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Admin 2020-07-09

9 July 2020: The Indian Express Editorial Analysis

1) Blunt cut-

GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education

 


CONTEXT:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has eaten into the academic year of schools, creating pedagogical(teaching) challenges for teachers and learning problems for students.
  2. This emergency demands creative solutions from the country’s education policymakers.
  3. Instead, the country’s premier examination body, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), has used the blunt and mechanical measure of reducing syllabi “by up to 30%” to “reduce the course load for students of Class 10 to 12”.

 

 

DELETION:

  1. This means that students will graduate to the senior-secondary level without learning about the human eye and the magnetic effects of electric currents.
  2. They will proceed without social science concepts such as “democracy and diversity”, “gender, religion, caste” and “popular struggles and movements”.
  3. Excised from the syllabi of classes 11 and 12 are chapters on citizenship, nationalism, secularism and the Partition of the country.
  4. The algebra basic, the binomial theorem, and the chapter on mathematical reasoning have been sacrificed at the altar(exchange) of “curriculum rationalisation”.
  5. The CBSE and the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development reason that the cuts will “ease the burden on students”.
  6. But their reasoning actually reflects an old failing of education policy-making in India — there has been scarcely any attempt amongst policymakers to understand what actually stresses the child.
  7. The “course load” has become an easy scapegoat(way out) for student anxiety.

 

UTILITARIAN FUNCTION:

  1. Teachers have been given the vague instruction that the dropped topics are to be “explained to students to the extent required to connect different topics.”
  2. They have also been told that these topics “would not be a part of either internal assessment or the board examination”.
  3. Such trivialisation(undermining) of knowledge is symptomatic of an outlook that regards textbooks as assemblages of facts, which have to be memorised and regurgitated(bring up) in examinations.
  4. The curriculum only serves the utilitarian function of enabling students to pass examinations.
  5. This thinking has fostered an ecosystem in which coaching “institutes” mushroom and there is brisk business in guidebooks and compendia of questions of past examinations and “model answers”.
  6. There is now a growing body of scholarly work which shows how the emphasis on “model answers” stands in the way of students approaching examination questions in a creative way.

 

USING THE RIGHT WAY:

  1. Education studies experts have long agreed that the curriculum is not always the main cause of stress for students.
  2. They have shown how pedagogical systems are disconnected from a child’s lived reality and underlined how the examination-centred education system robs her of the joys of acquiring knowledge.
  3. The churn created by the pandemic should have led to — it can still spark — conversations on evolving teaching methods that encourage students to apply facts to real world problems and motivate them to seek knowledge.
  4. Instead, the CBSE has chosen to knock down(delete) some of the building blocks of knowledge.

 

CONCLUSION:

CBSE decision to reduce syllabi shows misunderstanding of students’ stress, gives short shrift to ways of learning.

 

 

 

2) Quid without a quid-

GS 2- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

 


CONTEXT:

  1. Bilateral agreements are an outcome of negotiations. To get something you want, you yield on others.
  2. There is quid pro quo(something for something) and reciprocity(give back).
  3. Thanks to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), since 1948, reciprocity has been built into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  4. Gains and losses needn’t always be defined in narrow economic terms — the quid and the quo can be strategic.
  5. However, a quid without the quo doesn’t sound rational.

 

 

NARROW TRADE AGREEMENT:

  1. Outside the then socialist bloc, India was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  2. This happened on January 1, 1950. Pakistan followed a few days later.
  3. India followed through, in October 1954, with a trade agreement with PRC, apparently based on “equality and mutual benefit”. At least, that’s what the preamble to the agreement said.
  4. This trade agreement over-rode(overrule) many historical rights India possessed (trade missions/trading posts) in Tibet.
  5. They were signed away. Therefore, for the benefit to be mutual and not unilateral, India must have gained something.
  6. This was a narrow trade agreement.
  7. Unlike contemporary times, there was no talk of cross-border labour or capital movements. The gains could have been trade, or non-trade.

 

COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE:

  1. In any such trade agreement, while negotiating, negotiators try to identify products where their country has a comparative advantage, though comparative advantage is necessarily dynamic and changes over time.
  2. I try to get market access for items where my country is competitive and try to bargain and prevent market access for items where my country is relatively uncompetitive.
  3. This is the principle behind trade negotiations.
  4. As broad heads, China was allowed to export — cereals, machinery, minerals, silk and silk piece-goods, animal products, paper and stationery, chemicals, oils, and miscellaneous items.
  5. India was allowed to export — grams, rice, pulses, kyanite, unmanufactured tobacco, raw materials and unmanufactured ores, wood and timber, hides and skins, chemicals, vehicles, and miscellaneous items.
  6. At that time, both countries were planning to industrialise, China with a first five-year plan in 1953, India with a first five-year plan in 1951.
  7. That being the case, you would expect industrialisation aspirations, and moving away from agriculture, to be reflected in items either side was trying to push.

 

BROAD HEADS:

  1. If you look at those broad heads, this is not the impression you get. For example, India would export wood and timber, but China would export paper and stationery.
  2. China would export machinery, but India would export raw materials and unmanufactured ores.
  3. That is, barring chemicals and vehicles, India would remain a primary produce exporter to China, a continuing trend this trade agreement contributed to.
  4. However, China’s exports would be broad-based and have manufacturing items.
  5. So far, I have stuck to broad heads and these are heads as mentioned in the trade agreement.
  6. Those weren’t days when trade negotiators followed harmonised customs nomenclatures with digits pinning down items.
  7. Such physical descriptions sufficed(sufficient).

 

TRADE:

  1. Trade is not based on narrow notions of comparative advantage.
  2. A country can simultaneously export and import the same item.
  3. However, if an item figures in one country’s list and not on the other’s, that suggests an odd kind of preference.
  4. In market access schedules, items specifically mentioned are important. What’s dumped into a “miscellaneous” basket is relatively insignificant.
  5. If you scrutinise the schedules, you will find non-manufacturing items in China’s miscellaneous list, but many manufactured items in India’s miscellaneous list (light engineering, plastic manufactures, cement, agricultural implements, paper).

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. By any yardstick, the 1954 agreement was one-sided.
  2. Nor, since GATT was already been established in 1948, could one claim that India lacked in relative negotiating capacity.

 

 

3) Liberty and Responsibility-

GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

 


CONTEXT:

  1. The January 10 judgment of the Supreme Court on internet restrictions in Kashmir was criticised as one “ignoring rights and remedies”.
  2. The May 11 judgment on the same issue was described as an “abdication(giving up) of duty”.
  3. The former judgment, in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India, laid down guidelines to test the validity of internet suspension orders and their periodic review.
  4. The May 11 judgment ordered the constitution of a special committee to review the orders passed by the J&K authorities by applying the safeguards laid down by the Court in its January 10 judgment.

 

 

ROLE OF PAKISTAN IN J&K:

  1. The case is about internet availability in Kashmir, which has a vexed(disputed) background and a complex geo-political history.
  2. It has been on the receiving end of well orchestrated(planned) and incessant(continous) proxy war waged by an unstable neighbour.
  3. The repeal of Article 370, re-organisation of the erstwhile state of J&K and the prospect of a brighter future for Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, propelled our neighbour into a desperate mode.
  4. The COVID-19 crisis has only added to the complexity of the situation on the ground.
  5. The recent turn of events bear a testimony to this trend.
  6. The excessive firepower and hostility at the LoC and the urgency and recklessness of terrorist activities in the Valley exposes the scheme of using even the pandemic to wreak havoc(disturbance).

 

“STRICT” ANALYSIS OF THE LAW:

  1. Any analysis of merits and demerits of the SC orders should start from this background information, as a “strict” analysis of the law, without facts, is a purely academic exercise.
  2. An important facet of modern terrorism is the use of the internet.
  3. Cyber terrorism is a contemporary phenomenon, wherein terrorists use the internet to influence, communicate and fund violence on a realtime basis.
  4. There is no gainsaying that Kashmir is also prey to such technology.
  5. On August 5, 2019, internet services for the entire union territory of Jammu and Kashmir was suspended.
  6. A case was filed before the Supreme Court seeking to quash the internet restrictions imposed under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
  7. Strangely, the eminent counsel, arguing the case for the petitioner, conceded that he did not want to challenge the constitutionality of the Rules, rather he was only concerned with their application.
  8. Accordingly, the Court, being cognisant(aware) of the fact that the Rules do not completely secure the rights of citizens, read into the Rules certain valuable safeguards such as periodic review.
  9. The J&K government implemented the SC order by easing internet restrictions in a graded manner.

 

EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY:

  1. The situation of Kashmir is dynamic. The government has to be the front-line enforcer of the law laid down by the SC.
  2. The Court recognises that the imposition of restriction should be on a proportionate basis.
  3. In the past month, more than 10 terrorism incidents have been reported, with more than 15 soldiers/civilians killed.
  4. Due to the continuous onslaught of terrorism, internet restrictions may have to be used often for the protection of human lives.
  5. The constitution of the special committee by the Court is in furtherance of “balanced constitutionalism”.
  6. The Constitution provides for rights under Part III to be enforced by all the organs of the government.
  7. Accordingly, the Court cannot be understood to be the sole protector of rights — the executive and legislature have an equal responsibility.

 

FRAMEWORK:

  1. The framework the Supreme Court has created by its two judgments rightly applies this principle.
  2. First, the SC created standards for the executive to apply, including reading in the proportionality requirement.
  3. Through its recent May order, the Court has created an important forum to review the orders passed under the Rules.
  4. Now, the onus is on the government to show how it complies.
  5. The first step for the government is to gather inputs from individual districts across J&K to assess whether the internet is being misused to circulate fake news.
  6. Once such intelligence is gathered, the materials are required to be placed before the concerned authority.
  7. The Court necessarily alluded to the fact that restrictions cannot be imposed for the entire union territory— they need to be tailored district-wise.
  8. The findings ought to be based on verifiable data.
  9. Further, the government should consider bringing a narrowly tailored legislation to curtail fake news, not only for J&K but also for the rest of India.

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. The safeguards and caveats(gaps) ensure that the function of the Supreme Court as an apex interpreter of law remains intact, while leaving the calibration to the executive based on the ground situation.
  2. The supposed clarion-call of some learned academicians and members of legal fraternity of “abdication of duty by the Supreme Court” seems to have completely missed the hard facts in the Valley.
  3. Excessive authority, without liberty, is intolerable. But excessive liberty, without authority and without responsibility, soon become equally intolerable.
  4. Liberty has a hypnotising sound; while, unfortunately, responsibility has no sex appeal.”