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Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

  1. WTO to set up dispute panels against India

Why in news

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has accepted the request of Chinese Taipei and Japan for setting up panels in an ICT tariff case against India.

Background:

  • The three panels have been set up to decide on New Delhi’s move to levy 10% customs duty on mobile phones and some other ICT products for the first time in July 2017 which it increased to 15% that year.
  • The duties were further increased to 20% despite opposition from a number of WTO members.
  • India has stated that these ICT products are part of WTO’s Information Technology Products (ITA-2) agreement, and New Delhi is not part of this pact. o India is a part of ITA-1, signed in 1997.
  • The EU, US, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Japan and Thailand initiated consultations with India on the matter claiming that the move substantially affects them.

 

Details:

  • Earlier, India had blocked the first request of these two countries for setting up a dispute settlement panel at the WTO.
  • According to the trade dispute norms of WTO, if a request comes for the second time, the panel is formed.
  • The panels would determine whether India’s customs duties on imports of certain information and communications technology (ICT) products infringe WTO norms or not.
  • The number of panels against India’s import duties on ICT goods now stands at three.
  • The first panel was set up on EU’s requests.
  • EU, Japan and Taiwan want a single panel citing similar disputes. However, India has refused a single panel stating that there are vast differences in complaints.
  • Losing the disputes would make China the main beneficiary as India imported $15.7 billion of electronics, telecom equipment and computer hardware from that country in FY20.

 

  1. AIIB and India

Why in News

Jin Liqun has been re-elected as the President of the China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for a second five-year term.

  • The President stated that the bank would remain an “apolitical institution” and continue to back projects in India.
  • The management will look at the proposed projects from the economic and financial point of view and not with a political view.

Key Points

India and AIIB:

  • India was among the AIIB’s 57 founding members in 2016. It is also its second-largest shareholder (with 7.62% voting shares) after China (26.06%).
  • It has received USD 4.35 billion from the Bank. This is the highest of any country, with the bank so far approving loans of USD 19.6 billion to support 87 projects in 24 countries.
  • AIIB has approved financing projects in India in a host of sectors like energy, transport and water including the Bangalore metro rail project (USD 335 million), Gujarat rural roads project (USD 329 million) and Phase 3 of the Mumbai urban transport project (USD 500 million).
  • In a recent virtual meeting, India said that it expects AIIB to introduce new financing instruments, provide financing for social infrastructure and to integrate development of climate resilient and sustainable energy access infrastructure into AIIB’s recovery response to the Covid-19 crisis.
  • This implies that India is unlikely to alter its engagement with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite a host of offensive measures announced recently to reduce its trade and investment links with China.

Chinese Angle:

  • In June 2020, AIIB approved USD 500 million for Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund and Health Systems Preparedness Project and another USD 750 million for Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support, in a co-financing arrangement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
  • USD 750 million loan was approved two days after the clash in Galwan Valley in Ladakh along the India-China border.
  • It has supported several projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework, but is not formally linked to the plan. India has concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a part of the

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

  • The AIIB is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia.
  • Headquartered in Beijing (China), it began operations in January 2016 and has now grown to 103 approved members worldwide.

Way Forward

  • India should continue to engage with AIIB as it will be able to access resources for the financing of national and cross-border infrastructure projects from the Bank.
  • AIIB is also significant as the World Bank is continued to be dominated by the USA while Japan has more influence over Asian Development Bank (ADB).
  • Further, India needs to ensure that its own interests are served by its membership very explicitly. It should make sure that AIIB doesn’t end up becoming a tool of Chinese geopolitical agenda.

 

Category: EDUCATION

  1. NEP focus: leave no child behind, bridge digital divide

Why in news

The Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy.

Details:

  • This is the first new education policy in 34 years.
  • A panel headed by former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was made public and opened for feedback in May 2019.
  • The policy draft has been approved. The Ministry of Human Resource and Development has been renamed as Education Ministry.

 

Key Highlights:

Replacing 10+2 structure of school curricula with a 5+3+3+4 format:

  • The 10+2 system will be divided into 5+3+3+4 format.
  • the first five years of school will comprise of the foundation stage.
  • The next three years will be divided into a preparatory stage from classes 3 to 5.
  • Later, there will be three years of middle stage (classes 6 to 8), and four years of secondary stage (classes 9 to 12).
  • Schools will not have any rigid formation of streams of arts, commerce, science, etc. and students can take up whichever courses they want.
  • A new curricular framework is to be introduced, including the pre-school and Anganwadi years.
  • A National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will ensure basic skills at the Class 3 level by 2025.
  • Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards.
  • Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner.

 

Language issues:

  • Language issues caused the most outrage, as the original draft called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students. That clause was subsequently dropped.
  • There will be greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any State.
  • The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and students.
  • Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education.
  • Other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
  • The medium of instruction till at least Grade 5, and preferably till Grade 8 and beyond will be in Home Language/Mother tongue/Regional Language.

 

Inclusive Education:

  • Inclusion is a theme of the Policy beyond technology as well.
  • As per the Ministry, under NEP, efforts will be made to incentivise the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs.
  • Private Higher Educational Institutions will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of scholarships to their students.
  • The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
  • Regions such as aspirational districts, which have large numbers of students facing economic, social or caste barriers will be designated as ‘Special Educational Zones’.
  • Special funds have been earmarked for special education.
  • The NEP emphasises universal access to schools, and aims to bring two crore out-of-school children back into the educational mainstream.
  • It also aims to double the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035.

 

Gender Inclusion Fund

  • The Centre will also set up a ‘Gender-Inclusion Fund’ to build the country’s capacity to provide equitable quality education to all girls and transgender students.
  • The fund will be available to States to implement priorities determined by the Central government critical for assisting female and transgender children in gaining access to education.

 

Multi-disciplinary approach:

  • Standalone Higher Education Institutes and professional education institutes will be evolved into multi-disciplinary institutes.
  • By 2049, all higher education institutions (HEIs) should aim to become multidisciplinary institutions, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students, as per the data shared by MHRD.
  • Further, by 2030, the aim is to set up at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district.

 

Exit options in degree courses:

  • The undergraduate degree, which is of 3 to 4-year duration will have multiple exit options.
  • After completing one year, if a student decides to drop out, s/he will get a certificate in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas.
  • On dropping out after two and three years, students will get a diploma and a Bachelor’s degree, respectively.
  • The four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s program, however, will be the preferred option and will give a degree with research if a student has pursued a project along with it.
  • Phil. degree would be abolished.
  • It would establish a common higher education regulator with fee fixation for both private and public institutions.

 

Academic Bank of Credit:

  • The ABC will digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized HEIs so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned.
  • Currently, a similar programme is being run where a student can opt for a course related to their degree on SWAYAM – online portal by the government, and credits associated with that course will be given to the student and help in their assessment for their degree course also.

 

Teacher Education:

  • By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four-year integrated B.Ed degree.

Technology in Education:

  • The policy has proposed the setting up of a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, etc., for both school and higher education.
  • A dedicated unit for the purpose of creating digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be set up in the ministry.

 

Category: AGRICULTURE

  1. Antibiotics in livestock a worry

Why in news

In a survey report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the issue of extensive misuse of antibiotics in the dairy sector has surfaced.

Issues:

  • CSE’s assessment shows that dairy farmers indiscriminately use antibiotics for diseases such as mastitis. o Mastitis is an infection/inflammation of the udder, a common ailment in dairy animals.
  • The antibiotics used include critically important antibiotics (CIAs) for humans.
  • The WHO has warned that they should be preserved in view of the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.
  • Farmers often inject animals based on their own judgment of signs and symptoms of a disease without any veterinary supervision.
  • The residues of antibiotics remain largely untested in milk.
  • There is an inadequate focus on testing for antibiotic residues in the milk collected by some State federations, which process it and sell packaged milk and dairy products under popular brands.
  • While milk sold directly to consumers is not tested, contrary to what one would expect, processed milk sold in packets is also largely unchecked for antibiotic residues.
  • Food being produced in a chemical-intensive manner, consequently fuelling antibiotic resistance, is a matter of concern.

 

Way Forward:

  • Veterinary supervision is essential in treating dairy animals. It must be ensured that antibiotics are not available without a prescription.
  • Focus must be laid on routine surveillance and testing for antibiotic residues in the milk collected before being processed and sold.
  • It is important to completely stop the use of critically important antibiotics and penalise their use.
  • Stakeholders must work with farmers and the agriculture-dairy sectors to innovate on solutions.

Antibiotic Resistance:

  • Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.
  • Bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. These bacteria may infect humans and animals, and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

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