(The Financial Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of failure of board to conduct examination in secrecy with integrity.
(GS paper III)
- The recent leak of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)’s annual examination question papers has eroded the credibility of the organization. Ministry of Human Resource Development failed to assign top priority to secrecy and integrity of the process, considering that its standard operating procedure was easily breached, and the questions were circulated on instant messaging platforms.
- The leak of question papers problem is the country is not new. State board question papers have been leaked in the past. When the HRD Ministry was asked in the Lok Sabha three years ago what it intended to do to secure the CBSE Class 12 and 10 examinations, the then Minister asserted the inviolability of the process, since the question papers were sealed and stored in secret places and released to authorized officials with a window of only a few hours.
- In addition, the board has dedicated secrecy officers for each region. But the protocol has failed, and HRD Minister should conduct a thorough inquiry to get at the truth and initiate remedial steps without delay. One of the options is to institute a National Testing Agency, although it was originally supposed to take charge of entrance examinations in the first phase. State school boards also need help to reform systems.
- A major leak has hit the CBSE raises a question often debated in academic circles: is a high-stakes test the best option? To some sociologists, the use of a quantitative indicator with rising importance for social decision-making makes it more vulnerable to corruption pressures, and distorts and undermines the very processes it is intended to monitor. That seems to be an apt description of what has taken place.
- Today, what is needed is a credible testing method to assess a student’s aptitude and learning. But the answer may lie not in one all-important examination, but in multiple assessments that achieve the same goal. Such an approach will end the scramble for high scores in a definitive board examination, and the exam stress that the government has been trying to alleviate. It will also limit the fallout of a leak. These and other options need to be debated by academic experts.
- CBSE need to restore faith in its processes, though the board has decided to acknowledge the problem and ordered a fresh examination in the two subjects. In the current scheme, the annual exercise is all-important to students. Everything should be done to inspire total confidence in the board examinations.
Question– CBSE credibility has been eroded with the recent leak of question papers, explain how institution of a National Testing Agency to take charge of entrance examinations can be a solution?
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the problems of transgenders.
(GS paper II)
- In the recent times, after the after Shanavi Ponnusamy case, the Ministry of Social Justice sent a Bill on transgender rights to the Cabinet, with amendments as suggested by a Standing Committee. These include bringing public establishments under Chapter V of the Bill, which prohibits discrimination in “any matter relating to employment, including, but not limited to, recruitment, promotion and other related issues.”
- There are various cases like Ponnusamy case and for every headline celebrating a transgender person’s recruitment in a mainstream profession, there is a contentious history. Take the case of K. Prithika Yashini, the first transwoman Sub-Inspector of Police in India. It took an order from the Madras High Court for the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board to appoint her.
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, is a result of the 2014 Supreme Court judgment recognizing transgenders as the third gender and safeguarding their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Apart from welfare schemes for the community, the Bill also lists obligations of establishments as well as recognizable offences against the community. Harassment of a transgender employee is an offence that carries with it a punishment of not less than six months’ imprisonment. This clause reminds us of the case of Manabi Bandopadhyay, a transgender who was appointed as India’s first college principal in 2015. However, she resigned from the post in 2016 citing “immense mental pressure” due to continued agitations against her by faculty and students. Nevertheless, her resignation wasn’t accepted and she remains the principal.
- It will take long effort to accept the members of the transgender community into the mainstream. An enabling environment needs to be created, be it in education institutes or workplaces. This can only be achieved by sensitizing the workforce in protecting the rights and dignity of the community. While laws to safeguard these rights are the first step, more important is to ensure their implementation.
- The Bill recommends the formation of a National Council for Transgender Persons that is tasked with monitoring and evaluating policies formulated for transgender persons. This may pave the way for fulfilling the community’s long-standing demand for representation in the Rajya Sabha.
Question– The integration of transgenders in the workforce is still a challenge, explain along with recent examples. Also discuss how the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 can be game changer.
(The Financial Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issues with the mining sector and viable solutions.
(GS paper III)
- For the India’s mining sector time has come to realize its full potential, which will not only boost the overall economic growth, but also generate huge employment opportunities in the downstream sectors.
India’s mining sector
- Development of natural resources is vital for overall socio-economic development of the country. The import of natural resources makes up for $200 billion, or over 50%, of India’s total import bill of $400 billion. With greater development of India’s natural resources sector, import dependency can be reduced by more than 50%, resulting in the savings of ~$100 billion that will help create more than 20 million jobs, alleviate poverty and save precious foreign exchange.
- Only 10% of area with mining potential has been explored in India, against 95% in Australia. A vibrant mining sector will create an entire eco-system of SMEs. The contribution of India’s mining sector to its GDP is just 2%, while it could contribute as much as 10%. Given India has one of the best geologies in the world, it must increase our production on a massive scale, may be up to five times from the current production.
- Various steps have been taken by the government to cut down the red tape, and create an investor friendly environment. The government unveiled one of its boldest reforms last month, when it approved commercial coal mining for both domestic and global players. If implemented well, it will not only attract global mining majors, but also usher in innovative production methods and highest safety standards.
- The size of coal blocks offered needs to be at least 15-30 million tonnes to make commercial mining feasible. Given that India has abundant coal reserves, of 300 billion tonnes, there is also room for exports. Post the government’s decision to open up the mining sector for private players, several reports called it the “end of Coal India’s monopoly.” The move, however, has more to do with complementing the efforts of the public sector enterprise in stepping up output in a substantial manner.
- There is need for simple and transparent policy, one that peels off layers from the current stack of approvals needed, to attract firms to invest, explore and produce. Currently, despite 100% FDI being allowed under the automatic route, inflows into the sector are not encouraging, and account for less than 0.5% of the total inflows to the country. Need to make our policies more attractive in a transparent manner, mindful of sustainable practices for environmental protection and conservation.
- Environmental issues must be addressed with utmost priority, also merely shutting down an economic activity is never a viable solution. Further, the amendments to the MMDR Act and the Mineral Auction Rules, and the progress made on a new National Mineral Policy, have been steps towards development of mining in India. The MMDR Act, though have a major lacuna in its current form, wherein mines can be auctioned by state governments only after exploration.
- Exploration activities require huge investments; thus, private sector participation is a must and this can be achieved through auction of mines for both exploration and mining. Given the repository of data, auctioning the mines before exploration will give a boost to the sector.
- The government’s intention should be to maximise production in the most sustainable manner. In case mineral reserve discovery goes beyond the existing mining lease area, the lease should be extended automatically to encourage further investments. Currently, taxes and royalty on mining in India are one of the highest in the world; they should be brought down to encourage investments.
- Auctioning of mines is the only practical solution for new mines. Nowhere in the world have existing mines been handed over to others or auctioned, unless miners have flouted environmental norms, indulged in illegal mining, or defaulted on payments. It is impractical to auction the mines after the licence has expired, as 70-80% of the infrastructure, the land, and the equipment belongs to the existing owners and cannot be auctioned.
- Nowhere in the world mines are taken back after the expiry of mining lease. Normally, it is automatically renewed by the government subject to change in the rates of royalty, taxes and other environmental conditions.
- Though the safeguarding of the environment is sacrosanct, but a predictable and stable investment climate is also needed to attract copious flows of investments, including FDI. Striking a right balance is an absolute must if India has to realise its tremendous growth potential in the mining sector, and raise the sector’s contribution to GDP to 10%, from the current 2%.
Question– Explain how India’s mining sector can realise its full potential, which will not only boost the overall economic growth, but also generate huge employment opportunities in the downstream sectors.