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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (21st July)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. The Hindu explains: No-confidence motions

No-Confidence Motion

  1. According to rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the Lok Sabha, a no-confidence motion (NCM) is “a motion expressing want of confidence in the Council of Ministers.”
  2. This motion can be moved when “the Member asking for leave shall, by 10.00 hours on that day give to the Secretary-General a written notice of the motion which such member proposes to move.”
  3. The Speaker then, once satisfied that the motion is in order, will ask the House if the motion can be adopted.

Article 75 of the Indian Constitution

  1. Article 75(3) states thatthe Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People.
  2. This means that if the Ministry loses the confidence of the “Lok Sabha”, all ministers from both the Houses of Parliament has to resign.
  3. This deduces that the government shall stay in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of Majority of Members in Lok Sabha.
  4. This means that ministers fall and stand together. This is called Rule of Collective Responsibility”.

Passing of a NCM

  1. Those Members that support the motion will have to rise in their seats, and with a minimum of 50 Members’ approval, the motion can be moved. In 1952, the lower limit of a no-confidence was at 30 MPs.
  2. A no-confidence motion needs a majority vote to pass the House.
  3. If individuals or parties abstain from voting, those numbers will be removed from the overall strength of the House and then the majority will be taken into account.

Some Facts related to No-Confidence Motion in India

  1. No-Confidence Motion can only be introduced in Loksabha.
  2. B. Kripalani, or Acharya Kripalani as he was known, moved the first-ever no-confidence motion in August 1963 against the Nehru government after the India-China war.
  3. The first motion that almost passed muster, and led to the falling of a government was that by Y.B. Chavan against the Morarji Desai government. Only almost, because Desai resigned before the motion could be put to vote.
  4. Up till now , only three govts have been defeated in NCM, led by Prime Ministers:
  • VP Singh – 1990
  • HD Devegowda – 1997
  • AB Vajpayee – 1999
  1. Government led by Indira Gandhi (1966-1975) has faced NCM 12 times.

2. A higher abdication

  1. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has now put out the draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission) Act, 2018
  2. It was anticipated that the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act would be replaced by an avant-garde legislation capable of comprehensively handling the present and future problems of higher education in the country

How the current legislation is no different from the previous one

  1. The spirit of Clause 15 (3) of the draft Act is no different to Section 12 of the UGC Act where wide powers are given to the Commission
  2. Research, learning outcomes and academic performance are already within the purview of universities
  3. The standards laid down by regulators invariably cater to the institutions which are at the bottom of the pyramid but are applied to all universities, including the best, inhibiting excellence

Positive measures

  1. Separating the funding functions of the Commission is a positive step and will rid it of the bad name it had acquired over the years
  2. It can now concentrate more on formulation of regulations, which is its core duty

Need of single regulator in education

  1. Both the National Knowledge Commission as well as the Yashpal Committee had, as long ago as in 2008, strongly recommended the setting up of a single regulatory authority
  2. Presently, there are 13 regulators in the area of higher education, each functioning independently and often times issuing contradictory regulations
  3. The draft mentions that in the case of Bar Council of India and Council of Architecture, their role will be limited to professional practice, implying that the education part will be with the university system

Accreditation system

  1. Accreditation is an important tool for quality improvement in learning outcomes
  2. The draft also empowers the commission to set up a robust accreditation system
  3. But instead of creating an autonomous accrediting agency, the draft proposes of making it a subordinate body of the commission
  4. This perpetuates the present unhealthy system which conflates the sanctioning, now authorisation role, with that of assessing and is akin to the cop and magistrate being rolled in one

Awarding degrees

  1. One of the fundamentals of the present UGC Act specifies that degrees can be awarded only by a university deemed to be a university and an institution specially empowered by Parliament in this behalf
  2. The present draft removes that restriction and by virtue of authorisation by UGC, any higher education institution in India, whether university or not, can become entitled to award diploma, degree etc
  3. The danger is that it could lead to a free-for-all situation
  4. On the other hand, if handled judiciously, this can pave the way for more autonomous institutions in the country and free the good colleges from the stranglehold of the universities
  5. The present UGC Act empowers it under Section 22 (3) to define a degree, including its duration and nomenclature
  6. The present draft removes that provision which can create chaos as different authorities will be free to give different nomenclature to a degree/diploma with variable duration
  7.  It will not only create difficulty in terms of equivalence and acceptance but will also cause great distress in explaining the disparity in terms of the standards of such degrees

Affiliation system

  1. The present system of affiliation has had a restrictive effect on the quality of higher education
  2. The draft has exacerbated the situation by implicitly allowing any university, including private and deemed-to-be-universities, to affiliate
  3. This could lead to an unhealthy competition and scramble for colleges for affiliation, especially by private universities, for purely commercial reasons

Strengthening online education

  1. Online education and blended learning are the order of the day and probably also of the future
  2. Open and Distance Learning is inextricably linked with the face-to-face education mode
  3. The draft does well by stating in Section 31 (3) that the two will remain together and no separate body will be created

Way Forward

  1. The bill was a crucial opportunity to bring about transformational legislation impacting on the quality of higher education in the country for years to come
  2. In its present shape, it is more of the same, with no radical departure from the past

3. Fault lines in a ‘landmark’ judgment

  • The verdict on the SC/ST Atrocities Act marks the collapse of the constitutional scheme to protect the weaker sections of society as well as a certain intolerance of persons in high places towards requirements of social justice.

The framing guidelines on how to deal with a person accused under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

  • An innocent should not be punished. There should not be terror in society. We do not want any member of the Scheduled Castes (SCs)/Scheduled Tribes (STs) to be deprived of his rights.
  • The judgment that the Atrocities Act is creating “terror in society”, no sensible person can question the need to protect those who are innocent from arbitrary arrest.
  • All the three organs of the state are united in their lack of fidelity to both the letter and spirit of the Constitution insofar as it is concerned with the rights of the weaker sections.
  • The judgment is concerned with a limited aspect of the Act — protecting innocent officers and employees in government and private sectors from the misuse of the Act (especially “when no prima facie case is made out or the case is patently false or mala fide”).
  • But, the judgment has ended up conveying a false and dangerous message that the Atrocities Act is “a charter for exploitation or oppression,” and “an instrument of blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance”.

‘Minor’ infractions

  • For example, while the court appears to have mistaken a large number of acquittals in atrocities cases to be false cases, the general consensus is that police apathy, the social and the economic might of the accused and the dependence of SC/STs on those accused would have resulted in acquittals.
  • There is no precise data on the scale and extent to which the Act has been misused by SC/ST employees.

Procedural lapse in making policies that affect the SC/STs.

  • The court’s single-minded mission to end “terror in society” rendered it oblivious to the constitutional procedure to be followed in making policies that affect the SC/STs.
  • Article 338 clause 9 stipulates: The Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission [National Commission for Scheduled Castes] on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Castes.
  • Article 338A, which created the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, provides the same procedure (as per Clause 9) in case of STs.
  • Therefore, when the court wears the policy-making hat in matters related to SC/STs, it too is constitutionally-bound to consult these commissions.
  • It is not just Article 338 but Part XVI of the Constitution, of which the Article is a part, has long ago been reduced to a charade by successive governments.

What is the use of a principle if it is not followed?

  • One is confronted with the dilemma — whether to retain the ideal of social justice in the statute book even if it is not followed or excise it since the ideal is found to be out of tune with the new India.
  • 123rd Amendment of the constitutionwhich seeks to create the new National Commission for Backward Classes under a new Article 338B.
  • This too has clause 9 in verbatim. At least the government must explain why it is replicating a consultative procedure for the Other Backward Classes which remains a dead letter in the case of SC/STs.

Conclusion

  • The task of balancing the rights of innocent persons facing false accusations and the need to accord legitimacy to the Atrocities Act requires compassion, equanimity, reverence for the Constitution and awareness so even impromptu comments from the top court will acquire the force of law. Unfortunately, the verdict lost that balance.

4. New cell to resolve child custody disputes

  • The government has told Parliament that a mediation cell would be set up under the apex child rights body, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), to resolve child custody disputes arising from cases of transnational marital discord.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

  • It is a statutory body, set up in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament
  • It falls under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development
  • The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.

Scientific Research Infrastructure for Maintenance and Networks (SRIMAN)

What was the need for this Policy?

  • In recent years India has seen a growth in acquisition of research equipment (mostly imported). However, access to equipment’s needs attention.
  • It is common to find in Indian laboratories, expensive equipment’s lying idle or underutilized.
  • According to a recent study by NSTMIS, DST (2013), 94% of the research equipments used in India are imported while only 6% are being manufactured indigenously.
    • Further, the study showed that large number of equipment’s are not shared and are marred with issues related to maintenance and want of spares.
    • This adds to the burden of research infrastructure costs.
  • A suitable ecosystem for sharing of scientific equipments is a solution to this problem. A culture of collaboration/sharing between institutions helps in optimum utilization of equipments resulting in better maintenance of the equipment.

So, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has come up with this policy document.

Features

  • Procurement and maintenance of equipment and infrastructure for research
  • Providing access and sharing of scientific equipment and infrastructure
  • Disposal of scientific equipment and infrastructure
  • Capacity Building of operators and technicians for efficient operations
  • Monitoring of usage of expensive scientific research infrastructure
  • Infrastructure Management for efficient operations

It plans to hire out to researchers all lab equipment that cost more than ₹10 lakh.

How does it work?

  • It envisages institutions declaring on a website how often their instruments would be available for use by those outside the department or university.
  • Those who would like to use, for example, a DNA-sequencing machine, would have to pay a fee and specify the purpose and time they would want it for.

Advantages

  • The Govt would now rent instruments in government labs generating a steady rental income
  • This would reduce the amount of time such expensive instruments remain idle.
  • The policy also aims through its proper implementation to increase scientific output by wider access and reduce brain drain by providing access to wide section of researchers.

5. The fake academia

Fake journal publication

  1. In May, the US Federal Trade Commission filed a law suit against a little-known publishing outfit in Hyderabad, OMICS
  2. The suit filed in the District Court of Nevada alleged that the claims on the websites of the journals published by OMICS — peer reviews, list of editors, access to credible databases — are “phony”
  3. The firm has been called guilty of charging authors for publishing their articles

Predatory publishing is now a business

  1. The problem of predatory publishing goes deeper than the activities of one firm
  2. India has emerged as a hub for the predatory publishing business
  3. There are more than 300 firms in the country that claim to publish papers in “international journals” for a fee that ranges from $30 to $1,800
  4. In a survey done in 2017, it was revealed that 27 per cent of the world’s predatory journal publishers were based in India and about 35 per cent of the corresponding authors in these journals were Indians

Reasons for rise in this business

  1. The problem stems from the UGC’s quantitative scoring system, the Academic Performance Indicator, in which publishing is a key constituent
  2. The system demands that academics publish as many papers as possible before their promotions are due
  3. This makes the quick publishing predatory journals a tempting option for many in academia
  4. The malaise should also be seen in the context of a regulatory mechanism that doesn’t give a free hand to universities to establish norms of research and publication, and develop the capacities of their faculty by providing them funding and conference support

Actions by regulators

  1. In May, the UGC removed more than 4,000 journals of “questionable repute” from its approved list of publications
  2. Last year, another exercise by the regulator to streamline its list of approved publications attracted criticism because it indiscriminately targeted open-source publications

Way forward

  1. The proliferation of predatory journals is a symptom of the failure of the country’s academia to develop a sound publishing ethic
  2. This finding underscores the needs for credible and independent assessors who can judge the quality of academic publications

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