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November 12, 2020

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Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey:


Findings of the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey conducted in September.

  • The survey provides a glimpse into the levels of learning loss that students in rural India are suffering, with varying levels of access to technology, school and family resources, resulting in a digital divide in education.

About ASER:

ASER is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills.

  • It has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years. This year, the survey was conducted via phone calls.

Key findings- impact of Covid- 19 Pandemic:

  • About 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home. In Andhra Pradesh, less than 35% of children had textbooks. More than 98% had textbooks in West Bengal, Nagaland and Assam.

  • In the week of the survey, about one in three rural children had done no learning activity at all.

  • About two in three had no learning material or activity given by their school that week, and only one in 10 had access to live online classes.

  • 3% of rural children aged 6-10 years had not yet enrolled in school this year, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.

  • Enrolment patterns also show a slight shift toward government schools, with private schools seeing a drop in enrolment in all age groups.

Permanent Commission for Women in Indian Navy:


The Supreme Court has allowed the Union government time till December 31 to implement its March 17 judgment, which upheld the right of women naval officers to be considered for permanent commission.

Supreme Court March 17 judgement:

The Court had upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.

  • The judgment was based on a case filed by 17 women SSC officers who were denied PC and discharged despite completing 14 years of service as SSC officers.

Observations made by the Supreme Court:

  1. Women officers have worked shoulder to shoulder with their men counterparts in every walk of service.

  2. Therefore, the “101 excuses” devised by the government, including motherhood and physiological limitations, reeked of a stereotypical mindset.

  3. And women naval officers cannot be denied the right to equal opportunity and dignity entitled to under the Constitution on specious grounds such as physiology, motherhood and physical attributes.

Implications of the judgment:

  • Women naval officers will now be eligible to apply for permanent commission.

  • All serving women short service commission (SSC) officers in at least seven wings, including the executive, engineering, electrical, education, law and logistics, will be eligible to apply.

  • The grant of PCs will be subject to: (i) availability of vacancies in the stabilised cadre; (ii) Suitability of the candidate; and (iii) recommendation by the chief of Naval Staff.

What is Rural Development Fund?


The Centre has asked the Punjab Government to explain its utilisation of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) that it gets largely from the Food Corporation of India (FCI). This has enraged the state government.

What is Rural Development Fund or RDF?

RDF is the 3 per cent cess levied on the purchase or sale of agricultural produce under the Rural Development Fund Act, 1987 which is executed by Punjab Rural Development Board (PRDB) with the Chief Minister as its chairman.

From where does Punjab get this fund and what is it used for?

It comes mainly from central government’s purchase agency, Food Corporation of India, which buys around 13 million tonnes of wheat and 16 million tonnes of paddy every year.

  • This fund is supposed to be used for the creation and maintenance of rural infrastructure in and outside mandis. But there have been charges in the past that it was diverted by the state for other purposes.