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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 9 October 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Lateral entry to administrative service
  2. Key changes proposed in Forest Conservation Act 1980
  3. State of the Education Report for India 2021 by UNESCO
  4. Commerce and Industry Minister on India-ASEAN FTA

Lateral entry to administrative service

Context:

The Centre recommended 31 candidates from private sector and public sector undertakings for appointment at senior and mid-level positions in various Union Ministries under the “lateral entry” programme on “contract basis”.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Role of Civil Services in Governance, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is ‘lateral entry’ into government?
  2. Need of Lateral Entry
  3. Challenges faced after Lateral Entry
  4. Highlights of the 31 selected for lateral entry to administrative service
  5. Way Forward

What is ‘lateral entry’ into government?

  • NITI Aayog, in its three-year Action Agenda, and the Sectoral Group of Secretaries (SGoS) on Governance in its report submitted in February 2017, recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government.
  • These ‘lateral entrants’ would be part of the central secretariat which in the normal course has only career bureaucrats from the All India Services/ Central Civil Services.
  • A Joint Secretary, appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), has the third highest rank (after Secretary and Additional Secretary) in a Department, and functions as administrative head of a wing in the Department. Directors are a rank below that of Joint Secretary.

Need of Lateral Entry

  • Bring new dimensions and fresh talent in Policy Making– It is essential to have people with specialized skills and domain expertise in important positions as policy making is becoming complex in nature.
    • The IAS officers see the government only from within, lateral entry would enable government to understand the impact of its policies on stakeholders — the private sector, the non-government sector and the larger public.
    • First ARC had pointed out the need for specialization as far back as in 1965. The Surinder Nath Committee and the Hota Committee followed suit in 2003 and 2004, respectively, as did the second ARC.
  • Increase in efficiency and governance:
    • Career progression in the IAS is almost automatic which could put officers in comfort zone. Lateral entrants could also induce competition within the system.
    • NITI Aayog, in its Three-Year Action Agenda for 2017-2020 had said that sector specialists be inducted into the system through lateral entry as that would “bring competition to the established career bureaucracy”.
  • Increasing complexity in governance- requires specialists and domain expertise, due to emergence of new issues like globalisation, digitalisation of governance, financial frauds, cybercrime, organized crime, terrorism, climate-change among others.
  • Fill the vacancy gap of officers: According to a report by Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions there is a shortage of nearly 1,500 IAS officers in the country. The Baswan Committee (2016) had also supported lateral entry considering the shortage of officers.
  • Will help widen the talent pool for appointment– Recruitment of IAS officers at very young age makes it difficult to test potential administrative and judgment capabilities. Some who are potentially good administrators fail to make it, and some who do make it, fall short of the requirements.

Challenges faced after Lateral Entry

  • Scope of utility– i.e., how far the government can leverage the expertise of entrants. Much will depend on how far the political executive is willing to facilitate the functioning of these external experts and whether an enabling environment is created for utilizing their full potential.
  • Difficult to ensure responsibility and accountability- for the decisions taken by the private people during their service, especially given the short tenures of 3 to 5 years.
  • Lack of long-term stakes: The advantage with the current civil service is that policy makers have longterm interests in government.
  • Lack of field experience– Officers who will join might score on domain knowledge, but they may fall short on the experience of working in the “field”.
  • May face resistance from the Bureaucracyo Lack of cooperation- as existing officials might resist functioning with outsiders and inevitable tensions between generalists and specialists may surface.
    • Difficulty in adjusting to the bureaucratic work culture- including manners of addressing each other, speed of working, knowledge of rules, punctuality among others.
    • May demotivate them the existing officials– as they won’t have reasonable assurance of reaching top-level managerial positions from now on. By suggesting a contract-based system for positions of joint secretary and above, the signal would be sent out that only mid-career positions would be within reach in about 15-18 years of service and there would be considerable uncertainty about career progression thereafter.
  • Issue of Reservation- It is unclear whether there would be reservation for recruitment through Lateral Entry or not.

 

Highlights of the 31 selected for lateral entry to administrative service

  • The Centre recommended 31 candidates from private sector and public sector undertakings for appointment at senior and mid-level positions in various Union Ministries under the “lateral entry” programme on “contract basis”.
  • The most number of such appointments — six — are to the Ministry of Finance.
  • Reservation or caste-based quotas do not apply to these recruitments.
  • As per norms, the post of Joint Secretary, Director, and Deputy Secretary are drawn from officers belonging to the All India Service ‘Group A’ service, which includes the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Revenue Service (IRS), among others.
  • Department of Personnel and Training (DoP&T) had requested the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) “to select suitable persons to join the Government at the level of Joint Secretary/ Director/ Deputy Secretary in various Ministries/ Departments of the Government of India on contract/deputation basis.”

 

Way Forward

  • Need to learn from earlier experiences: The past experience of inducting private-sector managers to run public-sector enterprises has not been particularly satisfactory. For e.g. Air India, Indian Airlines etc.
  • Move towards longer tenures of lateral entrants– to allow them sufficient time to settle, learn and implement their approach, blueprint for work.
  • Various reforms apart from institutionalised lateral entry are the need of the moment such as:
    • Set up public administration universities for aspiring and serving civil servants: It can create a large pool of aspiring civil servants as well as enable serving bureaucrats to attain deep knowledge of the country’s political economy, increased domain expertise and improved managerial skills.
  • Deputation to Private Sector– A Parliamentary panel has recommended deputation of IAS and IPS officers in private sector to bring in domain expertise and competition.
  • Institutionalize goal setting and tracking for each department- Each Ministry and government agency should set outcome-based goals with a clear timeline.

-Source: The Hindu


Key changes proposed in Forest Conservation Act 1980

Context:

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has come out with a consultation paper on amending the Forest Conservation Act 1980 to bring significant changes to forest governance in India.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Forest Resources), GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Management of Social Sector, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Forest Acts in India
  2. More about Forest Conservation Act 1980
  3. About the recently proposed amendments by MoEFCC
  4. Need for the recently proposed Amendments

About the Forest Acts in India

  • The First Forest Act in India was enacted in 1927 by the British Government.
  • Alarmed at India’s rapid deforestation and resulting environmental degradation, the Centre Government enacted the Forest (Conservation) Act in 1980.
  • It was enacted to consolidate the law related to forest, the transit of forest produces and the duty liveable on timber and other forest produce.
  • Forest officers and their staff administer the Forest Act.
  • Under the provisions of this Act, prior approval of the Central Government is required for diversion of forestlands for non-forest purposes.
  • An Advisory Committee constituted under the Act advises the Centre on these approvals.
  • The Act deals with the four categories of the forests, namely reserved forests, village forests, protected forests and private forests.

More about Forest Conservation Act 1980

  • The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 has the following features:
  • The Act restricts the state government and other authorities to take decisions first without permission from the central government.
  • The Forest Conservation Act gives complete authority to the Central government to carry out the objectives of the act.
  • The Act levies penalties in case of violations of the provisions of FCA.
  • The Forest Conservation Act will have an advisory committee which will help the Central government with regard to forest conservation.

Important Sections of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 are:

Section 1: Title and scope

  • The law applies to the whole of India except for Jammu and Kashmir. However, when Article 370 was removed, it meant all laws at the central level became applicable. But only 37 laws apply to Jammu and Kashmir at the moment and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is not one of them

Section 2: Restriction of forests being used for non-forest purposes.

  • The section lists restrictions where state authorities cannot make laws regarding forest without the permissions of the Central Government. The emphasis is on ‘non forest purposes’ which means that clearing forest land for the planting of:
    • Tea
    • Coffee
    • Spices
    • Rubber
    • Palms
    • Oil-bearing
    • Medicinal plants

Section 3: Advisory committee

  • As per Section 3 of this Act, the Central government has the power to constitute an advisory committee to advice on matters related to advising the central government on the preservation of forests

 

About the recently proposed amendments by MoEFCC

  • The recent amendments proposed by MoEFCC aims to liberalise forest laws through facilitating private plantations for harvesting and exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas deep beneath forest land by drilling holes from outside the forest areas.
  • The Supreme Court in TN Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India and Others (1996), have defined forest as, all areas which are recorded as ‘forest’ in any government record, irrespective of ownership, recognition and classification.
  • According the proposed amendments – deemed forests listed by state governments up to 1996 will continue to be considered forest land. Land that was acquired by the Railways and the road ministries before 1980, but on which forests came up, will no longer be considered forests.
  • The forest land for strategic and security projects of national importance should be exempted from the need to obtain prior approval from the Central government. Doing this will allow states to permit diversion of forest land for strategic and security projects that are to be completed in a given time frame.
  • Facilitate new technologies such as Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) for extraction of oil and natural gas found deep beneath the forest land by drilling holes from outside the forest areas. The use of such technology is quite environment-friendly and as such should be kept outside the purview of Act.
  • To ease the grievances of the individuals whose land fall in state specific private forests act or within the purview of dictionary meaning of forest the proposal allows them the right to construct structures for bonafide purposes including forest protection measures and residential units up to an area of 250 sq. meters as one time relaxation.

Need for the recently proposed Amendments

  • Identification of forests on private land is subjective and arbitrary to some extent presently and this results in a lot of resentment and resistance particularly from private individuals and organisations.
  • Considering any private area as forest, would restrict the right of an individual to use his/her own land for any non-forestry activity. This has led to the tendency to keep most of the private lands devoid of vegetation even if there’s scope for planting activities.
  • There has been considerable change in the ecological, social and environmental regimes in the country in the last few years. Present circumstances, particularly for accelerated integration of conservation and development, have become necessary to amend the Act.
  • To achieve the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) extensive plantations in all possible available lands outside the government forests was necessary.

-Source: The Hindu


State of the Education Report for India 2021 by UNESCO

Context:

While the gross enrolment ratio (GER) for elementary schools has increased overall retention still needs to be improved according to the UNESCO 2021 State of the Education Report for India: No Teachers, No Class.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Education)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the State of the Education Report for India by UNESCO
  2. Highlights of the State of the Education Report for India 2021
  3. Suggestions given in the UNESCO report

About the State of the Education Report for India by UNESCO

  • The State of the Education Report for India aims to serve as a reference for enhancing the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) and towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 (target 4c on teachers).
  • Target 4c on teachers is the aim to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States by 2030.
  • The findings are largely based on analysis of Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) and the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) data (2018-19).

Highlights of the State of the Education Report for India 2021

  • There are nearly 1.2 lakh single-teacher schools in the country of which an overwhelming 89% are in rural areas. The report projects that India needs more than 11 lakh additional teachers to meet the current shortfall.
  • The overall availability of computing devices (desktops or laptops) in schools is 22% for all India, with rural areas seeing much lower provisioning (18%) than urban areas (43%).
  • Access to the internet in schools is 19% all over India – only 14% in rural areas compared to 42% in urban areas.
  • Tripura has the least number of women teachers, followed by Assam, Jharkhand and Rajasthan while Chandigarh followed by Goa, Delhi, Kerala have the highest number of women teachers.
  • The proportion of teachers employed in the private sector grew from 21% in 2013-14 to 35% in 2018-19.
  • For elementary schools Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) (number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education) has increased from 81.6 in 2001 to 93.03 in 2018-19 and stands at 102.1 in 2019-2020.
  • Overall retention is still 74.6% for elementary education and 59.6% for secondary education in 2019-20.

Suggestions given in the UNESCO report

  • Increase the number of teachers and improve working conditions in North Eastern states, rural areas and ‘aspirational districts’.
  • Increase the number of physical education, music, art, vocational education, early childhood and special education teachers.
  • Value the professional autonomy of teachers.
  • Build teachers’ career pathways.
  • Provide teachers with meaningful Information and Communication Technology (ICT) training.
  • Develop teaching governance through consultative processes, based on mutual accountability.

-Source: The Hindu


Commerce and Industry Minister on India-ASEAN FTA

Context:

Commerce and Industry Minister has called for a renegotiation of the India-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA).

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Foreign Trade)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?
  2. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  3. ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement
  4. About the recent push for renegotiation of the FTA

What are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are the arrangements between two or more trading alliances that primarily agree to lessen or dispose of customs tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.

Key features of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are as follows:

  • The member nations of FTAs explicitly identify the duties and tariffs that are to be imposed on member countries when it comes to imports and exports.
  • FTAs typically cover trades in  (a) merchandise — such as agricultural or industrial products (b) services — such as banking, construction, trading and so forth (c) intellectual property rights (IPRs) (d) investment (e) government procurement (f) competition policy and so on.
  • FTAs additionally, for the most part, provide criterion called the ‘Rules of Origin (RoO)’, required for the determination of product’s country of origin for the imposition of the preferential tariff on International trade.   Note: Rules of Origin (RoO) are enforced with the issuance of a Certificate of Origin (CoO) by authorized agencies of the trading partner.
  • FTAs act as an exception to the Most Favoured Nation principle adopted by WTO (World Trade Organization).

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising Ten Countries in Southeast Asia.
  • In 1967 ASEAN was established with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • ASEAN is headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
  • 8th August is observed as ASEAN Day.
  • Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
  • ASEAN is the 3rd largest market in the world – larger than EU and North American markets.
  • A major partner of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN maintains a global network of alliances and dialogue partners and is considered by many as the central union for cooperation in Asia-Pacific.
  • The Members of ASEAN are:
    1. Indonesia
    2. Malaysia
    3. Philippines
    4. Singapore
    5. Thailand
    6. Brunei
    7. Vietnam
    8. Laos
    9. Myanmar
    10. Cambodia

ASEAN Member Countries Thailand Cambodia Malaysia Indonesia Myanmar Singapore Laos Vietnam Philip ‘les Brunei Darussalam

ASEAN’s Objectives:

  • To promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.
  • To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations.
  • To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
  • To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement

  • The ASEAN India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) is a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India which came into force in January, 2010.
  • India emphasized on review on AITIGA at the earliest and the need to strengthen the Rules of Origin provisions, work towards removal of non-tariff barriers and provide better market access.
    • The Rules of Origins provisions of AITIGA specify that the preferential treatment under the agreement will be applicable only to goods which have wholly or partially originated in the exporting country.
    • India wants strict rules of origin to prevent Chinese goods from flooding the country through ASEAN member countries that may have lower or no duty levels.
    • A nontariff barrier is a way to restrict trade using trade barriers in a form other than a tariff. Nontariff barriers include quotas, embargoes, sanctions, and levies.
  • India has concerns regarding the FTA, given that its FTA with ASEAN is leading to increased trade deficits with several ASEAN partners. India’s trade deficit with the ASEAN rose from around 5 billion USD in 2011 to 21.8 USD billion in 2019.

About the recent push for renegotiation of the FTA

  • Commerce and Industry Minister of India called for a renegotiation of the India-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA), to prevent its misuse by ‘third parties’ and remove trade restrictions as well as non-tariff barriers that he said had hurt Indian exports disproportionately since the pact was operationalised in 2010.
  • He said that India had to deal with several restrictive barriers on our exports in the ASEAN region, particularly in the agriculture and auto sectors. This only resulted in reciprocal action from other countries, including from India, and will hurt the long-term desire of our leaders to expand trade between the two sides.
  • The focus needed to be on new rules to eliminate misuse ‘by third parties outside ASEAN’, the minister said, hinting at China. Both sides also needed to bring down non-tariff barriers to boost confidence, he added.
  • ASEAN-India trade had declined 14% in 2020 to $65.6 billion, but India remained one of ASEAN’s largest trading partners, as well as FDI investors with fresh investments of $2.1 billion in 2020.
  • India is currently witnessing exponential growth in imports from the ASEAN region, while our exports have been impeded by non-reciprocity in FTA concessions, non-tariff barriers, import restrictions, quotas and export taxes from ASEAN countries

-Source: The Hindu

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