30TH OCTOBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Annual Survey on Education Report (ASER)

News: The ASER Wave 1 Survey was recently released since the COVID-19 crisis interrupted this years’ trajectory.

About ASER Survey

  • This is an annual survey (published by education non-profit Pratham ) that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India. It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India.

Methodology:

  • ASER tools and procedures are designed by ASER Centre, the research and assessment arm of Pratham.
  • The survey itself is coordinated by ASER Centre and facilitated by the Pratham network. It is conducted by close to 30,000 volunteers from partner organisations in each district.
  • All kinds of institutions partner with ASER: colleges, universities, NGOs, youth groups, women’s organisations, self-help groups and others.
  • The ASER model has been adapted for use in several countries around the world: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Mali and Senegal.

Which parameters are taken into consideration?

  • Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey. This design enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.
  • In each rural district, 30 villages are sampled. In each village, 20 randomly selected households are surveyed. Information on schooling status is collected for all children living in sampled households who are in the age group 3-16.
  • Children in the age group 5-16 are tested in basic reading and basic arithmetic. The same test is administered to all children. The highest level of reading tested corresponds to what is expected in Std 2; in 2012 this test was administered in 16 regional languages. In recent years, this has included household size, parental education, and some information on household assets.

Highlights of the report:

Enrollments:

  • 5%of rural children are not currently enrolled for the 2020 school year, up from 4% in 2018.
  • This difference is the sharpest among the youngest children(6 to 10) where 5.3% of rural children had not yet enrolled in school in 2020, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
  • Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, families are waiting for the physical opening of schools to enroll their youngest children, with about 10% of six-year-olds not in school.
  • Among 15-16 year-olds, however, enrollment levels are slightly higher than in 2018.
  • The proportion of boys enrolled in government schools has risen from 62.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2020, while for girls, that number has gone up from 70% to 73% in the corresponding period.
  • Patterns show a slight shift toward government schools, with private schools seeing a drop in enrolment in all age groups.
  • The Centre has now permitted States to start reopening schools if they can follow Covid-19 safety protocols but the majority of the country’s 25 crore students are still at home.

Online education:

  • Among enrolled children,8% live in families that own at least one smartphone which was merely 36.5% in 2018. About 11% of families bought a new phone after the lockdown, of which 80% were smartphones.
  • WhatsApp is by far the most popular mode of transmitting learning materials to students, with 75% of students receiving input via this app.

Learning material

  • Overall more than 80%of children said they had textbooks for their current grade.
  • This proportion was higher among students enrolled in government schools (84.1%) than in private ones (72.2%). In Bihar, less than 8% got such materials from their schools, along with 20% in West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • More than 80% of rural children in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat received such input.

Learning Activities:

  • Most children (70.2%) did some form of a learning activity through material shared by tutors or family members themselves, with or without regular input.
  • 11% had access to live online classes, and 21% had videos or recorded classes, with much higher levels in private schools. About 60% studied from their textbooks and 20% watched classes broadcast on TV.

2. EOS-01 satellite

News: India would launch its latest earth observation satellite EOS-01 and nine international customer spacecraft onboard it’s PSLV-C49. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C49) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch these ten satellites on 7th November 2020. It will be PSLV’s 51st Mission.

What is Earth Observation Satellite (EOS)?

  • An EOS or remote sensing satellite is a satellite used or designed for Earth observation (EO) from orbit, including spy satellites and similar ones intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, cartography and others.
  • Starting with IRS-1A in 1988, ISRO has launched many operational remote sensing satellites.
  • Today, India has one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation.
  • Currently, *thirteen* operational satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit and *four* in Geostationary orbit.
  • The data from these satellites are used for several applications covering agriculture, water resources, urban planning, rural development, mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, ocean resources and disaster management.

EOS-01:

  • It is an earth observation satellite and is intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support. Earth observation satellites are the satellites equipped with remote sensing technology. Earth observation is the gathering of information about Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems. Many earth observation satellites have been employed on sun-synchronous orbit.
  • Other earth observation satellites launched by ISRO include RESOURCESAT- 2, 2A, CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A, 2B, RISAT-1 and 2, OCEANSAT-2, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL and SCATSAT-1, INSAT-3DR, 3D, etc.
  • Nine Customer Satellites: These are being launched as part of a commercial agreement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), Department of Space.
  • NSIL, incorporated in 2019 (under the Companies Act, 2013), is a wholly owned Government of India company, under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  • NSIL is the commercial arm of ISRO with the primary responsibility of enabling Indian industries to take up high technology space related activities and is also responsible for promotion and commercial exploitation of the products and services emanating from the Indian space programme.

The major business areas of the NSIL include:

  • Production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) through industry. Production and marketing of space-based services, including launch services and space-based applications like transponder leasing, remote sensing and mission support services.
  • Building of Satellites(both Communication and Earth Observation) as per user requirements.
  • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO centres / units and constituent institutions of Dept. of Space.
  • Marketing spin off technologies and products/ services emanating out of ISRO activities.
  • Recently, the Government of India has created the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), an independent nodal agency under the Department of Space, to provide a boost to the private sector participating in space-related activities or using India’s space resources.

3. Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement

News: India and the United States have signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which, along with the two agreements signed earlier — the LEMOA and the COMCASA.

Foundational Agreements:

  • The two agreements signed earlier are— the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA).
  • This completes a troika of “foundational pacts” for deep military cooperation between the two countries.

What is BECA?

  • BECA will help India get real-time access to American geospatial intelligence that will enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
  • Through the sharing of information on maps and satellite images, it will help India access topographical and aeronautical data, and advanced products that will aid in navigation and targeting.

Significance

  • This could be a key to Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation between India and the US.
  • BECA will provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the adversary.
  • Besides the sailing of ships, flying off aircraft, fighting of wars, and location of targets, geospatial intelligence is also critical to the response to natural disasters.

About LEMOA:

  • LEMOA was the first of the three pacts to be signed in August 2016. LEMOA allows the militaries of the US and India to replenish from each other’s bases, and access supplies, spare parts and services from each other’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
  • LEMOA is extremely useful for India-US Navy-to-Navy cooperation since the two countries are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.

Significance

  • The critical element that underpins LEMOA is mutual trust. Without trust, no country will be willing to expose its military and strategic assets such as warships to the facilities of another country.
  • The signing of LEMOA was in itself an affirmation of the mutual trust between the two militaries, and its application will enhance the trust.
  • It took almost a decade to negotiate LEMOA, and the exercise in a sense bridged the trust deficit between India and the US and paved the way for the other two foundational pacts.

About COMCASA

  • COMCASA was signed in September 2018, after the first 2+2 dialogue during Mrs. Swarajs’ term as EAM.
  • The pact allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, and the aircraft and ships of the two countries, can communicate through secure networks during times of both peace and war.
  • The signing of COMCASA paved the way for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces.

How India will be benefitted?

  • The strengthening of the mechanisms of cooperation between the two militaries must be seen in the context of an increasingly aggressive China.
  • Amid the ongoing standoff on the LAC in Ladakh — the longest and most serious in three decades — India and the US intensified under-the-radar intelligence and military cooperation at an unprecedented level.
  • These conversations facilitated information-sharing between the two countries, including the sharing of high-end satellite images, telephone intercepts, and data on Chinese troops and weapons deployment along the LAC.

Conclusion

  • Such agreements mark the enhancement of mutual trust and a commitment to the long-term strategic relationship. The US wants India to move away from Russian equipment and platforms, as it feels this may expose its technology and information to Moscow.
  • So far, India is going ahead with the purchase of the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia, and this has been a sticking point for American interlocutors.
  • For its part, India is wary of Pakistan’s deep-rooted ties with the Pentagon, and Washington’s dependence on Rawalpindi for access to Afghanistan as well as its exit strategy. But, because of the clear and present danger from China, New Delhi’s strategic embrace of Washington is the obvious outcome.

4. Joint Committee of Parliament

News: The Joint Committee of Parliament on the Data Protection Bill sought an affidavit from Twitter Inc., the U.S.-based parent company of the social media platform, asking them to explain why it had shown Ladakh as a part of China.

Background:

  • Display of wrong map is not only a question of the sensitivity of India or Indians. It is a question about national integrity and sovereignty of the country, and not respecting that is a criminal offence.
  • And displaying Indian map improperly and incorrectly is an offence of treason and attracts imprisonment of seven years.

What is a JPC?

  • A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is set up to examine a particular bill presented before the Parliament, or for the purpose of investigating cases of financial irregularities in any government activity.
  • The JPC is an ad-hoc body. It is set up for a given period of time and is aimed at addressing a specific issue.

Composition:

  • In order to set up a JPC, a motion is passed in one House and supported by the other House.
  • The committee’s members are decided by Parliament.
  • The number of members can vary. There are twice as many Lok Sabha members as the Rajya Sabha.

Powers and Functions:

  • A JPC is authorised to collect evidence in oral or written form or demand documents in connection with the matter. The proceedings and findings of the committee are confidential, except in matters of public interest.
  • The government can take the decision to withhold a document if it is considered prejudicial to the safety or interest of the State. The Speaker has the final word in case of a dispute over calling for evidence.
  • The committee can invite interested parties for inquiry and summon people to appear before it.
  • The committee gets disbanded following the submission of its report to Parliament.