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January 12

    NATIONAL

    • In A First, Collegium Recommends Woman Advocate For Direct Appointment As SC Judge

    Indu Malhotra will be the first woman lawyer to be directly recommended from the Bar to Supreme Court judgeship.

    In a historic decision, the Supreme Court Collegium led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra unanimously recommended the name of senior advocate Indu Malhotra for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court.

    Sources said that the Collegium has also recommended the name of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, Justice K.M. Joseph, who had quashed the President's rule in Uttarakhand, as Supreme Court judge. The recommendations were made in a Collegium meeting held on January 10. Now, the Union Law Ministry has to take a call.

    This is the first time in history that a woman lawyer has been recommended for direct elevation from the Bar to a Supreme Court judgeship. The decision, experts say, is a rare recognition of the professional talent and contribution of Ms. Malhotra, a reputed senior advocate practising in the apex court.

    • Virtual Aadhar ID

    The move to introduce an “untested” virtual ID to address security concerns over Aadhaar database is a step in the right direction, but may be a case of too little, too late, according to experts, as many of the 119 crore Aadhaar holders have already shared their 12-digit numbers with various entities.

    The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) introduced the concept of a virtual ID that can be used in lieu of the Aadhaar number at the time of authentication, thus eliminating the need to share and store Aadhaar numbers. It can be generated only by the Aadhaar number-holder via the UIDAI website, Aadhaar enrolment centre, or its mobile application.

    Experts pointed out that the virtual ID is voluntary and the Aadhaar number will still need to be used at some places.

    • Space Companies Bet Big On PSLV

    At least three overseas space companies have bet big on the PSLV-C40 launch. They each have put a 100-kg-class microsatellite on it as a testbed of their potential future constellations.

    Also, at least two older constellation operators have brought new batches to be put in space by the Indian light-lifting launcher.

    The PSLV, resuming after a failure in August, is placing these and 25 nanosatellites (up to 10 kg) in orbits 505 km away from Earth. The nanosats also carry experiments of companies and universities from multiple countries.

    EDITORIAL

    • Privatisation Of Air India

    The decision to allow up to 49% overseas ownership, including by a foreign airline, in Air India.

    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in 2017 gave its nod for a strategic disinvestment of the airline.

    opportunity the state-owned flag carrier presents.

    Carrier’s accumulated debt is about ₹50,000 crore.

    The parliamentary panel says the government should review its decision on Air India privatisation and explore the possibility of ‘an alternative to disinvestment’. Strongly recommending that the airline’s debt “should be written off by the government”, the revised draft report said, “Air India should be given a chance for at least five years to revive themselves”. The tenure of five years indicates the end of the turnaround plan and FRP period in 2022. It said the airline’s debt was “due to policy directions of the ministry of civil aviation. Air India may be permitted to function as a government PSU with less government control”.

    • Right Of Children To Free And Compulsory Education (RTE)

    Free and compulsory education of children in the 6 to 14 age group in India became a fundamental right when, in 2002, Article 21-A was inserted in the 86th Amendment to the Constitution. This right was to be governed by law, as the state may determine, and the enforcing legislation for this came eight years later, as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2010, or the RTE Act.

    The recruitment, service conditions and redeployment of teachers are primarily in the domain of respective State Governments and UT Administrations. However, the Central Government through the flagship programmes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) at elementary level and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) at secondary level provides assistance to the State Governments and UTs for additional teachers to maintain appropriate PTR as per the prescribed norms for various levels of schooling.

    The RTE Act is a game-changer in that it establishes that the onus to ensure free and compulsory education lies on the state. However, the ‘compulsory’ and ‘state liability’ part needs to be imbibed by the educational bureaucracy, which is now lacking.

    • Reforms Needed In School Education

    Though the Act envisaged that the state, i.e. State governments and panchayats, would aggressively ensure that each child is brought into the schooling system and also “retained” for eight years, it has been business as usual.The problem now is more about dropouts than children who were never enrolled.

    Pupil-teacher ratio (PTR): 33% of the schools in the country did not have the requisite number of teachers, as prescribed in the RTE norms, for PTR at the school level. The percentage of schools that were PTR-compliant varied from 100% in Lakshadweep to around 15% in Bihar. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 in its Schedule lays down Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) for both primary and upper primary schools. At primary level the PTR should be 30:1 and at the upper primary level it should be 35:1.

    The academic calendar will be decided by the local authority, which, for most States and Union Territories, is the panchayat. This provision recognises the vast cultural and regional diversities within the country such as local festivals, sowing and harvesting seasons, and even natural calamities as a result of which schools do not function academically. So if panchayats, perhaps at the district level, decide the working days and holidays, this would not only exponentially increase attendance and teaching-learning but also strengthen local panchayats, being closest to the field, to take ownership of their schools. For inexplicable reasons, the educational bureaucracy has not allowed the decentralisation of academic schedules even in districts.