.
• The ‘Union government’ or the ‘Government of India’ has a unifying effect as the message sought to be given is that the government is of all.
• Even though the federal nature of the Constitution is its basic feature and cannot be altered, what remains to be seen is whether the actors wielding power intend to protect the federal feature of our Constitution.
INTENT OF CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY :
• On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the aims and objects of the Assembly by resolving that India shall be a Union of territories willing to join the “Independent Sovereign Republic”.
o The emphasis was on the consolidation and confluence of various provinces and territories to form a strong united country.
• Many members of the Constituent Assembly were of the opinion that the principles of the British Cabinet Mission Plan (1946) be adopted, which contemplated a Central government with very limited powers whereas the provinces had substantial autonomy.
o The Partition and the violence of 1947 in Kashmir forced the Constituent Assembly to revise its approach and it was resolved in favour of a strong Centre.
• The possibility of the secession of states from the Union weighed on the minds of the drafters of the Constitution and ensured that the Indian Union is “indestructible”.
• In the Constituent Assembly, B.R Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, observed that the word ‘Union’ was advisedly used in order to negate the right of secession of States by emphasising, after all, that “India shall be a Union of States”.
• Ambedkar justified the usage of the ‘Union of States’ saying that the Drafting Committee wanted to make it clear that though India was to be a federation, it was not the result of an agreement and that therefore, no State has the right to secede from it.
• The usage of ‘Union of States’ by Ambedkar was not approved by all and faced criticisms from Maulana Hasrat Mohani who argued that Ambedkar was changing the very nature of the Constitution.
o However, Ambedkar clarified that “the Union is not a league of States, united in a loose relationship; nor are the States the agencies of the Union, deriving powers from it.
o Both the Union and the States are created by the Constitution, both derive their respective authority from the Constitution.
o The one is not subordinate to the other in its own field. The authority of one is coordinated with that of the other.
• The sharing of powers between the Union and the States is not restricted to the executive organ of the government.
• The judiciary is designed in the Constitution to ensure that the Supreme Court, the tallest court in the country, has no superintendence over the High Courts.
o Though the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction (not only over High Courts but also over other courts and tribunals) they are not declared to be subordinate to it.
• In fact, the High Courts have wider powers to issue prerogative writs despite having the power of superintendence over the district and subordinate courts.
• Parliament and Assemblies identify their boundaries and are circumspect to not cross their boundaries when it comes to the subject matter on which laws are made.
o However, the Union Parliament will prevail if there is a conflict.
MAJOR PROPOSAL BY BRITISH CABINET MISSIO PLAN, 1946 :
Rejection of demand for Pakistan
• The Cabinet Mission was convinced that Pakistan was not viable and that the minority’s autonomy must somehow be safeguarded within the framework of a united India.
Grouping of Provincial Assembly
• The existing provincial assemblies were proposed to be grouped into three sections, which would meet separately to decide on group constitutions.
o Sections A comprising Madras, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, C.P. and Orissa (Hindu Majority Provinces)
o Section B consisting of Punjab, NWFP and Sind (Muslim Majority Provinces)
o Section C comprising Bengal and Assam (Muslim Majority Provinces
• After the first general elections, a province could come out of a group. After ten years a province could call for a reconsideration of the group or union constitution.
CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY :
• The constituent assembly was to be a 389 member body with provincial assemblies sending 292, chief commissioner provinces sending 4 and princely states sending 93 members.
• The provinces were to be represented in the assembly in the approximate ratio of one to one million of their population.
• The representatives of British Indian Provinces were to be elected by each Provincial Legislative Assembly community-wise, through proportional representation by a single transferable vote.
• Seats allotted to each Province were to be divided between the various communities in proportion to their population in the Province.
• The cabinet mission recognised only three communities in India: general, Muslims and Sikhs
• The Constituent Assembly was partly elected and partly represented by the Princely states.
• In the constituent assembly, members from groups A, B and C were to sit separately to decide the constitution for provinces and if possible, for the groups also. Then the whole constituent assembly (all three sections A, B and C combined) would sit together to formulate the union constitution.
• The cabinet mission plan envisaged a federal structure for India.
• Three-tier executive and legislature was proposed at provincial, section and union levels.
• The mission proposed a common centre that would control defence, communication and external affairs.
• Provinces were to have full autonomy and all residuary powers should vest in the Provinces.
• Princely states were no longer to be under the paramountcy of the British crown.
• They would be free to enter into an agreement with successor governments or the British government.
• The Commission expected India to embrace and retain membership of the Commonwealth of Nations.
• However, joining the commonwealth was optional for India. India was free to come out of the commonwealth if and when it so desires.
• Communal questions in the central legislature were to be decided by a simple majority of the community or communities concerned present and voting.
• Pending the completion of the work of constitution-making, the Cabinet Mission proposed to set up an Interim Government of 14 members representing major political parties.
• The British government was to extend full cooperation in administrative matters and to ensure the transfer of power as speedily and smoothly as possible.
Reactions to the Grouping Clause
• The Congress and League interpreted the Mission Plan in their own way, both seeing it as a confirmation of their stand.
• The Mission Plan was ambivalent on whether grouping was compulsory or optional.
• To the Congress, the Mission s Plan was against Pakistan, that the League s veto was gone and that one Constituent Assembly was envisaged.
• The league believed that the basis of Pakistan was implied in the Mission s plan by virtue of the compulsory grouping.
• The mission later declared that grouping was optional but sections were compulsory.
“The only satisfactory and lasting solution of the vexed problem is to be found not in the statutebook but in the conscience of men in power”.