School enrolment fell during pandemic: ASER


According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 the percentage of rural children who were not enrolled in school doubled during the pandemic.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to education, Government Initiatives and Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the 2021 ASER report
  2. Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)

Highlights of the 2021 ASER report

  • As per report, there was an overall increase in proportion of children enrolled in govt schools in between 2018 and 2020. Enrolment increased from 64.3% to 65.8%. But in 2021, enrolment suddenly increased to 70.3%.
  • Enrolment rate in private schools has decreased as compared to last year. In 2020, enrolment rate was 28.8% which decreased to 24.4% in 2021.
  • In 2021, 73.1% school respondents received training to implement Covid-19 prevention measures.
  • Even though availability of smartphones increased to 67.6% in 2021 as compared to 36.5% in 2018, around 79% of children in private schools had smartphone at home as opposed to 63.7% children in government school.
  • Number of school-going children taking tuition increased by 40% during closure of their schools.
  • 52% of the respondents cited financial distress caused by Covid-19 pandemic as the reason of increase in enrolments in government school.

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)

  • ASER report is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills that has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years.
  • It uses Census 2011 as the sampling frame and continues to be an important national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country.
  • ASER 2018 surveyed children in the age group of 3 to 16 years and included almost all rural districts in India and generated estimates of foundational reading and arithmetic abilities of children in the age group 5 to 16 years.
  • ASER 2019 reported on the pre-schooling or schooling status of children in the age group 4 to 8 years in 26 rural districts, focused on the “early years” and laid emphasis on “developing problem-solving faculties and building a memory of children, and not content knowledge”.
  • ASER 2020 is the first ever phone-based ASER survey and it was conducted in September 2020, the sixth month of national school closures.
  • In 2021 due to the pandemic, ASER’s 16th annual report was based on a phone survey assessing enrolment in schools and tuition classes, and access to devices and learning resources, rather than the organisation’s usual face-to-face survey which assesses learning outcomes and children’s competencies in reading and arithmetic skills.
  • The survey aimed to find out how children in aged between 5-16 studied at home since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic as well as challenges that schools & households now face in the backdrop of opening up of schools.

-Source: The Hindu

Rural road schemes get more time


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)-I and II up to September, 2022, and Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas up to March, 2023.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Welfare Schemes, Government Initiatives and Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana
  2. Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana

  • Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, was launched in 2000 to provide all-weather access to unconnected habitations.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development along with the State Governments is responsible for the implementation of PMGSY.

PMGSY – Phase I

PMGSY – Phase I was launched in 2000 as a 100 % centrally sponsored scheme with an objective to provide single all-weather road connectivity to eligible unconnected habitation of designated population size for overall socio-economic development of the areas.

PMGSY – Phase II

  • The Phase II of PMGSY was approved in 2013, and while the ongoing PMGSY – I continued – under PMGSY phase II, the roads already built for village connectivity was to be upgraded to enhance rural infrastructure.
  • For the 12th Five Year Plan period a target of 50,000 Km length under PMGSY-II. 75 per cent of the cost of the upgradation was by the Centre and 25 per cent by the state.
  • For hill states, desert areas, Schedule V areas and Naxal-affected districts, 90 per cent of cost was borne by the Centre.


  • The Phase III was approved by the Cabinet in 2019.
  • It involves consolidation of Through Routes and Major Rural Links connecting habitations to Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs), Higher Secondary Schools and Hospitals.
  • Under the PMGSY-III Scheme, it is proposed to consolidate 1,25,000 Km road length in the States, and the duration of the scheme is 2019-20 to 2024-25.
  • The funds would be shared in the ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern and 3 Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand) for which it is 90:10.

Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas

  • The Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas was launched in 2016.
  • It is envisaged in LWE States including the 44 LWE affected districts in 9 States. It also includes the 35 worst affected LWE districts which account for 90% of total LWE violence in the country.
  • The roads taken up under the scheme would include Other District Roads (ODRs), Village Roads (VRs) and upgradation of the existing Major District Roads (MDRs) that are critical from the security point of view.
  • Bridges up to a span of 100 meters, critical from security angle would also be funded on these roads.
  • The National Highways and the State Highways are excluded from this project.
  • The roads to be constructed under this project have been identified by Union Ministry of Home Affairs in close consultation with the State Governments and the security agencies.

-Source: The Hindu

Cabinet on mobile services in over 7000 villages


The Union Cabinet approved provisioning of mobile services in over 7,000 uncovered villages across five States of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha at an estimated cost of ₹6,466 crore.

The project will be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Welfare Schemes, Government Initiatives and Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)?
  2. About the BharatNet project

What is the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)?

  • The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was established with the primary objective of providing access to ‘Basic’ telecom services to people in the remote and rural areas at reasonable and affordable prices.
  • Universal Service stands for universal, interdependent and intercommunicating, affording the opportunity for any subscriber to any exchange to communicate with any other subscriber of any other exchange.
  • The USOF proposes to meet its social, economic, political and constitutional objectives which are as follows:
    • To extend the telecommunication network.
    • To stimulate the uptake of Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) services.
    • To bring the underserved and unserved areas of the country into the telecom spectrum and narrow down the access gap.
    • To use the pooled USO levy for an equitable distribution through target subsidies.
  • Subsequently, the scope was widened to provide subsidy support for enabling access to all types of telegraph services including mobile services, broadband connectivity, and creation of infrastructure like Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) in rural and remote areas.
  • With access to affordable telecom services in remote and rural areas, the USOF is the right step towards stemming urban migration. This would ensure to generate employment opportunities in the rural areas which would help generate more income.

Who are the partners of USOF?

As per the Department of Telecommunications, there are 24 partners of USOF. It includes:

  • Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited
  • Tata Tele Services Limited
  • Reliance Communications Limited
  • Vodafone
  • Bharti Airtel Limited, etc.

About the BharatNet project

  • BharatNet is a flagship mission implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL) – BharatNet Project is basically the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) that was launched in 2011 and got renamed as BharatNet project in 2015.
  • The project is being executed by BSNL, RailTel, and Power Grid and is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and has subsumed all the ongoing and proposed broadband network projects.
  • The BharatNet Project aims to facilitate the delivery of e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-banking, Internet and other services to rural India.
  • It aims to connect all of India’s households, specifically rural households through demand, affordable high-speed internet connectivity to fulfill the objectives of the Digital India programme in partnership with the states and the private sector.
  • The Bharat Net project proposes broadband connectivity to households under village Panchayats and even to government institutions at the district level.
  • It intends to cover all 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats for the provision of E-governance, E-healthcare, E-Commerce, E-Education, and Public Interest Access services.
  • The deadline for completion of the BharatNet Project had been extended till June 2021 from December 2020, and a notice had been issued to Tata Projects Ltd for failing to meet projected milestones.
  • The three-phase implementation of the BharatNet project is as follows
    1. The first phase envisages providing one lakh gram panchayats with broadband connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable (OFC) lines by Decmeber 2017.
    2. The second phase will provide connectivity to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country using an optimal mix of underground fiber, fiber over power lines, radio and satellite media. This is a new element of the BharatNet strategy as the mode of connectivity by aerial OFC has several advantages, including lower cost, speedier implementation, easy maintenance and utilization of existing power line infrastructure. The last mile connectivity to citizens was proposed to be provided creating Wi-Fi hotspots in gram panchayats
    3. In the third phase from 2019 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof network, including fiber between districts and blocks, with ring topology to provide redundancy would be created.

-Source: The Hindu

Maldives rejects ‘India out’ campaign


The Government of Maldives said it “strongly rejects attempts to spread false information” criticising its ties with India, its “closest ally and trusted neighbour”.


GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions, India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policy Affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is behind the ‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives?
  2. Issues that agitated sentiments against India

What is behind the ‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives?

  • The ‘India Out’ campaign started in 2020 as on-ground protests in the Maldives and later spread widely across social media platforms using the phrase with a related hashtag.
  • Protesters said that they are just protesting military presence in the country and not calling for a violent clash against India or Indians in Maldives.
  • This ‘India Out’ campaign is not about people-to-people relations and it is just a form of peacefully expressing concerns according to the protesters.
  • The anti-India sentiment didn’t just sprout overnight and is nearly a decade old. It can be traced back to when Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom became president in 2013 and India-Maldives relations deteriorated. A lot of anti-India rhetoric was used during that time because the Maldivian government was pro-China. Although the Yameen government’s tilt in favour of China was clear, it had also openly discussed an ‘India-First’ policy for the Maldives.

Issues that agitated sentiments against India

Military presence issue in the past

  • The first is the long-standing controversy over the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) that were given by India to the Maldives in 2010 and in 2015, both of which were used for ocean search-and-rescue operations, maritime weather surveillance and for airlifting patients between islands, and were based in Addu Atoll and at Hanimaadhoo. These helicopters were for humanitarian purposes only, but some in the anti-India constituency, were trying to portray that by gifting these helicopters, India was creating military presence in the country because they were military choppers.
  • When domestic fervour against the perceived military presence of Indian forces in the country reached its peak in 2016, the Yameen government had asked India to take back these gifted helicopters.
  • The successor Solih government’s visibly warm relations with India have only served to fuel anti-India sentiment in the country.

Domestic political grievances

  • Another recurring complaint is the lack of transparency in agreements being signed between the Solih government and India.
  • The ruling government and the defence ministry saying that these agreements are confidential has led to agitation in political circles that percolated down to ordinary Maldivian nationals and has taken the form of a wave of criticism, inflammatory rhetoric and unverified allegations, especially on social media platforms.
  • For example, the UTF Harbour Project agreement signed between India and the Maldives in February 2021 wherein India was to develop and maintain a coastguard harbour and dockyard; and the 2016 Action Plan between India and the Maldives that was signed for ‘defence cooperation’ to enhance “shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region”.

Opposition to the consulate in Addu Atoll

  • The Maldives President remarked on the proposed Indian consulate in the southern Addu Atoll, appearing to keep the option open, amid an ongoing “#SaveAddu” social media campaign by a section of Maldivians sceptical of another Indian mission presence, in addition to the Embassy in Male.
  • Legislators from Addu and local body representatives — from the ruling coalition widely perceived as India-friendly — have pledged support to the initiative.
  • Opposition voices, which earlier led an ‘#Indiaout’ campaign against enhanced military cooperation between the neighbours, have opposed the proposed consulate.
  • Apart from its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, Addu is the second largest city in the archipelago, home to over 30,000 people. Indian government sources familiar with the proposal said the rationale for the consulate was to help Addu residents with speedy visa services.
  • Further, the fact that the announcement appeared in the Indian media last month, before either government made an announcement, has prompted criticism of Indian “heavy handedness”.




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