1.The home environment and stimulation children receive within the household can be important contributory factors

  • GS 2: Education

Context: Early Childhood Education (ECE) is crucial to the overall development of children, with impacts on their learning and even earning capabilities throughout their lifetimes. However it faces a few challenges recently.

Challenges faced by the ECE sector:

  • COVID-19 school closures, and job losses.
  • Where ECE has continued during COVID-19 pre-school closures, access has reduced and the priority for ECE is low within households.
  • Narly 14 lakh anganwadis continue to suffer from low attendance and instructional time amid prioritisation of other early childhood development services in the anganwadi system.
  • Families prioritise their older child’s education over ECE.
  • Glaring digital divide in the country, even in an urban context. Unless the state vows to provide devices and Internet access to all children, it is clear that complete reliance on technology is not an option.
  • Parental assistance: Not all families can assist their children.

Role of parental engagement

  • The home environment and stimulation children receive within the household can contribute to their overall development.
  • Being the first point of contact with both the child and the parents, teachers are the most equipped to effectively engage with parents, address their challenges, and design adaptable and innovative modes of teaching and learning.
  • Enabling parental engagement in ECE requires an understanding of barriers that usually prevent parents from meaningfully engaging in their child’s education.

Challenges in Parental engagement:

  • The socioeconomic background of households determines access to preschools and the ability to invest in ECE.
  • Many children are first generation learners.
  • Worryingly, the lack of priority for ECE often means that households choose to forgo investing in ECE altogether.
  • Households that have limited means have little time to invest in educational activities in the home.
  • The ability to engage in ECE at home remains dependent on time and ability.
  • Many parents lack the self-efficacy to support their child’s learning. Most parents lack knowledge of effective methods to facilitate learning within the home, and appropriate means of using technology for education.
  • Parents in low-income households are additionally less likely to be able to access support to learn such methods. COVID-19 school closures made engagement of parents in their child’s education a further necessity.

Overcoming barriers

  • Shift of mindset requires prolonged and committed state action, which at present does not reflect any such urgency.
  • Operationalise support of the state, schools and teachers towards the goal of enabling parental engagement at home.
  • A more decentralised approach of identifying and alleviating these barriers to ECE, through teachers and school systems as the forerunners.
  • Empower households: Efforts must be taken to empower households with time and resources so that they have the ability to prioritise ECE and are not forced to choose between their children’s education. The provision of non-educational support to low-income households to alleviate income and food insecurities might be just as crucial in aiding parents to invest in education.
  • Information about experiences: we must collect information about teachers’ experiences (on suitable modes of engagement with parents and children, delivery logistics, constraints of parents, etc.) and on innovations they have developed to increase parental engagement during school closures.

Conclusion: Crossing these barriers will become crucial as we move towards achieving universal and equitable ECE, as envisioned in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.


2. Should the NDPS Act be amended?Certain provisions could be changed to ensure a reformative approach towards addicts

  • GS 3: Internal security, Organized crimes

Context: The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed certain changes to some provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985.

  • This have assumed importance in the backdrop of some high-profile drug cases including the recent arrest of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan following a raid on a cruise ship by the Narcotics Control Bureau a few weeks ago.

The recommendations 

  • to decriminalise the possession of narcotic drugs in smaller quantities for personal purposes. Another suggestion is that persons using drugs in smaller quantities be treated as victims.
  • Mandatory rehabilitation and counselling: replacing the punishment for consuming a drug under Section 27 from one year imprisonment or fine of Rs 20,000 or both with mandatory 30-day rehabilitation and counselling.

Problems of the act:

  • No distinction between nature of crime: The section does not make any distinction between an addict, a recreational user or a first-time user, or between a drug peddler.
  • Stringent: This is a stringent law where the death penalty can be prescribed for repeat offenders.
  • Presumption of guilt: Onus is on accused to prove their innocence.
  • Difficult procedure of seizure: Section 50 of the Act (conditions under which search of persons shall be conducted) needs to be followed scrupulously. When officials stumble upon a person carrying drugs during raids or a routine check, the drugs must be seized in front of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate. In cases of sudden development, the suspect is taken to the nearby Magistrate or the latter is brought to the spot and then only drugs are seized. If this is not adhered to, the court acquits the accused persons. Only then the next stage of investigation commences.

Types of Drug uses: There are three types of drugs —

  • Party drugs: Such as usage of cocaine, hookah pipes or ganja papers etc.
  • Prescription drugs and
  1. Others, namely inhalants (also known as synthetic drugs). Some people even apply Zandu Balm on bread slices and eat them. We found people using cough syrups to get a high. Street children and labourers go after cheaper options like glue, whiteners, thinners, stain removers.

Challenges in solving the drug related crimes:

  • Difficult to catch point of source: Since drug peddling is an organised crime, it is challenging for the police to catch the persons involved from the point of source to the point of destination.
  • Cant stop and check each vehicle: Identifying drugs that are being transported is a challenge since we cannot stop each and every vehicle that plies on Indian roads. Most drug bust cases are made possible with specific information leads.
  • State Jurisdiction: Going beyond State jurisdiction, finding the source of narcotic substances and destroying them is another big challenge. Catching the accused cultivating ganja in areas bordering the States too is turning out to be a herculean task.
  • Cultivation in Disturbed areas: It gets tougher when ganja is cultivated in areas that are Maoist hideouts.
  • Securing conviction for the accused in drugs cases is yet another arduous task. There are frequent delays in court procedures. Sometimes, cases do not come up for trial even after two years of having registered them. By then, the accused are out on bail and do not turn up for trial. Bringing them back from their States to trial is quite difficult let alone getting them convicted.

The Implications of the recommendations:

  • Change of administrative attitude: A drug user needs to be seen as a patient. The Act as of now prescribes jail for everyone — the end user and the drug supplier.
  • Lack of infrastructure to implement the changes: The proposal to send persons to rehabilitation centres is good on paper but we do not have the infrastructure to ensure that it is properly implemented. We don’t have adequate de-addiction centre counsellors. We face an acute shortage of psychiatrists and counsellors.

Way forward:

  • Consultation with states: Policing is a State subject.
  • Testing on Pilot basis: Therefore it would be advisable to introduce this on a pilot basis in one State that faces an acute drugs-related problem.
  • Studying other nations: The government could also study some of the best practices in the world.
  • Community led approach: In Iceland, the government decided to tackle the issue right from the school level by introducing aptitude tests which revealed the inclinations of students to persuading parents to keep liquor and cigarettes out of reach of the youth. The country took various measures to tackle the problem and weaned away 70-80% of its young population from drugs.
  • Studies:  We need to thoroughly examine why and how people are getting addicted to narcotic drugs. There is a growing hopelessness in society due to various factors. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, has aggravated anxieties among the youth.  There are connected issues like absenteeism in schools, loss of jobs, income, depression and suicide.
  • Redesigning the law:  We need to redefine and redesign the law so as to tackle what acts as a trigger.
  • National fund for rehabilitation: We need to allocate more money for the fund, help transform drug addicts and make the job of policing easier.
  • Distinction on the basis of nature of crime:  If a person is caught for the first time in a drugs case, be it for possession or usage, they should be sent to a rehabilitation centre. There should be scope for reformation of such persons. Not anybody and everybody connected to drugs cases should be sent to prison. Only repeat offenders should be sent to prison.

Involving the society:

  • Responsibility on supplier of synthetic drugs: persons selling chemicals or whiteners are equally responsible. After noticing that many street children are getting addicted to whiteners, COVA filed a PIL petition in a High Court more than a decade ago. The High Court passed a direction instructing the government to ensure that whiteners are not sold to children below 18 years of age.
  • Parental counselling:  While bringing up their wards, parents must be able to talk to their children and assure them of all support should they face a problem. Parents have to act as confidants first. Mutual trust should be so strong that wards come to them at the first sign of trouble.
  • Teachers should be alert: teachers should keep an eye on school surroundings to ascertain whether anyone is selling hookah pipes or ganja papers.
  • Civil society support is equally important. If everyone joins hands, wiping out drugs usage is not an issue at all.

Conclusion: Relying only on law-enforcing agencies, however hard they are at work to address the problem, is not going to solve it. Civil society and governments will have to work together to create an enabling environment to address the issue. Checking drugs usage is not the job of only the police. The police cannot enter every house and physically check if youngsters are using drugs. Everyone should have a proactive role.


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