IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 12 September 2019

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Indian universities draw a blank in THE’s top 300 list

Topic: GS–II: Education, Human Resources

For the first time since 2012, not a single Indian institution figured among the top 300 in World University Rankings 2020, compiled by UK-based Times Higher Education (THE).

More in news:

  • While Indian universities are led by the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) Bangalore, its ranking dropped 50 places—from the 251-300 ranking cohort in the previous year to the 301-350 grouping.
  • Other than IISc, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar appeared in the same grouping, followed by IIT Indore with a rank of 351 to 400. Both second-generation IITs established after 2008-09 have leapt ahead of other top schools and older IITs including those in Mumbai and Delhi, primarily because of their high score in research citations. While IIT Ropar has got 100 in the research citation parameter, IIT Indore scored 77— much better than IISc and older IITs.
  • IITs in Mumbai, Delhi and Kharagpur have been placed in the 401-500 ranking bracket. It means both IIT Kharagpur and IIT Delhi have grown by 100 ranks from the previous year. After the top 200 ranks, THE puts universities in ranking groups.
  • Yet, none of the top Indian schools finding a space in the top 300, leave alone in the top 200, comes as a setback as Indian higher education is looking to improve its global presence and a structured programme of the Union government has shortlisted 20 universities as institutions of eminence to improve their global positions in all parameters.

  • As per the ranking survey, Indian institutions have been lagging in their international outlook, a prickly issue for the higher education sector in the country despite its ambition to become a study-abroad destination for low income and developing countries.
  • In Asia, China’s dominance continues with 24 of its universities finding a place among the top 200 in the list.
  • The solace for India, however, is 56 Indian universities feature in the group of 1,300 institutions, up from 49 last year. As a result, India holds on to its place as the fifth most-represented nation in the world and the third most-represented in Asia —behind Japan and mainland China. It has eight more universities than Germany, which is sixth in the country ranking.
  • Globally, Oxford University continues to lead the high table followed by California Institute of Technology and University of Cambridge. Stanford University and MIT complete the top five global table.
  • Globally, the US continues to dominate the ranking, with 172 institutions overall and 60 in the top 200. US universities make up 14 of the global top 20 and seven of the top 10, with the country’s leading institutions performing particularly well in the area of citation impact.

NCST recommends ‘tribal area’ status for Ladakh

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah and Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda, recommending that Ladakh be declared a tribal area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

More in news:

  • The Sixth Schedule provides for the administration of tribal areas after setting up autonomous district and regional councils.
  • The NCST’s recommendation comes against the backdrop of growing demand from a predominantly tribal population and political leaders of Ladakh for according “tribal area” status to the region.
  • The Home Ministry is the central authority for declaring an area as a “tribal area”.

Number of undernourished people rose by 45% in seven years: FAO

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

A report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has highlighted that the number of undernourished people in drought-sensitive countries, including India, increased by nearly 45% in the last seven years.

  • The report was released on the sidelines of the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Conference (UNCCD).
  • Countries are being encouraged to design and implement national drought policies on three pillars–drought monitoring and early warning system, vulnerability assessment and drought preparedness, and mitigation and response, which should essentially focus on the poor and strengthen their livelihood.
  • The negotiations are crucial for India, as several districts in some states, including Jharkhand and Bihar, are facing a situation akin to drought. Below average monsoon rainfall and persistent dry weather in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have hampered planting activities.
  • According to the FAO, most natural disaster-related costs incurred from 2005 to 2015 were due to the impact of drought, amounting to $29 billion in agricultural losses to developing countries.
  • As many as 330 million people were affected by drought in India during the El Nino year of 2015-16, which was associated with below normal monsoon rainfall. This period was also marked by increase in child labour and cases of trafficking in the affected states, according to the UN.
  • “Social protections, including cash transfers, can improve people’s resilience to drought,” the report suggested. It also highlighted how prolonged drought periods saw reduced hydropower generation in several countries.
  • Another major concern is negative perceptions about drought-prone areas, even when there is no drought, which holds back investment. “The effects that this has on the national economic growth rates include far-reaching consequences that multiply and deepen the costs of inaction,” stated the report.

Which is India’s best-policed state?

Topic: GS –II: Governance

In the recently-released film, Article 15, the Indian police is depicted as dysfunctional, prejudiced and corrupt. It was a depiction that won the film critical acclaim but also a depiction grounded in the truth, according to a new study on the Indian police.

  • The study conducted by the non-governmental organization, Common Cause and the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) suggests that India’s police force is severely hindered by inadequate staff, infrastructure, and budget but also riddled with prejudices.
  • The basic input for any police force is its people and its resources. On both these fronts, Indian police forces are struggling and India has one of the weakest police forces in the world.
  • Within India, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar have India’s most inadequate police forces, according to a police adequacy index computed by the Common Cause and CSDS team.
  • The police adequacy index captures police strength in terms of personnel, infrastructure, and budget allocations for the years 2012-16 (the latest years where comparable data is available) and reveals how Indian police forces are hamstrung on all these measures. For instance, Uttar Pradesh’s low score is driven by police vacancies while Chhattisgarh’s is a result of weak infrastructure. India’s best police forces are in Delhi, Kerala, and Maharashtra, the study suggests, though this is only a relative judgment

  • The data shows that poorer states tend to have weaker police forces. The police adequacy index is strongly correlated with the proportion of the state’s population living in poverty (measured here using the multi-dimensional poverty index calculated by researchers from the University of Oxford), showing that the rule of law and prosperity are inextricably linked.
  • Inadequate resources have real and grim consequences. The researchers surveyed 12,000 police personnel across 21 states between February and April 2019 to find that 41% of police personnel have been in situations where they could not reach a crime scene because of lack of staff while 46% have experienced a situation where they needed a vehicle but none was available.
  • Beyond resources, Indian police performance could also be affected by attitudes within the police. For a start, there are significant differences in how the police believes it should function. Across India, 44% of police personnel believe criminals should be punished by the police themselves, via extra-judicial means, rather than subject them to a legal trial. Here, too, there is significant variation across states. For instance, in the insurgency-affected states of Nagaland and Chattisgarh, the proportion of police favouring extra-judicial means exceeds 60%. Bihar, with an infamous history of custodial deaths, follows close behind at 60%.
  • Another major attitude issue is discrimination against women and minorities. The report reveals that around one in two police personnel across India feel that men and women are not treated equally within the police force. Little wonder then that only 7.3% of all police personnel across India were women in 2016. Some states perform worse than others: the male policemen of Bihar, Karnataka and Maharashtra for instance, hold the strongest biases against women. These attitudes also spillover into how police handle gender-based violence. Nearly 40% of police personnel believe that gender-based violence complaints are highly likely to be false or motivated.
  • Unsurprisingly, women remain wary of the police force. Data from the previous round of the report published in 2018, which focused on the public’s perception of Indian police, revealed that 32% of women were distrustful of Indian police personnel (compared to 28% of men).
  • Overall trust in the police force remains low. This and other surveys have revealed that the Indian public is more distrustful of the police than the army, courts and government. One reason for this lack of trust could be India’s growing police-criminal-politician nexus.
  • Over the last twenty years, India’s politics has become more criminalized and with it India’s police has become more politicized. The latest State of Policing survey finds that 28% of India’s police personnel had faced pressure from politicians in criminal investigations. Such undue influence could not only be eroding the public’s trust in the police but could also be driving the institutional neglect towards police working conditions and attitudes.

What hurts ease of living in India

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

In an attempt to curb bureaucratic corruption at the apex of India’s administrative structure, the Narendra Modi-led Union government has ‘forcibly retired’ many senior bureaucrats after coming back to power. While this may be helpful in reducing grand corruption and could have some domino effect on the lower tier staff, direct interventions aimed at the local bureaucracy are required for curbing petty corruption that bedevil the citizen-state relationship.

  • A survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) in twenty states over two years (2017-2018) and involving 40,772 respondents to study state and society between elections found that an overwhelming majority of respondents found it difficult to get work done at government offices without bribes or connections. Further, trust in government officials in the country seems to be low and people prefer going to political representatives for getting their work done.
  • To make it easier for citizens to access welfare programmes and government services, the Union government would have to work with states for removing bureaucratic hurdles and reforming the local bureaucracy. And the task won’t be easy, the survey results suggest.
  • In the survey, respondents were asked whether getting work done in government offices required connections/networks and bribes. Only around one-fourth (28%) of the respondents believed that work could be done without connections or paying bribes. On the other hand, more than four out of ten (43%) said that bribes were important and around one-fourth (24%) thought that prior connections or networks were required to get work done.

 

  • There is no difference between urban and rural India on this matter as respondents from both areas reported that connections and bribes were very common. This indicates that while the extent of corruption/scale may vary based on the stakes involved, its incidence is almost ubiquitous in the public sector.
  • The prevailing socio-economic divides also shape citizen-state transactions. Six-out of ten respondents (60%) agreed that government officials are likely to treat rich people better. Even the upper classes seem to be conscious of an undue advantage as a similar proportion among them felt that officials favour the rich. Public opinion on caste bias seems to be more divided as an almost equal proportion of respondents either said that officials favour upper castes (40%) or treat them similarly to Dalits (41%).
  • The perception about certain sections enjoying a better experience at government offices can be attributed to a combination of factors including but not limited to discrimination, quality of applications/paper work, differences in reasons for approaching the government etc.
  • It shouldn’t come as a surprise that citizens tend to hold relatively low trust in the civil service. In the State of Democracy in South Asia (SDSA) survey 2013 conducted by CSDS among a national representative sample, respondents were asked about trust in various public institutions, and on multiple levels of government and officials.
  • The results showed that only about half of the respondents (53%) said that they had great deal or quite a lot of trust in the civil service. Trust in most other institutions was much higher.

  • In fact, in the 2017-18 survey most citizens reported that don’t even think of approaching government officials if they have difficulty in getting any important work done. Only around one-tenth respondents in both urban (12%) and rural areas (8%) said they would first think of approaching a government official.

  • Most respondents said they would approach their local councillor or ‘sarpanch’ (village head). Others said they would approach elders outside their family. The low figure for government officials is presumably also because people anticipate difficulties in government offices if they fail to get work done in the first attempt.
  • The centre and most states have been taking steps to make the local bureaucracy and front line staff more accountable, efficient and responsive to the citizens. These include reducing vacancies, outsourcing some tasks to private firms, and opening up grievance cells in government departments. Further, many states have introduced technology-based interventions to reduce bureaucratic discretion and make processes transparent and quicker. For instance, portals that allow citizens to directly apply for public services and schemes eliminate the need to visit a government office although many services still require physical presence across states.
  • The scaling-up and successes of these interventions is likely to determine the extent to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be able to fulfill his promise of ‘ease of living’.

Editorial section:

The absentee constitutional court-The Hindu

Lynching, not murder- The Hindu

Striking a blow for investigative credibility- The Hindu

Brexit brinkmanship- The Hindu

A case for a differential global carbon tax- The Hindu

A narrow nationalism again- The Hindu

 

 

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