The world is readjusting itself with Covid-19. We are slowly moving towards finally accepting what might be the “new normal”. The pandemic has made nations reflect on their failings as providers to the people and also made us re- evaluate the concept of welfare state.
Jurisprudentially, the concept of state has undergone several changes and dilemmas to reach the point where we are today. There has always been an imbalance between state’s interests and individual interests. The pandemic also added to this imbalance and it was seen in the way different nations adopted different approaches to deal with the pandemic.
One of the most affected sectors globally has been the education sector. The United Nations Report titled “Education during Covid-19 and beyond” published in August 2020, states that the pandemic affected 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries. Closing of schools has affected 94% of the world student population and 99% world student population from the lower and middle income groups.
The statistics are not only alarming but also throw light on the state of education in various countries, the failure to provide for better access to education which also is a Constitutional mandate in most of the countries across the world. With education being affected, the report also suggested that most of the youth population might drop out from schools next year due to the economic crisis this pandemic has brought along.
Given the dire situation of online education most of the countries opted for a physical reopening of educational institutions in a phased manner by ensuring all the protective measures in place.
Schools in India were shut since mid March and only some of them could go online. Given the lack of technology penetration at grassroots level online schooling was not a viable option for everyone.
The Ministry of Human Affairs issued detailed guidelines for reopening of schools from 15th October. However, the States were given the discretion depending upon the Covid-19 situation in the given state. One of the highlights of the guidelines was that the students cannot be forced to attend school. The parents will also have to give a written consent for the child attending the school which is mandatory.Various states have given a green signal for the schools to be reopened and many plan to do so.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the states which allowed for physical reopening of schools, this led to a spike in Covid cases. 575 Students and 829 teachers were infected. However the authorities are not keen on shutting the schools because the cases are really low in terms of the student population who are attending schools. The Government states that online education has really affected the students who are not economically well off to afford technology which is why it is important to keep the schools running.
However, should this approach towards students and teachers being affected by Covid be encouraged?
Access to Education as a Constitutional mandate:
The Constitution of India has guaranteed fundamental rights to its citizens, right to education is one of them.Shutting of schools has severely affected access to education. As per UNESCO report, 14 Crore students from the primary and 13 crore students from the secondary sector have been affected. Various governments have taken initiatives to boost education in the country. With the formal recognition of education as a fundamental right in the Constitution it was important to make it available especially during the pandemic.
The Government of India launched various initiatives like the SHAGUN online junction which comprises DIKSHA platform, e-pathshala and National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER). The role of these platforms is to give access to various audios, textbooks and other educational content for students free of cost.
SWAYAM is another program for students of 9th to 12th standard with study materials for graduate level entry preparations. This is in collaboration with various regulators like University Grants Commission, NCERT, AICTE, National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) and many others. Apart from giving access to online portals, the government has also taken initiatives to reach the students via television with the launch of Swayam Prabha, which is a collection of 32 educational DTH channels for students.
This pandemic has pushed the education system to go digital however, India doesn’t seem quite ready for the same. According to a survey only 25% of urban households and 15% of rural households have access to the Internet, which has highly affected the access to education during this pandemic. Various schools and universities across the country aren’t equipped enough to go digital. This pandemic has shed light on our improper execution of various schemes and laws that have made us rethink where we stand on providing access to education.
Is reopening the solution to the problem of access to education?
Keeping the above mentioned points in mind, physical reopening of schools will create a better access to education than any other mode. However, the current situation is proving to be fatal from both ends. Reopening has led to a surge in cases with students affected and few of the teachers having lost their lives to the virus. Still various states have made a decision to reopen the schools in the near future by ensuring all the safety protocols are followed.
However, since the guidelines give a discretion to attend offline schools, it has also affected the access to education as health remains an equally legitimate concern. Two of the important rights of the Constitution are at crossroads during this pandemic. Whereas access and right to education is affected, the right to health has become a primary concern for many.
In a survey conducted by Local Circles it was found that 71% parents will not send their kids to school even if they reopen, 20% parents were willing to do so and the remaining percentage of parents remained undecided on the matter. The state Governments are also consulting parents and parent associations before reopening of schools and majority of them believe it is not a good plan to reopen. Teacher’s associations across the country have also had a similar stance on the situation. And the results in Andhra Pradesh only add to the pre existing anxiety and notions of surge in cases after reopening of schools.
Europe has emerged as an epicenter for the second wave of mutant coronavirus. However, schools have still remained open in some of the European countries despite the second wave.
Denmark was one of the first countries to reopen its schools. The reopening of schools took place in phases with all social distancing norms in place. The schools also gave an option to high risk reachers time teach classes using the online platform hence reducing contact. This model works well for Denmark because the population is optimum. In comparison, India has the world’s second highest population, we also lack the infrastructural developments like proper hand washing facilities, washrooms in schools and the like.
Taiwan also reopened its schools and colleges. The use of technology aided with masks and social distancing measures and sanitation measures is what has worked for Taiwan. Providing shields, mask holders, online classes for confirmed cases of Covid students, quarantine measures, role of parents in assisting the school authorities by doing temperature checks on their children and maintaining a record are some of the measures Taiwan has implemented.
Various universities like Harvard chose to go online for the academic year, given the diverse influx of students which would make it difficult to control the spread of the virus. The US has also seen a surge in cases after reopening of schools with teen population being most affected.
It is really a matter of policy and great implementation whether or not schools should be reopened. In the Indian context, they posit various challenges. The current online scheme isn’t for everyone which is creating a greater disparity between the rich and poor. The pandemic has given impetus to boost our technological developments and also highlighted the key areas in education sector which need to be focused upon. Digital India is the most talked about however, we need to reach to the grassroots level to be a truly digitized nation.
The Constitutional mandate of access to education is at crossroads to the right to health in today’s times. The decision of Andhra Pradesh Government to not shut the schools even after so many reported cases although significantly lesser than the compared statistics of the state isn’t a just one. These students are the future of the country. Mental health concerns should also be considered. Going to schools in a pandemic can create severe mental strains on the developing minds. Again, the discretionary nature of guidelines stands at conflict with the access to education. It also reflects the class struggles, parents who can afford internet would not risk sending their child, however, at the grassroots level parents who can’t do the same have no option but to send their child so that lack of education does not become a barrier later in life.
Need for mental health counselors at schools at every level is extremely important especially during and after the pandemic.
The Government should take initiatives to boost online education at places where there is a lack of access to Internet infrastructure.
A proper policy for online education targeting different sectors of the society needs to be formulated.
NGOs, edutech companies, social activists, bureaucrats, panchayats, gram sabhas should play an active role in assisting the implementation of the policies for education.
If schools are to reopen we also need to develop proper infrastructure and facilities for ensuring minimum risk. Availability of washrooms, soaps, sanitizers, masks needs to be ensured. People from the society, companies, NGOs can collaborate with the Government or with each other to ensure proper supplies to schools especially in underprivileged areas.
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THIRD ROUND OF INDIA-UAE CEPA NEGOTIATIONS DUE TO BEGIN IN DELHI ON MONDAY
Union Minister of Commerce and Industries, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal, met the representatives of Aluminium, Copper, and Chemicals and Petrochemicals Industry here today as part of the ongoing multi-stakeholder consultations related to the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations.
The third round of India-UAE CEPA negotiations are scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 06-10 December 2021 wherein both sides aim to conclude the negotiations. Shri Piyush Goyal apprised the representatives from the Industry about the importance of the CEPA in elevating the overall economic and commercial relations with UAE which in turn will not only benefit bilateral trade but also create new jobs and provide wider social and economic opportunities.
Providing a way forward on these discussions, Goyal appreciated the accommodative spirit of the Industry and urged the Industry representatives to continue to support the CEPA negotiations in the same spirit in the wider interests of the nation contributing to the holistic development of multi-sectoral economic value chains in the country.
The Minister also stressed on the potential benefits from the envisaged CEPA agreement for Industries which are labour intensive in nature and also on the numerous complementary spill-over economic benefits, including increased investments, job creation and employment opportunities. Further, industry representatives were also apprised of the strategic importance of the agreement which encompasses deeper bilateral economic engagement and wider market access.
The stakeholders expressed gratitude to the Minister for taking into consideration concerns of Indian Industry and provided constructive inputs on this matter with a view to ensure overall balance between market access and domestic sensitivities.
Rice has a share of more than 45% in the total APEDA basket of exports in April-November 2021-22
India’s exports of agricultural and processed food products witness an increase of more than 13 per cent in the first eight months of current fiscal notwithstanding logistical challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic
Notwithstanding logistical challenges posed by COVID19 pandemic, India’s exports of Agricultural and Processed Food products rose by more than 13 per cent in terms of USD in the first eight months of the current fiscal (April-November, 2021-22) compared to the same period of the previous year.
The export of products under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) ambitincreased from USD 11,671 million in April-November 2020-21to USD 13,261 million in April-November 2021-22.
The target for exports under APEDA basket products has been fixed at USD 23,713 million in 2021-22.
The export of rice was the top forex earner at USD 5937 million during April-November 2021-22, growing 11 per cent over the corresponding period in 2020-21 when it touched USD 5,341million.
Meat, dairy and poultry products exports grew 12 per cent standing at USD 2665 million in April-November 2021-22compared to USD 2371 million in the corresponding eight-month period of 2020-21. Fruits and vegetables exports were up by 12 per cent to touch USD 1720 million during April-November 2021-22 against USD 1536 million in April-November 2020-21.
Exports of cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed items grew by 26 per cent during April-November 2021-22 to touch USD 1418 million against USD 1127 million in April-November, 2020-21. The cashew exports also grew by 29 per cent to USD 302 million in the first eight months of current fiscal compared to same period previous year.
The exports of oil meals declined by 12 per cent to USD 626 million in April-November, 2021-22, compared to same period in 2020-21.
Table: Agricultural and processed food products exports (April-November), 2021-22 vs 2020-21
Exports (April-November 2021-22) in USD million
Exports (April-November 2020-21) in USD million
Note: only oil meals exports declined Year-on-Year
The significant rise in agri-exports is seen as a testimony of the government’s commitment to increase farmers’ income through giving thrust on boosting exports of agricultural and processed food products of the country.
“We continue to focus on creating infrastructure for boosting exports by focusing on clusters in collaboration with state governments while taking into consideration objective of Agriculture Export Policy, 2018,” Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA, said.
APEDA has been engaged with State Governments for the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy. Maharashtra, U.P., Kerala, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, M.P., Mizoram and Meghalaya have finalized the State specific Action Plan for exports while the action plans of other States are at different stages of finalization.
The rise in export of agricultural and processed food products has been largely due to the various initiatives taken by APEDA such as organizing B2B exhibitions in different countries, exploring new potential markets through product specific and general marketing campaigns by active involvement of Indian Embassies.
APEDA has also taken several initiatives to promote geographical indications (GI) registered agricultural and processed food products in India by organizing virtual Buyer Seller Meets on agricultural and food products with the major importing countries across the world.
In order to ensure seamless quality certification of products to be exported, APEDA has recognized 220 labs across India to provide services of testing to a wide range of products andexporters.
APEDA also assists in upgradation and strengthening of recognized laboratories for export testing and residue monitoring plans. APEDA also provides assistance under the financial assistance schemes of infrastructure development, quality improvement and market development for boosting export of agricultural products.
APEDA organizes participation of exporters in the International Trade Fairs, which provides a platform to the exporters to market their food products in the global marketplace. APEDA also organizes national events like AAHAR, Organic World Congress, BioFach India etc. to promote agri-exports.
APEDA also initiates registration of pack-houses for horticulture products for meeting the quality requirements of the international market. Registration of export units for peanut shelling and grading and processing units, for instance, is to ensure quality adherence for the EU and non-EU countries.
APEDA carries out registration of meat processing plants and abattoirs for ensuring compliance with global food safety and quality requirements. Another key initiative includes development and implementation of traceability systems which ensure the food safety and quality compliances of the importing countries. For boosting exports, APEDA compiles and disseminates various international trade analytical information, market access information amongst exporters and address trade enquiries.
PIYUSH GOYAL REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS FOR MITIGATION OF CYCLONE JAWAD
Public Private Partnership necessary for Disaster Management and mitigation and for protecting lives and livelihoods, said Goyal
Piyush Goyal today reviewed preparedness for mitigation of cyclone Jawad.
Under the guidance of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, proactive disaster preparation and management are being institutionalized. Prime Minister has personally reviewed the preparation for Disaster Management and has also given instructions to various Ministries to work with State Governments, industry and all other stake holders to ensure minimal damage to life and property.
In line with these efforts, the Minister for Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Shri Piyush Goyal today reviewed the arrangements and preparations made by the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal today in a Video conference with the State Chief Secretaries concerned. National level Industry Associations like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and PHD Chambers were also represented at the Conference.
The Minister took stock of the preparations being made by the respective State governments. He also reviewed the suggestions for successful mitigation made by Ministries, State Governments, industry bodies and other organizations and appreciated the concerted efforts being made to mitigate the cyclone. He said that this collaboration was a worthy example of cooperative federalism at its best. He also underscored the need for the drawing of a comprehensive action plan towards managing this natural disaster in a most effective way by incorporating the inputs and suggestions given by all stakeholders.
Goyal said that public private partnership is necessary for Disaster Management and mitigation and for protecting the lives and livelihoods of those affected. Observing that the cyclone seems to be a milder one, the Minister said that we must constantly upgrade our learnings and keep upgrading our capabilities. He also called for preparedness in the banking and insurance sectors to tackle the effects of the cyclone.
As per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the low-pressure region in the Bay of Bengal is expected to intensify into Cyclone Jawad and is expected to reach the coast of north Andhra Pradesh – Odisha around the afternoon today, with the wind speed ranging up to 100 kmph.
Job generation: Big scope for expansion of labour intensive plastic, footwear and textile sectors, says Goyal
Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyaltoday called upon the captains of Indian Industry to set ambitious targets as our economy is poised for a sustained spell of rapid growth. Addressing the 5th Meeting of the CII National Council in New Delhi, he said the Industry has a huge role to play in the uplift of the poor and underprivileged.
Goyal encouraged the Industry to have a greater appetite for taking risks, to invest in Industries that may be less profitable at the start, but are labour oriented and create lakhsof jobs. He also urged the Industry to promote tribalhandicraft products as part of their CSR activities.
Goyal said there is big scope in the expansion of labour intensive Plastics, Footwear and Textiles industry. India cannot be truly Aatmanirbhar, without empowering its poor to be Aatmanirbhar, he added.
Goyal conveyed his appreciation for the Industry’s positive approach in FTA consultations. “Right now we are engaged in FTA negotiations with 6/7 countries,” he said. Citing India’s foreign trade as “very, very comfortable”,
Seeking accommodation in trade deals, Goyal said, “On our part, I believe, that it’s time that we engaged more with the world, we look at deeper engagement, – both imports and exports.” “If we (don’t) open our autos or spirits sectors, for example, it will open greater opportunities for India than the other way round,” he said.
Observing that 2020 has been a year of resilience for the Indian economy, Goyal said that in these unprecedentedtimes India has emerged as the ‘World’s Trusted Partner’ andis poised to contribute significantly to global growth. Policies of the Government in the last more than seven years, under the able leadership of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, have laid a solid foundation for growth of the Indian economy, he said.
Stating that all economic indices hinted at a fast growth trajectory, Goyal said India has Cost advantage as well as Trust advantage. “Services is growing at a fantastic pace, exports also are, of course on Merchandise,… Similarly remittances continue to be strong, FDI is at never before levels for the 7th time in a row, but this year the growth would be even much more, the capital markets are buzzing which means FII investments also and the IPO market is also gaining a lot of traction,” he said.
Goyal said the way we have fast bounced back since Covid, the way Industry geared itself up, Services sector, for example, reoriented their processes, Government supported Industry adopt WFH, we met all our international commitments throughout the Covid period including the lockdown. “Not for a second did any international supply chain, dependent on India, had to suffer, particularly the Services sector and for that matter even in the Goods sector,” he said.
Stressing that India is going through a sharp and strong revival, the Minister said that rising economic indicators point towards “India is shaping up for a growth decade.”
“Apna time aa gya (Our time has come)! This is the time to be in India & invest in India”, Shri Goyal said, adding “If we fail our Young Generation, it will be truly a sad day for India. We are at the cusp (of history). It’s our time to grab now, we’ll probably regret if we miss this opportunity.”
Goyal said that the Government is doing its part byundertaking transformational reforms such as PLI, PM GatiShakti, ODOP, Single Window, Retrospective tax amendment, National Asset Monetisation Pipeline, etc and opening up sectors like Defence, Space & Atomic Energy, Mining & Minerals, etc.
The Minister urged the top 100 CII members, that could comprise 1,000 companies, to onboard the NSWS Single Window clearance system and make full use of IILB Land Bank System. Resolving to use Indian materials to make a truly Aatmanirbhar Bharat, he said this will transform the future of India by making it self-reliant, resilient & competitive and will create jobs.
Shri Goyal said the Government has initiated several schemes for the benefit of the Industry and the public in general, including Power sector, One Nation, One Ration Card, world’s largest health insurance programme, – AyushmanBharat, UPI payments transfer and Jan Dhan banking for each and every home. “Government has focussed on saturating schemes,” he said.
Expressing confidence on the continuous Public-PrivatePartnership, Goyal said the Government is always thinking of how to empower the Industry and urged the entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas in nation-building.
Share of agri-exports in GDP
The year-wise details of value of India’s agri-exports of principal agri commodity group along with its share in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices during last five years is as follows:
The agricultural products having exports of more than Rs 10,000 crore over the last five years is given in the table below. Last year we had 22.8% of growth in agri-exports with a share of 1.6% to GDP (highest in terms of growth and share in the last five years).
Source: DGCI&S, Kolkata and CSO, MoSPI
Source: DGCI&S, Kolkata
Government has taken several measures to boost exports, including agri-exports, such as:
(i) A comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” has been introduced toharness export potential of Indian agriculture and raise farmers’ income. Twenty One States viz. Maharashtra, U.P., Kerala, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, M.P., Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh and the 2 UTs vizLadakh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have finalized the State specific Action Plans. State Level Monitoring Committees (SLMC) has been formed in 26 States and 4 UTs. 28 States & 4 UTs have nominated Nodal agencies for implementation of this AEPs. As part of the Agriculture Export Policy, 46 unique product-district clusters have been identified for export promotion. Twenty-Nine Cluster Level Committees have been formed in cluster districts of different clusters. Country and product-specific action plans have also been formulated to promote exports.
(ii) Products Specific Export Promotion Forums give impetus to the export of potential products as well as to remove the bottlenecks in the supply chain, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has formed Export Promotion Forums (EPFs) under the Chairmanship of Chairman, APEDA and having representatives of Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, State Governments, National Referral Laboratories and top 10 leading exporters of each product for the products, viz., Grapes, Onions, Mango, Banana, Pomegranate, Floriculture, Rice, Dairy Products and Nutricereals.
(iii) 13 Agri-Cells in Vietnam, USA, Bangladesh, Nepal, UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, Japan and Argentina were created in Indian embassies abroad to provide inputs on real time basis to enable us to improve Indian exports.
(iv) Further, In order to boost honey exports, India has made NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) testing mandatory for honey exported to USA.
(v) A Farmer Connect Portal has been set up for providing a platform for farmers, Farmer-Producer Organizations (FPOs) and cooperatives to interact with exporters. Buyer-Seller Meets (BSMs) have been organized in the clusters to provide export-market linkages. Regular interactions, through video-conferences, have been held with the Indian Missions abroad to assess and exploit export opportunities. Country specific BSMs, through Indian Missions, have also been organized.
(vi) Assistance provided through several other schemes to promote exports, including food export, viz. Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES), Market Access Initiatives (MAI) Scheme, etc. In addition, assistance to the exporters of food products is also available under the export promotion schemes of APEDA, Tea Board, Coffee Board and Spices Board.
(vii) Government has also introduced a Central Sector Scheme –‘Transport and Marketing Assistance for Specified Agriculture Products’ – for providing assistance for the international component of freight to mitigate the freight disadvantage for the export of agriculture products.
(viii) Common Digital Platform for Certificate of Origin has been launched to facilitate trade and increase FTA utilization by exporters.
(ix) Active role of Indian missions abroad towards promoting our trade, tourism, technology and investment goals has been enhanced.
(x) Package announced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to support domestic industry through various banking and financial sector relief measures, especially for MSMEs, which constitute a major share in exports.
This information was given by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.
Share of India’s exports in annual GDP
The details of exports of goods and services and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices, and percentage share of India’s exports to the GDP for the last five years and current year are as follows:
Source: National Accounts Division, CSO, MoSPI Note: RE: Revised Estimate, PE : Provisional Estimate
The share of export of goods and services in GDP has increased to 18.7% during 2020-21 over 18.4% in 2019-20 and 21.7% in 2021-22 (April-September) over 19.4% in 2020-21 (April-September).
The details of the annual rate of growth of exports of goods and services and the corresponding annual rate of growth of GDP at current prices for the last five years and current year are as follows: This information was given by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.
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