The HINDU Notes – 10th June 2019 - VISION

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 10th June 2019

📰 Draft National Education Policy proposes formal education from age of three

Draft National Education Policy proposes formal education from age of three
Right To Education Act to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1.

•All Indian children could soon enter the formal education system at the age of three, with the draft National Education Policy projecting an expansion of the Right To Education Act to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1.

•The draft policy also wants early childhood education to be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) as part of the school system, rather than the private pre-schools and anganwadis that currently cater to the 3-to-6 years age group.

•This could result in an upheaval in the anganwadi system which has been overseen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) for more than four decades.

•An inter-ministerial task force will work out a roadmap for the transition by the end of 2019, says the draft policy.

•The HRD Ministry is in the early stages of assessing the implications of such a move. Additional costs will come in the form of teacher recruitment and training, infrastructure and learning materials, as well as nutritional aspects (including the proposal to provide breakfast to young children), said Ministry officials.

•The Ministry does not yet have accurate data on what percentage of children are neither in pre-schools nor the anganwadi system. Given that the WCD Ministry has been in charge of this for over 40 years, it’s not clear if they would be willing to give it up, said one official.

•The draft Policy praises the contribution of anganwadis to improving health and nutrition, but notes that their record in education is not so strong.

•“While providing some essential cognitive stimulation, play, and day care, most anganwadis have remained relatively light on the educational aspects of ECCE [or Early Childhood Care and Education]. Anganwadis are currently quite deficient in supplies and infrastructure for education; as a result, they tend to contain more children in the 2-4 year age range and fewer in the educationally critical 4-6 year age range; they also have few teachers trained in or specially dedicated to early childhood education,” says the draft Policy.

•It adds that private pre-schools often consist of formal teaching and rote memorisation with limited play-based learning. A 2017 study by the Ambedkar University showed that “a significant proportion of children in India who completed pre-primary education, public or private, did not have the needed school readiness competencies when they joined primary school,” says the draft Policy.

•The draft Policy suggests a new integrated curricular framework for 3 to 8-year olds with a flexible system based on play, activity and discovery, and beginning exposure to three languages from age 3 onwards. This framework would be implemented by training and strengthening anganwadi capabilities and linking them to a local primary school, co-locating anganwadis and pre-schools with primary schools, or building stand-alone pre-schools also linked to a local primary school.

•All aspects of early childhood education must come under the HRD Ministry, says the draft Policy, just as health services in anganwadis lie with the Health Ministry. A joint task force from Health, HRD and WCD will draft “a detailed plan outlining the operational and financial implications of the integration of early childhood education with the school education system”.

📰 All States can now constitute Foreigners Tribunals

Ministry of Home Affairs amends order, empowers district magistrates.

•With Assam’s National Register of Citizens as the backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.

•The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not. Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.

•The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not. In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946, with the punishment ranging three months to eight years in jail. Once the accused have served the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them. The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said: “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose, for its opinion.” The amended order issued last week says – “for words Central Government may,’ the words ‘the Central Government or the State Government or the Union Territory administration or the District Collector or the District Magistrate may’ shall be substituted.”

•Recently, the MHA sanctioned around 1,000 Tribunals to be set up in Assam in the wake of publication of the final NRC by July 31. As per directions of the Supreme Court, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971. Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year. The NRC is a fallout of the Assam Accord, 1985. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.

•The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals. “Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done. If a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal,” explained a senior government official.

•Last month, the MHA convened a meeting with representatives of all States on the issue.

•regarding procedures to be followed for the detection, detention and deportation of foreign nationals staying illegally in India and for deportation of arrested foreigners.

•The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.

•“Opportunity will also be given to those who haven’t filed claims by referring their cases to the Tribunals. Fresh summons will be issued to them to prove their citizenship,” said the official. There are around 4 lakh residents who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from final draft of NRC.

📰 Move ED under Home Ministry, MP urges Modi

‘Finance Ministry officials lack training’

•BJP MP from Jharkhand, Nishikant Dubey, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking that the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates crimes related to money laundering, be shifted from its current parent Finance Ministry to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

•Mr Dubey said most of the cases registered under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) are for offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or the Arms Act and others.

•Under the present system, the ED cannot independently register a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and it has to mandatorily take cognizance of a case registered under other laws like the IPC, NDPS or the Passport Act among others. “The ED predominantly consists of officers from the Finance Ministry who do not have adequate expertise or training in matters pertaining to the IPC or other such laws,” Mr. Dubey said, adding that knowledge of such laws is an essential prerequisite to deal with PMLA matters.

•“Given that majority of the scheduled offences are in the domain of the Ministry of Home Affairs, it is a natural corollary that the PMLA must be moved to the ministry and also the ED,” he said.

•The MP said shifting the ED to the Home Ministry made more sense also because it is being headed by Amit Shah “who is decisive, pro-active and unbiased”.

📰 India and Myanmar to hold high-level meeting

Ram Madhav greets the delegation.

•India and Myanmar will hold a high-level meeting in Imphal on June 11 to bring the two countries closer. A nine-member team of Myanmar, led by Aung Moe Nyo, Chief Minister of the Magway region government, arrived at Moreh, Manipur’s border town, on June 9.

Warm welcome

•Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary Ram Madhav, in-charge of the Northeast, air-dashed to Moreh despite inclement weather and welcomed team members at the international bridge. Later, Mr. Madhav also accorded a warm welcome at a hotel in Moreh, where the delegates shall stay. The Myanmarese Ambassador to India, Moe Kyaw Aung, is a part of the team. They will hold bilateral talks with the top ranking officials of India during the meeting in Imphal.

•As a part of its ‘Act East’ policy, India and Myanmar have shared a cordial relationship. India has been extending developmental assistance to Myanmar over these years.

•On the other hand, the Myanmarese Army has been over-running some military and administrative camps of Northeast militant groups taking shelter in Myanmar. Assam Rifles personnel have also been destroying the camps of some militant groups in some hill districts of Manipur. The outgoing Home Minister Rajnath Singh had claimed that insurgency in the Northeast is petering out.

‘Develop Moreh’

•Mr. Madhav underlined the need to revamp the transport system in and around Imphal. He also said that Moreh town will be developed and spruced up since it should be the gateway for trade and other bilateral ties with Southeast Asian countries.

•In the recent past, Myanmarese Buddhists on pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, have complained of unnecessary travel requirements and the bad state of the NH102 that connects Moreh with Imphal in the hilly terrain.

•The “traditional barter system at Moreh” among people on either side of the International Border was legalised in 1995.

•Security measures in Manipur have been beefed up to ensure there is no untoward incident during the stay of the Chief Minister and other high officials of Myanmar.

📰 Terrorism is a joint threat: Narendra Modi

India, Sri Lanka call for collective and focussed action to counter it

•In a visit spanning barely five hours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with Sri Lanka’s top leadership – both in government and Opposition in a string of short meetings in Colombo on Sunday. The focus in most of the interactions, sources said, was cooperation in economic initiatives, in countering terrorism. 

•Even as he wound up his ‘solidarity visit’, Mr. Modi tweeted that he had a “short but immensely fruitful” visit to the island. 

•Mr. Modi, who was here on President Maithripala Sirisena’s invitation, is the first foreign head of government to visit the island, after the ghastly Easter terror attacks that killed over 250 people. 

•The Indian Prime Minister visited St. Anthony’s church in Colombo and paid respects to those who died in the April 21 bombings.

•“Since both Sri Lanka and India have been victims of terrorism, both the leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and decided to step up cooperation in this critical area,” a statement from President Sirisena’s media division said.

•On his meeting with President Sirisena, Mr. Modi said it was their second meeting in 10 days. “President Sirisena and I agreed that terrorism is a joint threat that needs collective and focussed action. Reiterated India’s commitment to partner with Sri Lanka for a shared, secure and prosperous future,” he said in a tweet.

•After Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe received his Indian counterpart at the Bandaranaike International Airport — President Sirisena accorded him a ceremonial welcome, with a guard of honour and a 19-gun salute. President Sirisena escorted Mr. Modi in, holding an umbrella for him as sudden showers struck Colombo. He threw a special banquet for his guest and presented him with a replica of the ‘Samadhi Buddha Statue’, hand-carved in white teak. 

•“Thank you @narendramodi, for your brief, but highly productive visit to our country today, thus proving you are a true friend of ours. I highly appreciate and value your kind gesture, support and cooperation extended to Sri Lanka,” the President tweeted. 

•Mr. Wickremesinghe, tweeting on Mr.Modi’s visit, said he looked forward to holding discussions including on increasing multi-lateral investment projects and collaboration in counter-terror actions.

•This is PM Modi’s third visit to Sri Lanka, after earlier trips in March 2015 and May 2017. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval were part of Mr. Modi’s delegation to Sri Lanka on Sunday, as they returned from the Maldives.

•Former President and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa called on Mr. Modi at India House, the official resident of the Indian envoy in Colombo. “It was a warm and cordial meeting,” said Namal Rajapaksa, a legislator and son of Mr. Rajapaksa, who was also present at the meeting. “My father congratulated Mr. Modi on his election win and emphasised that stability at the Centre in India was good not just for India, but for the entire region.” Further, Mr. Rajapaksa told Mr. Modi that India should lead the region not just in socio-economic growth, but also in counter-terrorism, according the young Hambantota MP.

•Mr. Modi met a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), led by senior politician R. Sampanthan, representing the war-affected Tamil minority from the island’s north and east. According to sources, the Tamil leadership emphasised that India urge the Sri Lankan government to frame a new Constitution, as had been promised by Mr. Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe, when their coalition came to power in 2015.

•India has historically been one of the arbiters for a political solution to Sri Lanka’s Tamil question. Till date the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 remains a key document that speaks of substantive power devolution to the provinces.

•According to TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran who attended the meeting, Mr. Modi assured the Tamil leaders that “India was conscious” of their demand. Further, he told them that he looked forward to meeting them soon in New Delhi, for a discussion on India’s possible role in nudging the Sri Lankan leadership to frame a new Constitution.

Indian community

•Later, shifting gears from diplomacy to domestic politics, Mr. Modi addressed Colombo-based Indian community and thanked the people of India for a big mandate. “We achieved a lot in last five years…much more has to be done in the coming years,” he said to thundering applause, and urged Sri Lanka-based Indians to help strengthen bilateral ties.

📰 Thousands march in Hong Kong to protest China extradition bill

Hong Kong's Legislative Council will start discussions on Wednesday on the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which would allow suspected criminals to be sent to China for trial

•Several thousand people jammed Hong Kong's streets on Sunday in the biggest rally in more than a decade, to thwart a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial.

•Sunday's outpouring was widely expected to raise the pressure on the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her official backers in Beijing.

•Organisers said that their initial estimates put the turnout at well over half a million people, adding that it outstripped a demonstration in 2003 when over five lakh people hit the streets to challenge the Government’s plans for tighter national security laws. Those laws were later shelved and a key government official was forced to resign.

•Mr. Lam is yet to comment on the rally, which followed weeks of domestic discontent growing amid official concern from the U.S., the European Union and foreign business lobbies that the changes would dent Hong Kong's vaunted rule of law and freedoms.

•The unusually broad opposition to the extradition bill displayed on Sunday came amid a series of government moves to deepen links between southern mainland China and Hong Kong. The former British colony was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997 amid guarantees of autonomy and various freedoms including a separate legal system, which many diplomats and business leaders believe is the city's strongest remaining asset.

•While the police is yet to issue their own estimate of the protest size, tens of thousands reached the Legislative Council in the Admiralty Business district, with the starting point in Victoria Park crowded with thousands more still waiting to join the march.

•Chants of “no China extradition, no evil law” echoed through the high-rise city streets, while other marchers called for Mr. Lam and other senior officials to step down. One protester held a sign reading “Carry off Carrie”, while another declared “Extradite yourself, Carrie.” Another sign said ”let's make Hong Kong great again”, with a photo depicting U.S. President Donald Trump firing Lam.

•Debates will start in Hong Kong's Legislative Council on Wednesday on the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. The bill could be transformed into a law by the end of June.

•Mr. Lam has tweaked the amendments but refused to pull the bill, saying it is vital to plug a long-standing “loophole”. She has also said that speedy action is needed to ensure that a Hong Kong man suspected of murdering his girlfriend can be sent to Taiwan for trial.

•Protests against the bill were also planned on Sunday in 26 cities globally, including London, Sydney, New York and Chicago.

•The amendments would simplify case-by-case arrangements to allow extradition of wanted suspects to jurisdictions, including mainland China, Macau and Taiwan, beyond the 20 that Hong Kong already has extradition treaties with.

•Opponents of the bill question the fairness and transparency of the Chinese court system and worry about Chinese security forces contriving charges.

•Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said on Thursday that the bill would “strike a terrible blow...against the rule of law, against Hong Kong's stability and security, against Hong Kong's position as a great international trading hub”.

•Foreign governments have also expressed concern, warning of the impact on Hong Kong's reputation as an international financial hub, and noting that foreigners wanted in China risk getting ensnared in Hong Kong.

•Concerns were highlighted on Saturday with news that a local high court judge had been reprimanded by the Chief Justice after his signature appeared on a public petition against the bill.

•According to a previous report by the Reuters, several senior Hong Kong judges were worried about the changes, noting a lack of trust in mainland courts as well as the limited nature of extradition hearings.

•Human rights groups have repeatedly cited the alleged use of torture, arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems lawyers in China.

•However, Hong Kong officials have defended the plans, even as they raised the threshold of extraditable offences to crimes carrying penalties of seven years or more. They say the laws carry adequate safeguards, including the protection of independent local judges who will hear cases before they are approval by the Hong Kong chief executive. No one would be extradited if they face political or religious persecution or torture, or the death penalty, they say.

•The opposition to the bill has united a broad range of the community, from usually pro-establishment business people and lawyers to students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups.

•“We continue to listen to a wide cross-section of views and opinions and remain to open to suggestions on ways to improve the new regime,” a Government official said on Sunday.

📰 U.S. is shooting itself in the foot on GSP

‘Terminating India’s beneficiary status will cost U.S. businesses over $300 million in additional tariffs’

•After targeting China and Mexico, President Trump has declared a trade war on India. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. decided to terminate India’s designation as a ‘beneficiary developing country’ under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) effective June 5, 2019.

•Under the programme, India, as a developing country, enjoyed special trade benefits which allowed duty-free entry of Indian goods worth $5.6 billion into the U.S.

•The seeds for this discord were sown way back when the Trump administration introduced steel and aluminum tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, citing national security reasons. This subjected imported steel to a tariff, the burden of which would be borne by steel producers outside of the U.S., who stood to either lose a share of the market or a percentage of profits.

•India was one of the countries affected by the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs. India retaliated immediately and announced tariffs on U.S. importations into India worth about $240 million although these are yet to take effect.

•With a move to teach India a lesson, the U.S. had been threatening to withdraw India’s benefits from the GSP system. The GSP preferential trade term forms a part of the trade obligation of the U.S., and is designed to positively impact the “development, financial and trade needs of developing countries.” Internationally, the legal basis for the GSP programme is found in the Enabling Clause (EC), which is a platform established under the international trade regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for developed countries to offer preferential trade treatment on a non-reciprocal basis to products originating in developing countries.

Enabling clause

•The reason for the non-reciprocal arrangement was that the Enabling Clause means to provide differential and more favourable treatment with a view to incentivising developing countries and promote their fuller participation in global trade. Nationally, the U.S. trade obligations have been codified as part of the Trade Act of 1974 under which the GSP system has been established.

•Under this system, the U.S. allows preferential duty-free entry for thousands of products from about 120-plus designated beneficiary countries, of which India is one. Thus, products from these countries enter the U.S. duty-free, provided the beneficiary developing countries meet the eligibility criteria.

•The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office-established eligibility criteria includes affording worker rights, prohibiting child labour, ensuring occupational safety, etc.

•In reality, the Coalition of GSP, which is a think-tank, estimates that the GSP programme ultimately benefits U.S. small businesses which import lower cost raw materials, which, in turn, lowers the cost of consumer products in the U.S.

•The Trump administration’s withdrawal of India’s GSP benefits is a violation of the trade terms. That is, in a dispute that involved EC Tariffs, the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB) considered special tariff preferences that EC extended to 12 of its trading partners to the exclusion of some others.

•At that time, India challenged the EC’s preferential trade programme. The AB opined that GSP programmes can award different benefits to different developing countries on the condition that any such differential treatment should positively lead to the developmental and trade needs of developing countries, and it should be available to all similarly-situated countries.

•Unfortunately, the withdrawal is not based on any criterion that is to be applied to other nations. Nor does this move by the U.S. benefit India. Indeed, it is intended as a sanction towards India and Turkey, thus making the U.S. move a positive violation of the WTO norms.

•In reality, withdrawing India from the list of GSP beneficiaries will also hurt the U.S. First, a trade war with India will reportedly cost American businesses over $300 million in additional tariffs, as per the Coalition for GSP’s executive director Dan Anthony. Second, America’s belligerent stance has not gone well with most trading partners. Operationally, in order to determine whether trade terms of other countries are fair, America uses the opinions of its industries and corporations.

•That is, when the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) asserts that India or China’s trade terms in, say seed imports, is not to America’s benefit, it is not an impartial determination. USTR’s judgments are based on its seed companies’ submissions.

•The problem is that these companies typically consider only what is good for their shareholders and not the local realities or issues of the importing country.

•Thus, arguably, America puts itself in a position wherein its trade posture is an echo of the industry’s position rather than as taking a reasoned articulated stance. Third, India may well decide to take this as a dispute to the WTO. The central question for the WTO will be whether the U.S. can suspend GSP benefits to two countries — India and Turkey — as a sanction for not allowing “equitable and reasonable access to its markets.”

Trade imbalances

•Under such circumstances, India is likely to find support from other similarly situated developing countries. There may be support to challenge this and other unilateral U.S. actions that have come to personify the imbalances of global trade.

•The world trading system is not based on the leadership of any one country. It is a mechanism to work with trade partners.

•The U.S. action, unfortunately, seeks leadership among its trading partners and that hurts America first and its allies next.

📰 Is NITI Aayog old wine in a new bottle?

There must be a review of what the think tank has achieved to adopt the new role described in its charter

•The Narendra Modi government has its plate full. It needs to increase employment and incomes; revive investments and growth; untangle the financial sector; navigate muddied-up international trade; solve the perennial problems of poor education and health, and the growing problems of environmental pollution and water scarcity. Even though statistical confusion was created in the run-up to the election to deny that problems of unemployment and growth were serious, high-powered Cabinet committees have been formed to tackle them.

•Regardless of whether or not India has the fastest growing GDP, it has a long way to go to achieve economic and social inclusion, and restore environmental sustainability. India’s problems are complex because they are all interrelated. Fixing one part of the system alone can make matters worse. For example, providing skills to millions of youth before there are enough employment opportunities is a bold fix that can backfire. The complexity of the task demands a good plan and a good strategy.

Under scrutiny

•Does the Indian government have the capability to make good plans and strategies to address its complex challenges? Since India has not done as well as it should have to produce faster growth with more inclusion and sustainability, one would have to surmise that it has not developed the requisite capabilities. Mr. Modi has known this. Indeed, the first major reform he announced in his first term was to abolish the Planning Commission. He replaced it with the loftily titled ‘National Institution for Transforming India’ (NITI Aayog).

•Now, when the country’s economy has not performed to the high expectations Mr. Modi had created, and citizens’ aspirations for ‘ acche din ’ have not been realised, the performance of the NITI Aayog is under scrutiny, as it should be. Many people are even nostalgically recalling the Planning Commission, including some who were very critical of it and wanted it overhauled.

•Mr. Modi’s predecessors, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had faced similar, large, economic, social, political and global challenges. When Vajpayee was presented a nine-point plan by a global think-tank to increase the economy’s growth to 9%, he famously retorted, “We know all that. The question is, how will it all be done?” He highlighted that many stakeholders must be involved in the implementation of a plan in a large, diversified and democratic country — the States, the private sector, civil society and even the political Opposition. Therefore, it is not good enough to have a plan, there must also be a strategy for its cooperative implementation too.

•Dr. Singh declared that reform of the Planning Commission was long overdue. An intensive exercise was undertaken. Many stakeholders were consulted. International practices were examined. An outline was drawn of a substantially reformed institution which would, in Dr. Singh’s words, have a capability for “systems reform” rather than making of Five-Year Plans, and which would have the “power of persuasion” without providing budgets.

•A commission chaired by C. Rangarajan, then Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, examined budgetary processes, divisions of responsibilities between the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission, and distinctions between ‘plan’ and ‘non-plan’ expenditures. It concluded that budgetary responsibility must be concentrated in the Finance Ministry, and it was no longer desirable for the Planning Commission to have powers for financial provisions.

•Some in the Planning Commission were worried that it would lose its teeth if it did not have any financial power. How else would it persuade the States to do what it wanted them to do? Chief Ministers retorted that the Planning Commission must improve its ability to understand their needs and to develop ideas that they would want to adopt because they accepted the ideas as good for them, not because they would have to if they wanted the money. Mr. Modi, as a powerful Chief Minister, understood well the limitations in the Planning Commission’s capabilities and what it needed to do to reform itself, which the investigations commissioned by Dr. Singh had also revealed. It is not surprising, therefore, that the bold charter of NITI Aayog that Mr. Modi announced in 2015 was consistent with Dr. Singh’s and Vajpayee’s insights. He was implementing an idea whose time had come.

A good starting point

•Implementation of radical change is never easy. If things don’t go well soon, nostalgia will rise for the old order — even though there was dissatisfaction with it. And the change-maker will be blamed for the disruption. The NITI Aayog charter is a good starting point for a new journey in transforming the governance of the Indian economy. The NITI Aayog and the government would do well to conduct an open-minded review of what NITI Aayog has achieved so far to adopt the new role described in its charter — that of a catalyst of change in a complex, federal, socioeconomic system. And assess whether it has transformed its capabilities sufficiently to become an effective systems reformer and persuader of stakeholders, rather than merely be an announcer of lofty multi-year goals and manager of projects, which many suspect it is.

•There is deep concern that NITI Aayog has lost its integrity as an independent institution to guide the government; that it has become a mouthpiece of the government and an implementer of the government’s projects. Many insist that NITI Aayog must have the ability to independently evaluate the government’s programmes at the Centre and in the States. Some recall that an Independent Evaluation Office set up in the last days of the UPA-II government was swiftly closed by the NDA government. Others counter that the Planning Commission had a Programme Evaluation Organisation all along and which continues. They miss the need for fundamental transformation in the approach to planning and change.

•The traditional approach of after-the-fact evaluation sits in the old paradigm of numbers, budgets and controls. The transformational approach to planning and implementation that 21st century India needs, which is alluded to in NITI’s charter, requires evaluations and course-corrections in the midst of action. It requires new methods to speed up ‘organisational learning’ among stakeholders in the system who must make plans together and implement them together.

•The NITI Aayog’s charter has provided a new bottle. It points to the need for new methods of cooperative learning and cooperative implementation by stakeholders who are not controlled by any central body of technical experts with political and/or budgetary authority over them. Merely filling this new bottle with old ideas of budgets, controls and expert solutions from above will not transform India. The debate about NITI Aayog’s efficacy must focus on whether or not it is performing the new role it must, and what progress it has made in acquiring capabilities to perform this role, rather than slipping back into the ruts of yesterday’s debates about the need for a Planning Commission.

📰 ISRO gears up for Chandrayaan-2 mission

ISRO gears up for Chandrayaan-2 mission
Chandrayaan-2 lander is named Vikram (meaning valour, after the father of the Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai). It will release a small robotic rover, named Pragyan (wisdom), to move around, feel and understand the lunar surface.

•Chandrayaan-2, the country’s first moon lander and rover mission, is a month away.

•The Indian Space Research Organisation has marked mid-July for the take-off and kept the launch window open from July 9 to 16.

•After putting the spacecraft through manoeuvres at the earth end, a journey of over a month and a few more orbital manoeuvres as it approaches the moon, ISRO has set September 6 as the date to soft-land its landing craft at the lunar south pole - a region where no agency has got to so far.

•ISRO recently listed at least six complexities of soft landing a mission on the Moon – something that pioneers Russia and the U.S. could not achieve easily back in the mid-1960s.

•Soft landing, it says, is the most challenging part of the mission.

•The lander is named Vikram (meaning valour, after the father of the Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai). It will release a small robotic rover, named Pragyan (wisdom), to move around, feel and understand the lunar surface.

•Vikram must gently descend on a harsh rugged lunar surface, without getting damaged. It must also avoid landing in a shadowy patch. It needs sunlight for generating its power.

•Meanwhile, the mother ship or the orbiter that carries Vikram and Pragyan will go around the moon at a distance of about 100 km, taking pictures and gathering surface information and sending them back to earth.

•The moon’s constantly sunny side gets light for 14 Earth days or one lunar day. The lander and the rover are expected to work for just that duration.

•The mission carries 14 payloads or instruments to observe and gauge the lunar scene – both from a distance and on its surface. One of them is a tiny NASA reflectometer to mark the spot for future missions and assess the distance from the earth.

Heavyweight launch

•Weighing about 3,500 kg, Chandrayaan-2 will be launched on the heavy-lift GSLV-Mk III rocket. The mission has missed many dates and its lander elements have been revamped as recently as in 2018. The tests related to the lander were conducted at the Challakere multi-agency campus where ISRO, DRDO, BARC and the IISc facilities are located.