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5-February-2024- Top News of the Day

Stay updated with the Latest 5th February 2024 Current Affairs. Covering topics: CBSE on Academic Framework, Public Debt and Fiscal Challenges, Floor test, Ergo sphere, and Panchayats earning.

1. CBSE Unveils Overhaul of Academic Framework: Implements Creditization and Native Language Focus

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Education

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of significant education policy changes aligned with the National Education Policy 2020.

Context:
  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in India is planning significant changes to the academic framework of Classes 9, 10, 11, and 12 in line with the implementation of creditization, as recommended by the 2020 National Education Policy (NEP).
  • The proposed changes involve an increased focus on native Indian languages and a restructuring of the credit system to align with the National Credit Framework (NCrF).

More about the news:

Creditization and Implementation:

  • Creditization aims to establish academic equivalence between vocational and general education, promoting mobility between these two systems.
  • The University Grants Commission introduced the NCrF in 2022, a unified credit framework integrating training and skill development into schools and higher education.
  • Students will need to earn a specified number of credits to progress from one class to another and eventually become eligible for undergraduate programs in universities.
  • The earned credits will be digitally stored in the Academic Bank of Credits, accessible through a linked Digilocker account.

CBSE Subcommittee’s Recommendations:

  • To implement creditization, CBSE formed a subcommittee in 2022 to redesign the existing academic framework.
  • The subcommittee proposed changes to the standard school curriculum, introducing a formalized credit system.
  • An academic year would consist of 1,200 notional learning hours, translating to 40 credits.
  • Notional learning includes both academic and non-academic/experiential learning, with subjects now allocated specific hours.
  • The scheme of studies has been adjusted to include teaching hours and credits for each subject.

Changes in Curriculum for Classes 9 and 10:

  • To pass the final exams, students in Classes 9 and 10 must now complete 10 subjects, including three languages and seven core subjects.
  • This marks an increase from the previous requirement of five subjects. Compulsory languages include at least two Indian languages, such as Hindi, Sanskrit, or English.
  • The seven core subjects encompass math, computational thinking, social science, science, art education, physical education and well-being, vocational education, and environmental education.

Changes in Curriculum for Classes 11 and 12:

  • For Classes 11 and 12, the CBSE suggests students’ study six subjects, consisting of two languages and four subjects with an optional fifth.
  • At least one of the languages must be Indian, and the current system of passing five subjects will be replaced.

Examination Procedures:

  • Credits earned will be independent of exam marks. Class 10 students will face external board exams for three languages, mathematics, computational thinking, social science, science, and environmental education.
  • Art education, physical education, and vocational education will have a mix of internal and board examinations. Students must pass all 10 subjects to progress.
  • Class 12 subjects will be categorized into four groups, and students must choose at least two languages from Group 1 and four main subjects from Groups 2, 3, and 4, with an optional fifth subject.
  • External exams will be conducted for languages and subjects in Groups 3 and 4, with a mix of internal and board exams for Group 2 subjects.

What is the National Credit Framework (NCrF)?

  • Based on the inter-ministerial committee report, the Union Ministry of Education (MoE) unveiled the draft NCrF in 2022.
  • The NCrF is a set of guidelines to be followed by schools, colleges and universities in adopting the credit system.
  • It also brings the entire school education system under the ambit of credits for the first time.
  • So far, only the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) followed a credit system. The NCrF also covers skill and vocational education.
  • The document lists theoretical, applied sciences or vocational and skill disciplines that can count towards credits earned during school education.

PYQ: National Education Policy 2020 is in conformity with the Sustainable Development Goal-4 (2030). It intends to restructure and reorient education system in India. Critically examine the statement.

(250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2020)

Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of CBSE’s proposed academic framework changes, including the creditization system and the emphasis on native languages, in the context of the National Education Policy 2020. Evaluate the potential benefits and challenges of these reforms for the education system in India. (250 words/15 m)

2. India's Economic Landscape Post-Modi: Navigating the Legacy of Escalating Public Debt and Fiscal Challenges

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Issues relating to mobilization of resources, Inclusive growth.

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of economic challenges inherited by the next government, focusing on the surge in public debt under the Modi administration and the potential strategies for debt reduction.
Context:
  • As the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government concludes its second term, the incoming government post the April-May 2024 national elections inherits a substantial legacy of public debt exceeding 80% of India’s GDP.
  • This marks a significant increase from the 66.4% ratio during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime in 2010-11.

More about the news:

Historical Debt-GDP Trends:

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) data reveals that the general government debt, encompassing both domestic and external liabilities of the Centre and states, touched 84.4% of GDP in 2003-04 under the earlier NDA government.
  • This ratio declined to a low of 66.4% in 2010-11 but gradually rose to 70.4% in 2018-19.
  • However, during the Modi government’s second term, it peaked at 88.5% in 2020-21 and has since slightly eased to 81% in the following fiscal years.

Public Debt Components and Fiscal Responsibility:

  • Government debt includes outstanding domestic and foreign loans, along with other liabilities.
  • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) law enacted in 2003 aimed to bring down the general government debt to 60% of GDP by 2024-25.
  • However, budgeted figures for 2024-25 indicate a deviation from this target, with the Centre’s total liabilities exceeding the original 40% target.

Impact on Interest Payments:

  • The increase in debt levels correlates with rising interest payments for the Centre.
  • The interest-to-GDP ratio declined from 4.7% in 2002-03 to 3.1% by 2010-11, stabilized around 3-3.1% until 2019-20, and surged to 3.6% in the current and ensuing fiscal years.

Factors Contributing to Debt Increase:

  • The primary driver of the escalating debt is the COVID-19-induced disruptions, compelling governments to borrow more for additional public health and social safety net expenditures amid revenue decline.
  • The combined gross fiscal deficit of the Centre and states rose significantly from 5.8% and 7.2% of GDP in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to 13.1% and 10.4% in the next two fiscal years.

Potential Strategies for Debt Reduction:

  • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act’s original targets have been practically set aside.
  • The Modi government has opted for a new fiscal consolidation “glide path,” aiming for a deficit-to-GDP ratio “below 4.5%” by 2025-26.
  • Fiscal consolidation, high nominal GDP growth, and a combination of both may be necessary to address the current debt challenges, stemming from the aftermath of COVID-19.
  • The government’s ability to strike a balance between reducing debt and fostering economic growth will be crucial.

What is Public Debt?

About:

  • Public debt refers to the total amount of money that a government owes to external creditors and domestic lenders.
  • In India, public debt comprises all obligations of the Union government that are required to be settled using funds from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Main Types:

  • External Debt: This is the portion of a country’s debt owed to foreign creditors, including foreign governments, international organisations, and private entities outside the country.
  • Internal Debt: This is the debt owed to lenders within the country, including individuals, banks, and other domestic institutions.Internal debt is further categorised into marketable and non-marketable securities.

Objectives:

  • Financing Government Expenditure: One primary objective is to provide a stable and reliable source of funding for government expenditures, especially during times of budget deficits.
  • Stabilising the Economy: Public debt can be strategically used as a counter-cyclical measure to stabilise the economy during economic downturns. Increased government spending through borrowing can stimulate economic activity.
  • Managing Liquidity: Public debt can serve as a tool for managing liquidity within the financial system, allowing governments to control the money supply and interest rates.
  • To Finance Development Plans: Public debt can be employed to fund critical infrastructure projects, including the construction of roads, bridges, and public utilities, thereby fostering economic development, and supporting the advancement of education, health services, and other essential sectors.

Measuring Mechanisms:

  • Public debt is expressed as a percentage of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), known as the debt-to-GDP ratio.
  • A higher ratio indicates a larger debt burden relative to the size of the economy.
PYQ: The public expenditure management is a challenge to the government of India in the context of budget-making during the post-liberalization period. Clarify it. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2019) (250 words/15m)
Practice Question:  Evaluate the factors contributing to the increase in public debt and analyze the potential strategies for debt reduction. How can the government strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and economic growth to address the challenges posed by the escalating debt? (250 words/15 m)

3. MLAs return as Champai faces floor test today.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – State Legislature

Understanding floor tests is vital for UPSC aspirants to assess political stability and constitutional adherence in state governance.

Context

  •  JMM-led Jharkhand government faces a crucial floor test with legislators returning from Hyderabad; Former CM Hemant Soren cleared to participate

Additional information on this news:

  • Members of the JMM-led ruling alliance returned to Ranchi from Hyderabad for Chief Minister Champai Soren’s crucial floor test.
  • Former CM Hemant Soren, currently under ED custody, is cleared to participate.

What is Floor Test?

  • The floor test in Indian state legislature is a crucial procedure to determine the majority support for the ruling party or coalition.
  • It is typically conducted when there is a doubt about the government’s stability due to a no-confidence motion or other political developments.
  • During the floor test, the Chief Minister needs to prove the majority by securing a simple majority of votes among the present and voting members.
  • The process takes place on the floor of the legislative assembly, where members openly vote either in favor or against the government.
  • The outcome of the floor test determines whether the government retains power or if there is a change in leadership.

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of floor tests in ensuring political stability and upholding constitutional principles in Indian state legislatures.

(150 words/10 m)

4. Ergosphere: making a black hole work

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Space

Relevant for UPSC as it involves advanced concepts in astrophysics, gravitational singularities, and potential applications of rotating black holes.
Context
  • The article discusses the unique features of rotating black holes, particularly the ergosphere, a region beyond the event horizon where matter and energy can be extracted.
  • Scientists explore the potential of utilizing the ergosphere for energy gain and angular momentum loss.

Additional information on this news:

  • Rotating black holes, or Kerr black holes, feature an outer region called the ergosphere.
  • Black holes form when massive stars run out of fuel, resulting in a core implosion.
  • The center of a black hole contains a gravitational singularity, where general relativity breaks down.
  • The event horizon is a sphere around the singularity, and anything entering it cannot escape without exceeding the speed of light.
  • Beyond the event horizon, rotating black holes have an ergosphere, a larger sphere allowing objects to enter and exit if moving fast enough.
  • The term ‘ergosphere’ derives from the Greek word ‘ergon,’ meaning ‘work.’
  • Matter and energy can be extracted from the ergosphere, unlike beyond the event horizon.
  • Scientists propose using the ergosphere to accelerate objects along the black hole’s rotation, gaining energy while causing the black hole to lose angular momentum.

5. Panchayats earn only 1% of their revenue through taxes.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity

Critical for UPSC as it addresses challenges in Panchayati Raj finances, emphasising decentralisation and local empowerment for effective governance.
Context
  • The article highlights the financial dependence of Panchayati Raj Institutions on external grants, with only 1% of revenue generated independently.
  • It emphasizes the need for decentralization to empower local leaders, as suggested by the Reserve Bank of India’s 2022-23 report.

 Additional information on this news:

  • Panchayats generate only 1% of their revenue, relying heavily on grants from the State and Centre.
  • Data reveals 80% of revenue comes from Central government grants, with only 15% from State government grants.
  • Panchayats operate at three levels: gram sabhas, panchayat samithis, and zila parishads, handling various tasks.
  • Dependence on external funds leads to interference from higher tiers, impacting autonomy.
  • Past protests highlight issues, including delays in fund release, forcing the use of private funds.
  • The Reserve Bank of India’s 2022-23 report emphasizes the need for decentralization to empower local leaders and officials.
  • Panchayats recorded a total revenue of ₹35,354 crore, with only ₹737 crore generated through their own tax revenue.

Financing of Panchayati Raj Institutions

Issues:

  • Limited tax base: Reliant on property taxes and user charges, often insufficient for development needs.
  • Inadequate devolution of funds: Central and state governments hold onto a large share of resources, limiting panchayat autonomy.
  • Inefficient collection: Weak administrative capacity and corruption hinder effective tax collection.
  • Unclear resource allocation: Lack of transparency and accountability in fund distribution from higher tiers.
  • Limited income-generating activities: Restricted legal and regulatory frameworks hinder diverse revenue streams.
  • Lack of capacity building: Inadequate training and resources for panchayat officials to manage finances effectively.

Way Forward:

  • Expand tax base: Explore new taxes like professional tax, advertisement tax, and user charges for specific services.
  • Increase devolution: Advocate for higher share of central and state taxes, based on needs and performance.
  • Strengthen tax administration: Invest in technology, capacity building, and anti-corruption measures.
  • Transparency and accountability: Develop clear guidelines for fund allocation, regular audits, and citizen participation.
  • Promote self-reliance: Enable panchayats to undertake income-generating activities within legal frameworks.
  • Capacity building: Provide training and resources for financial management, project planning, and resource mobilization.
  • Community mobilization: Encourage citizen participation in resource generation and financial oversight.

PYQ: Assess the importance of Panchayat system in India as a part of local government. Apart from government grants, what sources the Panchayats can look out for financing developmental projects.

(250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018)

Practice Question:  How does the heavy reliance of Panchayati Raj Institutions on external grants impact local governance? Discuss the importance of decentralization for effective financial autonomy. (250 words/15 m)

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