Kurukshetra IAS Academy Blogs

1. Nagaland govt.’s efforts to regulate coal mining hit Article 371A wall

Article 371A of the Constitution of India has been the major hurdle in the Nagaland government’s efforts to regulate small-scale illegal coal mining activities in the State.

Specific to Nagaland, Article 371A has special provisions guaranteeing the protection of land and its resources apart from the Naga customary law and procedure.

The coalition government headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has been under pressure to regulate coal mining activities after six miners died in an explosion in a rat-hole mine near Ruchyan village in the Wokha district on January 25.

On Tuesday, Mr. Rio and Deputy Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang told the Nagaland Assembly that Article 371A had impeded ensuring scientific mining of coal across five districts in the State: Longleng, Mokokchung, Mon, Tuensang, and Wokha.

According to the State’s Geology and Mining Department, 45 coal mining licence holders operate in these districts.

Raising the issue during the second day of the Assembly’s Budget session, National People’s Party MLA Nuklutoshi Longkumer said numerous illegal and unscientific coal mining operations were posing a serious threat to human and environmental health in Nagaland.

The Chief Minister agreed but attributed the difficulty in making these mines accountable to the special Constitutional provisions for the State and the prevalent land-holding system giving ownership to the community. “Reclaiming mined areas has become important. Contractors and businesspersons conducting mining activities should bear the responsibility for land reclamation by filling up the rat-hole mines and planting trees rather than leaving it barren,” he said.

He added the department concerned should be holding contractors violating mining guidelines accountable.

Mr. Zeliang also said the unique land rights conferred under Article 371A have made regulating illegal coal mining activities more challenging. “Residents in coal-bearing areas depend on illegal mining for sustenance and they need to be educated on the adverse effects of such activities,” he said.

Data from Nagaland’s Geology and Mining Department say the State has 492.68 million tonnes of coal reserves but dispersed erratically and inconsistently.

Nagaland’s coal mining policy, first notified in 2006, allows rat-hole mining as the coal deposits are too scattered for large-scale and coordinated operations. Leases called small pocket deposit licences are awarded to individuals.

According to the Geology and Mining Department’s Principal Secretary, Himato Zhimomi, rat-hole mining can be undertaken only with the consent of the departments concerned, including that of Forest and Environment.

Officials claimed the State government awarded several rat-hole mining leases with proper forest and environment clearances and definite mining plans. This has not stopped people from operating such mines illegally.

2. RS poll outcome puts NDA just four short of majority mark in the Upper House

The BJP-led alliance now has 117 seats in the 240-member Upper House of Parliament; BJP gained two extra seats in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh due to cross-voting by Congress, SP MLAs

The results of the Rajya Sabha elections on Tuesday have put the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) just four short of the majority mark of 121 in the 240-member Upper House of Parliament. This is likely to have far-reaching implications for domestic politics.

The BJP gained one extra seat each in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The NDA, since 2014, has enjoyed a majority in the Lok Sabha and have had no trouble in the passage of Bills. However, it has faced hurdles in the Rajya Sabha.

In March 2015, the government had to face the ignominy of seeing amendments moved by the Opposition to the President’s Address over corruption and black money being passed.

Since then, the NDA has kept several neutral parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) with it when contemplating tricky pieces of legislation.

In these set of biennale elections to the Rajya Sabha, the BJP saw 28 of its MPs retiring, and was expected to win back exactly the same number. However, because of cross-voting by Himachal Pradesh’s Congress MLAs and Samajwadi Party MLAs in Uttar Pradesh it netted two extra seats.

The new seats take the BJP’s tally in the Rajya Sabha to 97, including five nominated members, and that of the NDA to 117.

The Congress has 29 members, followed by the Trinamool Congress with 13, the DMK and the AAP with 10 each, the BJD and the YSRCP with nine each, the BRS with seven, the RJD with six, the CPI(M) with five, and the AIADMK and the JD(U) with four each.

3. The economic case for investing in India’s children

It might seem self-evident that India’s children deserve economic investment, given the country’s focus on demographic dividend, education and jobs. But, somehow, early childhood education has remained both under-invested and under-explored over decades. It is often trivialised, as child’s play, or limited to the household domain, perhaps because it has traditionally been women’s work. With the increasing focus by the government on women-led development, including a new survey by the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Labour (announced on January 30) on working women, care work and early childhood are finally being seen as part of the critical work of running a country.

Focus earlier in the life cycle

The argument for increased investment in early childhood care and education (ECCE) is a basic one — human resources are the bedrock of a nation, and early childhood is the bedrock of a human being. Slowly, but surely, the Indian developmental state has fostered and catered to parental aspirations for education, targeting first access, crossing 100% gross enrolment ratio at the primary level, and now quality, with an increased focus on measuring learning outcomes. There is also realisation that India’s young learners are struggling: a large number of Standard three learners are unable to read Standard two text or do basic subtraction.

This has prompted a shift to focus even earlier in the life cycle, i.e., children under six, leading to initiatives such as the Ministry of Education’s National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN) Bharat for foundational literacy and numeracy, and the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s (MWCD) Poshan Bhi Padhai Bhi to improve ECCE quality through the Anganwadi system.

The interim Budget 2024’s promise of expediting the upgradation of Saksham Anganwadis and providing Ayushman Bharat services for Anganwadi workers, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), and helpers is encouraging.

In 2023, the outlay for teaching-learning materials tripled, increasing from approximately ₹140 crore to ₹420 crore per annum, assuming 14 lakh Anganwadi centres, catering to India’s poorest eight crore children under six. For context, the 2024-25 budgeted expenditure on centrally sponsored schemes, which form a substantial part of Centre-State fiscal transfers, is ₹5.01 lakh crore. Of this, the Anganwadi system is allocated about ₹21,200 crore, which is more than rural roads (₹12,000 crore) and irrigation (₹11,391 crore), but less than the National Education Mission (₹37,500 crore) and the National Health Mission (₹38,183 crore). The Department of Higher Education receives around ₹47,619 crore, for a total of approximately four crore enrolled learners, who undoubtedly come from the more privileged sections of Indian society.

The Anganwadi system

Recent research provides further cause for expanding allocation and expenditure by the Centre and the States. Quasi-experimental impact evaluations using existing survey data have proven cognitive and motor skills improvement in Anganwadi-attending children over others, particularly reducing gender and income-related gaps. According to a study in 2020, children exposed to the Anganwadi system from ages zero to three go on to complete 0.1-0.3 more grades of school. Evidence at the individual-level is building, but the macroeconomic implications remain underexplored.

To determine what to spend on — infrastructure, capacity building, materials, and staffing — it is necessary to match the micro to the macro, the amounts in paise to the amounts in lakh and crore. Estimates are required of the potential gains to GDP from the proven individual benefits of strong ECCE: improving women’s physical and mental health, lifespan, public health expenditure, children’s educational attainment, their physical and mental health, and even social unrest.

Nobel Laureate Heckman’s Perry Preschool study found that children who received high quality ECCE grew into less violent adults — stronger socio-emotional skills built early might even help prevent later student suicides.

Need for research in India

There is also a clear need for systematic rigorous research in the Indian context, building on the work of leading academics on the macroeconomic and social implications of early childhood development. In order to formulate evidence-based policy, it is critical to understand the opportunity cost of inadequate allocation of material resources, money, and high-quality talent to the early childhood sector. International researchers, including at the University of Chicago and Yale University, have suggested a 13% annual return on investment for every dollar invested in early childhood, but that is in the American context. India needs similar longitudinal studies exploring the impact of early childhood care, including the Anganwadi system, which remains the world’s largest public provisioning system for ECCE.

Children born in 2024 will be five years into adulthood by 2047, India’s 100th year of independence and the target year for Viksit Bharat. The path from developing to developed countries, like the Asian Tigers, is paved with human development investment, and the earlier it is the better. If we want India’s women to work and India’s children to thrive, investing in ECCE is the way forward. It is child’s play.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *