- By making New Delhi their first stop abroad.
- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited in November 2019
- Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in February 2020
- Contrary to their last stint which ended in 2015, ties underwent a strain for several reasons.
- New Delhi would like to make a fresh start
- Joint India-Japan proposal for the East Container Terminal at Colombo
- $400-million Line of Credit
- India’s further assistance for a nationwide housing
- Air connectivity to Sri Lanka’s north and east is already being improved
- On security: Mr. Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed intelligence sharing, training and the utilisation of a special $50- million Line of Credit extended by India after last year’s Easter Sunday bombings.
- India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are expected to revive their trilateral on security, including joint maritime security talks and anti-terror cooperation.
- Finally, Mr. Rajapaksa reaffirmed his belief that among Sri Lanka’s friendships, India is seen as a “relative”, given their history and culture.
- Prime Minister Modi said India hopes that the “expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and respect” would be realised and that devolution of powers according to the 13th amendment would be taken forward.
- India’s case for the special status for the North and East also comes across as contrary to the Modi government’s strong stand about removal of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir.
- Mr. Rajapaksa has ruled out taking forward the MoU signed by his predecessor Ranil Wickremesinghe allowing Indian participation in energy and infrastructure projects in Trincomalee; an Indian stake in “Mattala airport” is not on the cards either.
- However, of note is his appeal for India to help Sri Lanka deal with its debt crisis — nearly $60-billion outstanding in foreign and domestic, and about $5-billion a year in repayments.
- New Delhi must consider his request for a three year moratorium and be upfront about its response, in contrast to the past when New Delhi did not take up an offer to develop Hambantota port, and ceded space to China.
- Ignoring or rebuffing the new request could damage bilateral ties far more.
Six years on, Lokpal is a non-starter
- The preambular statement of The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 notes that the law has been enacted to ensure prompt and fair investigation and prosecution in cases of corruption against public servants.
- The massive public campaign in 2011 demanding an independent anti-corruption ombudsman resulted in the passage of the Lokpal law.
- More than six years after the Lokpal law received the President’s assent, the institution of the Lokpal is yet to play any significant role in tackling corruption in the country.
- The Lokpal was envisioned to be independent.
- It was accorded a high stature and given extensive powers including the power to inquire, investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.
Delay in appointments
- For more than 5 years, the chairperson and members of the Lokpal were not appointed.
- Excuse: Leader of the Opposition (LoP) after the 2014 general election
- The chairperson and members of the Lokpal were appointed only in March 2019.
- A truncated selection committee, without the LoP, was set up.
- The Prime Minister, Speaker, and the then Chief Justice of India appointed Mukul Rohatgi, who had earlier served as Attorney General of India during the BJP regime, as the eminent jurist on the selection panel.
- The leader of the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha was invited for meetings of the selection committee as a ‘special invitee’, which he declined on grounds that it was mere tokenism. The four-member selection committee, having a preponderance of representatives of the ruling party with an inherent bias towards recommending candidates favoured by the government, selected the Chair and members of the Lokpal.
- Many had hoped that once constituted, the Lokpal would nevertheless be a significant oversight body to check corruption and the arbitrary use of power by the government.
- Till date, the government has not made rules prescribing the form for filing complaints to the Lokpal.
- The Central government has also failed to formulate rules regarding asset disclosure by public servants.
- Information accessed under the Right to Information Act has confirmed that the inquiry and prosecution wings of the anti-corruption ombudsman are yet to be set up.
- The Lokpal has also not appointed the Director of Inquiry or Prosecution.
- Without the requisite rules, regulations and machinery in place, it is not surprising that the Lokpal has failed to meet expectations.
- In recent times, the only reason for the Lokpal being in the news has been the resignation of its judicial member, Justice Dilip B. Bhosale, for undisclosed reasons.
A new approach on investment
- U.S. President Donald Trump will be India this month
- The two leaders are expected to sign a first-ever trade agreement.
- The agreement will not be a big one but that is beside the point.
- The restoration of India’s Generalised System of Preferences benefits, pricing of medical devices, and agriculture trade are all important, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.
- The start of negotiations on a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) could even be a credible scenario.
- The most obvious candidates are intellectual property rights (IPR), digital trade, and investment.
- Ideally, there should be room to seriously consider better ways to encourage skilled professionals to work in the other’s economy.
- India invests in the U.S. and continues to seek U.S. investment in India.
- Both are grappling with the appropriate scope and approach for regulating electronic commerce issues in this digital age.
- IPR has historically been an area of contention between the two, but discussions on IPR have progressed well in recent years.
- The two sides should move ahead to negotiate an agreement on investment matters that can provide greater transparency, predictability, and regulatory certainty to investors from the other country.
- A U.S.-India investment agreement could focus on fair treatment for investors from the other country, regulatory transparency and predictability, and approaches for resolving concerns short of investor-state dispute settlements.
- If India and the U.S. fail this test, the trade relationship is more likely to languish than blossom.
The Delhi model of education
- For every household today, rich or poor, education has the same relevance as salt did in 1930. In the last five years, the Delhi model of education has caught the attention of people in Delhi and beyond. For too long, there have been 2 kinds of education models in the country: one for the classes and another for the masses.
- The AAP government in Delhi sought to bridge this gap.
- Its approach stems from the belief that quality education is a necessity, not a luxury.
Key components of the model
- The first component of the education model is the transformation of school infrastructure.
- The second component is the training of teachers and principals.
- The third component involved engaging with the community by reconstituting school management committees (SMC). Regular dialogue between teachers and parents was initiated through mega parent-teacher meetings.
- There have been major curricular reforms in teaching learning.
- Special initiatives to ensure that all children learn to read, write and do basic mathematics was launched and made part of regular teaching learning activities in schools.
- Similarly, a ‘happiness curriculum’ was introduced for all children between nursery and Class 8 for their emotional well-being.
- There was no fee increase in private schools.
- In the words of Manish Sisodia, the leader of the Delhi education model, “having built the foundation of education”, the focus now will shift to “education as foundation”.
3 key areas of reform
- The syllabus of Classes 1 to 8 will be reviewed to emphasise foundational learning skills, the ‘happiness curriculum’ and the ‘deshbhakti’ curriculum.
- A Delhi Education Board will be set up to promote learning that encourages critical thinking, problem solving and application of knowledge among children.
- III. Specialised schools will be created in each of the 29 zones of Delhi to nurture the aptitude and talent of children in the areas of science and technology, literature and language, visual and performing arts, and sports.
- The spectacular victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi Assembly election.
- AAP’s second consecutive victory is not an electoral enchantment of a start-up, but an endorsement of its track record.
- Arvind Kejriwal’s governance brought succour to Delhi’s poorest and the most vulnerable in the form of better and accessible education, health care and water in particular. It is clear that they voted with their feet, and reinvested their faith in the maverick politician.
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