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Daily Category  (GS PAPER I)

The National Education Policy 2020

Context:

  • The National Education Policy 2020 has been approved by the union cabinet. The new policy replaces the National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.
  • This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the thirty-four year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.
  • In 2018, a committee headed by K. Kasturirangan submitted its report on the new education policy.
  • Objective: To transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to the 21st century. The policy also aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.
  • Adult Education: Policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
  • Financing Education: The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
  • Education is in the concurrent list of schedule 7 of the Indian constitution, also most states have their own school boards.

                        

Policies related to School Education

Universal Access at all levels of school education

  • NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- pre school to secondary.
  • About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into main stream under NEP 2020.

Following steps will be taken:

  • Innovative education centers to bring back dropouts into the mainstream,
  • Tracking of students and their learning levels,
  • Facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes,
  • An association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools,
  • Open learning for class 3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools,
  • Secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses,

Early Childhood Care &Education with new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure

  • With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14- 18 years respectively.
  • This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child.
  • The new system will have 12 years of schooling with 3 years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.

National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood

Care and Education (NCPFECCE):

  • Developed by NCERT for children up to the age of 8. 
  • institutions including Anganwadis and preschools will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum.
  • The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs

Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

  • National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD.
  • States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.
  • A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy

  • Holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st-century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking, and a greater focus on experiential learning.
  • Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects.
  • There will be no rigid separations between
    • Arts and sciences,  
    • Curricular and extra-curricular activities,  
    • Vocational and academic streams.
  • Vocational education will also start in schools from the 6th grade and will include internships.
  • NCERT will develop a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21.

Multilingualism and the power of language

  • The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond.
  • Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula.
  • Other classical languages and literatures of India also to be available as options.
  • No language will be imposed on any student. 
  • Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level.
  • Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment Reforms

  •  Shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
  • All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority.
  • Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development.
  • National Assessment Centre, PARAKH:  Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development, will be set up as a standard-setting body.

Equitable and Inclusive Education

  • Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities, and disabilities. 
  • Gender Inclusion Fund: The policy also includes setting up of a Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
  • Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process.
  • Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities.
  • Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras.

Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path

  • Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes.
  • A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.

School Governance

  • Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including
    • Infrastructure,
    • Academic libraries and
    • Strong professional teacher community.

Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education

  • NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations and academic matters.
  • States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority
  • (SSSA).
  • The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

Classical languages:

  • Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education.
  • Other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
  • Mother tongue: Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/ mother-tongue/ local language/ regional language. This will be followed by both public and private schools.

Policies related to Higher Education

Increase GER to 50 % by 2035

  • NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.
  • 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions

Holistic Multidisciplinary Education

  • Broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education with
    • Flexible curricula,
    • Creative combinations of subjects,
    • Integration of vocational education and
    • Multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
  • UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
  • Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs
  • The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.

Regulation

  • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding
    • Medical and
    • Legal education.

HECI to have four independent verticals –

  1. National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation,
  2. General Education Council (GEC ) for standard setting,
  3. Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and
  4. National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation.
  • Powers to penalise: HECI will function through faceless intervention through technology, &will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards.
  • Same regulation for Public and private higher education institutions: Both will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.

Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty

  • NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of faculty thorugh
    • Clearly defined,
    • Independent,
    • Transparent recruitment ,
    • Freedom to design curricula/pedagogy,
    • Incentivising excellence,
    • Movement into institutional leadership.
  • Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable

Teacher Education

  • A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT.
  • By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree

Mentoring Mission

  • A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty
  • willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.

Financial support for students

  • To incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs.
  • The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
  • Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.

Open and Distance Learning

  • Significant role in increasing GER.
  • Online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based Recognition of moocs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class Programmes.

Online Education and Digital Education:

  • For promoting online education
  • to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible
  • A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD

Technology in education

An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration.

Promotion of Indian languages

 To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommends:

  • Setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI)
  • National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit
  • Strengthening of Sanskrit 
  • All language departments in HEIs
  • Use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes .

Professional Education

  • All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system.
  • Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.

Internationalization of education

Internationalization of education will be facilitated through

  • institutional collaborations
  • Student and faculty mobility
  • Allowing entry of top world ranked universities to open Campuses in our country

THE GOOD AND BAD ANALYSIS OF NEW EDUCATION POLICY

Introduction:

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 aims to revamp all aspects of India's education system that was in place over three decades and bring it closer to the best global standards of education. The cabinet under the guidance of Prime minister Narendra Modi has now given a nod to this new education policy for the 21st century. The new education policy is applauded by many authorities and is regarded as a promising model of education reforms that have been brought in India

Good of New Education Policy:

  • Higher education material in regional language: The policy calls for an “effort” to create high quality bilingual textbooks so students can understand concepts in both English and their regional languages.
  • Remove Rote Learning’: The bad part of Indian Education system was and is in its ‘Rote Learning’. NEP focuses on removal of rote learning and emphasizes on concepts, creativity and extra curricular work.
  • Foreign players: Participation of foreign universities in India is currently limited to them entering into collaborative twinning programmes, sharing faculty with partnering institutions and offering distance education. NEP allows foreign institutions to set up their branch in India. It will increase the education quality in India and further will improve our QS World university ranking.
  • Holy trinity of Science, Commerce or Humanities-the holy trinity of subject streams in Class 11 & 12, with one stream always deemed more divine than the others, have been done away.
  • Multi-disciplinarity: One of the buzz words in the document is multi-disciplinarity — an apparently attractive and flexible proposition, allowing learners to experiment with a variety of options.
  • Technology in Education: The new NEP has a new section on digital education to ensure “equitable use of technology”.
    • A dedicated unit to coordinate digital infrastructure, content and capacity building will be created within the Education Ministry to look after the online learning needs of both school and higher education. 
  • National Testing Agency:  It will serve as a premier, expert, autonomous testing organisation to conduct entrance examinations… in higher educational institutions.” This is expected to be a means of “drastically reducing the burden on students, universities and colleges, and the entire education system.”
    • It would attempt to create space for context-specific and diverse modes of evaluation for different fields of learning is a possibility that remains unexplored.
  • De-bureaucratisation: the NEP 2020 tries to de-bureaucratise the education system by giving governance powers to academicians. The policy recommends including more academicians in decision-making bodies. It recommends preparing a category of educational administrators among the teachers — the idea behind this move is to minimise the dependence on the administrative services and reduce hierarchy.
  • Financial support for students: Efforts will be made to incentivise the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.
  • No More Dropouts: Under the NEP, undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration with multiple exit options within this period. College will be mandated to give certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor's degree after a 3-year programme.

The Bad of New Education Policy:

  • English on backseat: In a bid to promote regional and local languages, English will take a back seat if this is implemented. While English is the language that was imposed on us for centuries and is the language of our colonizer, it does give us a great comparative global advantage because it is the language that the world talks in.
  • Underfunding of education: The move is also questionable because the education sector in our country is extremely underfunded. The condition of the government schools is deplorable, and the lack of competence is starkly evident.
  • Fiscal Burden: Though all acknowledge this fact that education is such a crucial sector that needs huge investment by the government. This policy promises 6 % of GDP expenditure into education. It will further increase the fiscal burden of the government
  • The incumbent government has set a target of 2040 to implement the entire policy. Sufficient funding is also crucial; the 1968 NEP was hamstrung by a shortage of funds.
  • Poor Quality of education: Another reason for the poor quality of education is the poor quality of teachers in government schools. The level of education that government schools are not as expected and they do not possess an honest image among people. NEP does not talk how it will improve the quality
  • Focus on multiple disciplines will dilute the character of single-stream institutions, such as IITs.
  • Examinations only in Classes 3, 5, and 8: Examinations are not just for checking a student’s potential, but a touchstone — a check and a preparation for education and life. If the foundation is laid thus, the future is definitely under question. Eliminating annual examinations from junior classes is not the solution. A more sensitive approach needs to brought about in parents and teachers to instill this life skill in children.
  • Political and bureaucratic resistance: The national education policies of 1968 and 1986 were also excellent and visionary, but could not be implemented due to political and bureaucratic resistance. The government is very much dependent on its bureaucrats for the implementation of its policies. Education, too, is a field where bureaucratic interests are involved, both at the Centre and state level, and accommodates them even after their retirement. So, it is not easy to curtail bureaucratic interest.

Way forward:

  • It is possible to promote regional and English language, both  at once, but introducing learning in English directly in Class 6 will prove to be very hard on children who come from backgrounds that aren’t as privileged as those from rich and upper-caste families
  • It took 34 years for a change in the education system. So, the rechristened education ministry needs to overhaul at least 34 years, if not more, of the science-stream raga that parents have been dutifully chanting.
  • There ought to be more emphasis given on adult education as it is necessary to teach the parents and guardians first in order that they become keen towards there ward’s education.
  • The condition of the government colleges and institutions ought to be raised to a reasonable level.
  • The NEP only provides a broad direction and is not mandatory to follow. Since education is a concurrent subject (both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on it), the reforms proposed can only be implemented collaboratively by the Centre and the states.
  • It is to be hoped that beyond the immediate excitement that the announcement of the implementation of the NEP has generated, there will be opportunities to examine its long-term implications, and, if necessary, revisit it, before it is actually implemented.
  • To make India a vibrant educational hub, one needs to take steps forward and not backward. We need to compare our education boards with international boards. People lagging need to be brought forward.

Har Ghar Jal State

Context:

Goa has become the first 'Har Ghar Jal' State in the country. The state successfully provides 100% Functional Household Tap Connections in the rural areas covering 2.30 lakh rural households.

  • Now, all rural homes in the State have a tap water supply. 

Details:

  • The state has utilized the benefits of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) which aims to improve the quality of life and bring 'ease-of-living' to rural communities.
  • The two districts of Goa I .e.North Goa and South Goa are fully saturated with assured piped water supply through tap connections.
  • To strengthen the water testing facilities, the State is in process of getting 14 water quality testing laboratories NABL accredited.  
  • Jal Jeevan Mission mandates training 5 persons in the very village especially women to be trained in using Field Test Kits, so that water can be tested in the villages.

Goa's Annual Action Plan:

  • Objective: To provide 100% Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTCs) in rural areas by 2021.
  • Accordingly, fund allocation from the Union to Goa in 2020-21 has been increased to Rs. 12.40 Crore for the plan.
  • The convergence of Schemes: The State explored through the convergence of various programs like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen), 15th Finance Commission for rural local bodies, etc. for the strengthening of drinking water sources, water supply, greywater (any domestic wastewater excluding sewage) treatment & re-use and operation & maintenance.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • It envisages the supply of 55 liters of water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections by 2024.
    • It aims to integrate demand and supply-side management of water at the local level.
  • Funding Pattern: 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
  • The total allocation to the scheme is over ?3 lakh crore.
  • Creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse, would be undertaken in convergence with other government programmes/schemes.
  • The key components of the mission: A community approach to water, Education, and Communication, a Jan Andolan for water, thereby making it everyone’s priority.

Source: PIB

Global Hunger Index 2020

Context:

According to the Global Hunger Index 2020, India has the highest prevalence of wasted children under five years in the world.

Key findings:

  • India ranks 94 out of 107 countries in the Index, lower than her neighbors such as Bangladesh (75) and Pakistan (88).
  • In the region of the south, east, and south-eastern Asia, the only countries which fare worse than India are Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
    • Child stunting: Although it is still in the poorest category, however, child stunting has actually improved significantly, from 54% in 2000 to less than 35% now. 
    • Child wasting: It has not improved in the last two decades, and is rather worse than it was a decade ago.
    • Child mortality rates: India has improved in both child mortality rates, which are now at 3.7%, and in terms of undernourishment, with about 14% of the total population which gets an insufficient caloric intake.

The worldwide scenario of food security:

  • Worldwide nearly 690 million people are undernourished which warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could have affected the progress made on reducing hunger and poverty.

SDG Goals progress: 

  • The 2020 Global Hunger Index report presents a multi-dimensional measure of national, regional, and global hunger by assigning a numerical score based on several aspects of hunger.
    • It then ranks countries by GHI score and compares current scores with past results.
  • The 2020 report considers a One Health approach to linking health and sustainable food systems in order to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.
  • The world is also not on track to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal — known as Zero Hunger for short — by 2030. 
  • At the current pace, nearly 37 countries will fail even to reach low hunger, as defined by the Global Hunger Index Severity Scale, by 2030.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI):

  • It is a tool that measures and tracks hunger globally as well as by region and by country.
  • It is calculated annually, and its report issued in October each year.
  • The GHI was initially published by the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Germany-based Welthungerhilfe.
  • In 2007, the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide also became a co-publisher

Calculation of GHI Scores:

  • The Global Hunger Index measures hunger on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst.
  • The GHI combines 4 component indicators:
    • the proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population;
    • the proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting, a sign of acute undernutrition;
    • the proportion of children under the age of five suffering from stunting, a sign of chronic undernutrition; and
    • the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

Source: Indian Express

Chapter Proceedings

Context:

The Mumbai police have begun “chapter proceedings” against Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.

Chapter proceedings:

  • Chapter proceedings are preventive actions taken by the police if they fear that a particular person is likely to create trouble and disrupt the peace in society.
  • These proceedings are unlike punitive action taken in case of an FIR with an intention to punish.
  • In chapter proceedings, the police can issue notices under sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that the person is aware that creating nuisance could result in action against him. 
  • Chapter proceeding is not a legal term. All the sections related to preventing of crime fall under a single chapter, it was colloquially called “chapter proceedings” and has since been used to refer to actions of this nature.

Sections:

  • A notice is issued to a person under section 111 of the CrPC whereby he is asked to present himself before the Executive Magistrate.
  • The person has to explain why he should not be made to sign a bond of good behaviour.
  • If the Executive Magistrate is not satisfied with the answer, the person is asked to sign a bond of good behaviour and produce sureties vouching for his/her good behaviour.
  • A fine amount is also decided in accordance with the crime and the person’s financial capability which the person would have to pay if he violates the conditions set in the bond.
  • The section states that any person who disseminates information that could lead to ill will among communities and castes should be served this notice.

Options to appeal against the notice:

  • On receiving the notice under section 111, a person can appeal the notice before the courts.
  • In 2017, the Bombay High Court mentioned that “chapter proceedings cannot be initiated on the basis of an incident of trivial nature”.
  • In 2018 the Mumbai sessions court also mentioned that chapter proceedings cannot be used with the purpose of punishing a past offence.

Use of chapter proceedings:

  • When an ACP receives information that any person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb public tranquillity or do any wrongful act that may probably occasion a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity he may in the manner hereinafter provided, require such person to show cause why he should not be ordered to execute a bond.
  • There is no need for even an FIR against a person for issuing a notice under section 107 of the CrPC.

Source: Indian Express

Zojila Tunnel

Context:

The Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways has decided to initiate the first blasting for Zojila Tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.

Zojila Tunnel:

  • The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh (Ladakh plateau) on NH-1.
  • It will bring about an all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of Jammu & Kashmir (now UTs of J&K and Ladakh).
  • It involves the construction of a 14.15 Km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zojila pass on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil.
  • The project was first conceived in 2005 and its Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the year 2013 on BOT (Annuity) mode.
  • The Project was eventually given to NHIDCL in July 2016 for implementation on EPC mode.

Significance:

  • The tunnel shall bring about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions which remains cut-off from the rest of the country during winters due to heavy snowfall for about six months.
  • The tunnel in Zojila is the only viable alternative at present for a full year connectivity road.
  • It will also be of great importance to the Defence of the country, in view of the fact that massive military activities along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit, and Baltistan regions are taking place.
  • Zojila Tunnel project shall bring to fruition, 30 years of overwhelming public demand of Kargil, Drass, and Ladakh region.
  • The Project will make the travel on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches.
  • The project would enhance the safety of the travelers crossing Zojila Pass and would reduce the Travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes.

Zojila Pass:

  • It is a high mountain pass in the Himalayas in the Indian union territory of Ladakh.
  • The pass connects the Kashmir Valley to its west with the Drass and Suru valleys to its northeast and the Indus valley further east.
  • The National Highway-1 between Srinagar and Leh in the western section of the Himalayan mountain range traverses the pass.

Source: Hindustan Times

Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Project

Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved the implementation of the Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) Project under the New Education Policy to support States in strengthening the school education system.

  • Objective: To focus on initiatives of PM e-Vidya, Foundational Literacy, and Numeracy Mission and National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

STARS Project:

  • The project covers 6 States namely Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, and Odisha.
  • The identified States will be supported by tor various interventions for improving the quality of education.
  • It is a World Bank-financed project.
  • It would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education.

Significance:

  • The STARS project seeks to support the states in developing, implementing, evaluating, and improving interventions with direct linkages to improved education outcomes and school to work transition strategies for improved labor market outcomes.
  • The overall focus and components of the STARS project are aligned with the objectives of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of Quality-Based Learning Outcomes.
  • The Project envisions improving the overall monitoring and measurement activities in the Indian School Education System through interventions in selected states.
  • The project shifts focus from the provision of inputs and maintaining outputs to actual outcomes by linking the receipt and disbursement of funds to these outcomes.
  • The project also includes a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the national component which would enable it to be more responsive to any natural, man-made, and health disasters.

PARAKH:

  • It is a national assessment center for Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development (PARAKH).
  • It will be set up as a standard-setting body under the Ministry of Education.

Source: The Hindu

Disturbed Areas Act

Context:

President of India has given his assent to a Bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly which made some important amendments to The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act popularly known as the ‘Disturbed Areas Act’.

Disturbed Areas Act:

Notification:

  • Under the Disturbed Areas Act, a district Collector can notify a particular area of a city or town as a “disturbed area”. This notification is generally done based on the history of communal riots in the area.
  • Following this notification, the transfer of immovable property in the disturbed area can take place only after the Collector expressly signs off on an application made by the buyer and the seller of the property.
  • In the application, the seller has to attach an affidavit stating that she/he has sold the property of her/his free volition and that she/he has got a fair market price.

Reasons for amendment of the Act:

  • The Bill to amend the Act was brought in after a large number of complaints were received from MLAs and other people about individuals who had skirted the provisions of the Act by taking advantage of legal loopholes in it.
  • It was argued that this could potentially lead to the communal polarisation of a particular locality.
  • In the earlier version of the Act, the district Collector had to ensure, on the basis of an affidavit by the seller, that she/he had sold the property of her/his own free will, and that she/he had got the fair market price for it.
    • However, there were reports of anti-social elements selling and buying properties after either threatening people or luring them with higher prices, in areas marked as “disturbed”.

Key provisions:

Power:

  • The amended Act gives the Collector more powers to ascertain if there is a likelihood of “polarisation” or “improper clustering” of persons belonging to a particular community, thus disturbing the demographic equilibrium in the area. Also, the state government is now authorized to review a decision taken by the Collector.
  • A provision has been made for the creation of a special investigation team (SIT) or committee to probe these aspects.
  • In municipal corporation areas, the SIT will comprise the concerned Collector, Municipal Commissioner, and Police Commissioner as members. In areas other than municipal corporations, the SIT will have the Collector, Superintendent of Police, and Regional Municipal Commissioner as members.

An advisory committee:

  • The amended Act enables the state government to form an advisory committee that will advise it on various aspects of the DA Act, including adding new areas to the ‘disturbed areas’ list. 
  • The amendment has added a provision to the original Act that gives the state government supervisory authority to review the Collector’s decision related to the Act, even if there is no appeal filed against the same. The formation of the supervisory authority will be done while framing the Rules for the amended Act.

Applicability: 

  • The provisions of the Act will not be applicable to the government’s rehabilitation schemes in a disturbed area, where it resettles displaced people.
  • As per the government, earlier only those areas which had witnessed (communal) riots would be notified as ‘disturbed areas’.
    • However, now, the government can notify any area as a ‘disturbed area’ where it sees the possibility of a communal riot, or where it sees the possibility of a particular community’s polarisation. 

Source: Indian Express

India to have highest working age population by 2100: Lancet

Context:

India is estimated to have the largest working-age population by 2100, according to a study published in Lancet recently.

Major finding of the Study:

  • India is estimated to have the largest working-age population by 2100, followed by Nigeria, China, and the US, despite a huge decline in the number of workers.
  • Huge declines in the number of workers are seen in China and India by researchers who projected the number of working-age individuals (aged between 20 and 64 years) for the 10 largest countries by population in 2017.
  • The researchers estimated the population from 2018 to 2100 for 195 countries and territories with the standard cohort-component method of projection using estimates from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2017.
  • The global population will peak in 2064 at 9·73 billion and then decline to 8·79 billion in 2100, considering statistical models of fertility, mortality, and migration.
  • India, Nigeria, China, the US, and Pakistan are likely to be the five largest countries by population in 2100.
  • Between 2017 and 2100, 23 countries, including Japan, Thailand, and Spain, are projected to have a population declines greater than 50%.
  • China, whose population is expected to decline by 48%, is projected to become the largest economy by 2035 before the US overtakes it in 2098.
  • Calling a decline in total world population in the latter half of the century as potentially “good news" for the global environment, the study said, fewer people on the planet in every year between now and 2100 than the number forecasted by the UNPD would mean less carbon emission, less stress on global food systems, and less likelihood of transgressing planetary boundaries.
  • However, despite the lower population, environmental and climate change might still have major and serious consequences in the intervening years unless preventive action and mitigation is vigorously pursued.

About Fertility Rate:

  • By 2050, 151 countries are projected to have a total fertility rate (TFR)—the average number of children born per woman—lower than the replacement level (TFR <2·1), and 183 nations will have a TFR lower than replacement by 2100.
  • “Replacement level fertility" is the total fertility rate at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration. This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, although it may vary with mortality rates.
  • The authors said the findings suggest continued gains in female literacy and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow down population growth.
  • A sustained TFR lower than the replacement level in many countries, including China and India, will have economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical consequences. Policy options to adapt to continued low fertility, while sustaining and enhancing female reproductive health, will be crucial in the years to come.
  • “In our model, in a population where all females have 16 years of education and 95% of females have access to contraception, the global TFR was projected to converge at 1·41".
  • One important determinant of population growth is the rate of fertility decline in high-fertility countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa. This rate of decline was driven largely by improvements in access to education and modern contraceptives.

People Migration:

  • The researchers projected that 118 of 195 countries and territories will have net migration rates between −1 and 1 per 1,000 population in 2100, with an additional 44 countries having net migration rates between −2 and 2 per 1,000.
  • The countries with the largest immigration forecasts in absolute numbers in 2,100 are the US, India, and China, whereas emigration was projected to be highest in Somalia, the Philippines, and Afghanistan.
  • Net immigration rates are likely to be the highest in Canada, Turkey, and Sweden, whereas emigration rates will be at the highest in El Salvador, Samoa, and Jamaica.

Source: Livemint

The network of things

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The coronavirus is reshaping our understanding of the world around us.

Life sciences are compelled to revisit the very idea of life and living organism because of the culture and structure of the formation of the virus.

This editorial discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing humanity to view differently out social world and borders.

2. COVID-19 RESHAPING OUR UNDERSTANDING

2.1 Coronavirus reshaping life sciences discipline

  • The coronavirus is unlike any other virus. It has altered the very basics of our understanding of man and his social interactions. 
  • The coronavirus might force disciplines such as microbiology and biochemistry to reorganise and reorient their disciplinary configuration due to issues such as
    • mutation of the virus
    • the manner in which it intrudes into the human body
    • afterlife of the virus
    • the human immune system vis-a-vis the virus
    • other biological crisis due to the virus

2.2 Coronavirus reshaping humanities and social sciences discipline

  • However, not only life sciences but the social sciences and humanities too need to reorganise and reassemble their disciplinary configuration in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis since the pandemic has had a devastating impact of whole of humankind in some way or the other.
  • The most important dimension that need to be the new focus of study in the humanities discipline is the power of the non-human over the human.

3. A NEW APPROACH TO SOCIAL INTERACTIONS

3.1 The Actor Network Theory (ANT)

  • During the 1980s and 1990s, scientists in France undertook inquiries as to how various human activities are affected by the non-human and non-living actors. 
  • These scientists, during their study of the life of science and scientists stumbled upon what is known as the Actor Network Theory (ANT).
  • This new insight suggested that nothing is outside the network, and everything is connected in the social.

3.2 How classical social scientists see the social world?

  • The classical social scientists view the social world merely as a conglomeration of people.
  • This loose understanding of the social world by the classical social scientists was challenged by the ANT Theory.

3.2 How ANT sees the social world?

  • The ANT suggests that the social world is an aggregation of human, non-human and non-living entities, caught in the network of associations.
  • The COVID pandemic has drawn the attention of the social scientists to marginalise their anthropocentric assumptions and instead shift the spotlight on these associations of things.
  • Among the various aspects of the ANT, the editorial focuses on the interface between the human and the non-human in context of COVID-19 pandemic.

4. HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN INTERACTIONS

4.1 Non-human and non-living entities

  • The proponents of the ANT are of the view that human society has evolved over the period of time and in this process of evolution numerous objects like pen, camera, telescope, airplane, cellphone, and non-human entities like microbes have come to constitute the social.
  • Human life is entwined into the network of these things.
  • In this network, the non-human entities who unlike humans have no will, consciousness and intention yet make a difference to the human life.
  • Hence, un the ANT framework, apart from humans, viruses like corona and objects like airplanes have also become active agents of change with the capacity to alter this network.

4.2 New Social Actors

  • Since these non-human and non-living entities are capable of bringing about a change in the network of the social, they are termed as actors.
  • Hence, some social scientists expand the definition of globalisers from more than MNCs to include non-human actors as well, with social scientist Bruno Latour even suggesting the virus to be the real globaliser.

5. POWER OF NETWORK AND CHALLENGES

5.1 Non-human actors and power of network

  • However, these non-human actors cannot make any difference in the network on their own, their capacity to alter the network is not intrinsic to them.
  • These non-human actors become influential in their association with the larger network of things including humans.
  • Hence, the capacity of these non-human actors depends on the power of the network and as the power of the network gets lesser, the impacts of these non-human actors gets minimal.
  • The coronavirus has appeared on the global scene at a time when entire network of the world has been thick and closely knit due to globalisation. 
  • In the pre-modern world where mobility and human connections were limited, the COVID-19 would have had much less impact and the world would have been in a much better position that what it is today.

5.2 New challenges from the network

  • The present globalised world is made up of complex associations and assemblies and this explains the intrusion of the coronavirus into every nook and corner of the globe.
  • Hence, the greatest challenge in front of mankind is to reconfigure the network of things without holding it back.
  • To address the problem of the pandemic effectively, it is imperative that we have a clear understanding of how close the world is today and how the forces of globalisation have formed a global village.
  • The sociology of associations propounded by the ANT helps us to better understand the reality of human interactions and the larger network of association and grasp the problem of the pandemic.

6. WAY FORWARD

6.1 Need of introspection

  • ANT compels us to introspect and reassemble the social sciences and humanities apart from our social world.
  • ANT shows that the natural, social and technological are not separate domains and they intimately entwine to create the reality around us through networking.
  • This new understanding of the social calls for a reorganisation of our knowledge systems based on a new interdisciplinary thinking.

6.2 Interdisciplinary Approach

  • Interdisciplinary thinking can only be achieved through breaking the borders of narrow knowledge compartments and increasing integration of disciplines.
  • Such an approach calls for discarding the traditional approaches when learning in compartmentalised and done in silos and approach towards interdisciplinary thinking through integration of the sciences with arts and humanities, and social sciences.
  • The editorial suggests various approaches as
    • assimilation of the history of sciences in the study of pure sciences
    • inclusion of scientific narratives in the discipline of historical studies
    • encouraging film and literary texts on ecological crises in environmental sciences
    • expanding the scope of life sciences to  include social history of epidemics
  • Such an approach would enable us to have a clear picture of the actors in this network and empower and equip us to deal with new challenges arising out of this network in a better and more efficient way.

Dust Responsible for Snowmelt in Western Himalayan Region

Context:

A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that the dust is responsible for snow-melt in the Western Himalayan Region.

Details:

  • The dust particles transported from Saudi Arabia that get deposited in the Western Himalayan Region i.e. Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and western Himalaya ranges have a large role to play in the melting of snow.
  • It is the first time the role of long-distance transported dust in elevational heterogeneity of snow melting in the Himalayas has been made.
  • The dust transported as elevated aerosol layers get deposited at 1-5 km elevation and the black carbon emission is mostly a surface phenomenon and influences the melting of snow from the surface to about 3 km elevation.

Key findings:

  • The authors of the study show that the relative impacts of dust and black carbon vary with a surface elevation of the snowpack.
  • The black carbon has a larger snow albedo darkening effect than dust due to larger mass absorption efficiency.
    • Albedo is the measurement of the reflectivity of an object. It is the measure of the diffuse reflection of solar radiation out of the total solar radiation received by an astronomical body. Every object has a different albedo.
  • The study found that the radiative effects of dust deposited on snow are comparable to black carbon in the Western Himalayan Region at higher elevations.
    • It is mainly because the deposition of dust by mass is 100-1,000 times more than black carbon.
  • As the elevation increases, the influence of dust becomes greater than black carbon and the phenomenon coincides with the maximum intensity of snowmelt reduction seen at 3-5 km elevation.

Black Carbon:

  • The study found out that black carbon mainly contributes to snowmelt at lower elevation while dust is the major contributor for snowmelt at a higher elevation.
  • The Westerlies transport dust particles as elevated aerosol layers at maximum intensities mostly during the pre-monsoon period  and it gets deposited at higher elevations in the western Himalayan region.
  • The annual contribution of dust to snowmelt is likely to increase in the future as the black carbon effect at lower elevation weakens with dwindling snowpack due to the effect of global warming.

Source: The Hindu

Strobilanthes Kunthiana

Context:

Recently, the experts have warned that the iconic flora native to the Nilgiris, including more than 30 species of Strobilanthes, could be under threat of being displaced with the continuing advance of invasive flora such as Cestrum aurantiacum and Lantana Camara.

Strobilanthes Kunthiana:

  • It is a rare plant that grows mainly in the shola grasslands of the Western Ghats in India.
  • The mass blooming of the Strobilanthes kunthiana, known commonly as the neelakurinji, gave the Nilgiris (the Blue Mountains) its iconic name.
  • Neelakurinji plant was first seen in the vicinity of the Kunthi River.
  • The Kurinjimala Sanctuary was made in Munnar exclusively to protect the Neelakurinji plants.
  • The habitat of the Strobilanthes plants in the upper Nilgiris is being eroded by the Cestrum aurantiacum and they are also threatened by other invasive species like Lantana Camara in the lower slopes.

The Kunthi River:

  • It is located in Kerala and flows through the Silent Valley National Park.
  • It is a tributary of the river Thuthapuzha, which is in turn one of the main tributaries of the Bharathapuzha River, the second-longest river in Kerala.
  • This river is mainly used by the people of Mannarkkad taluk of Palakkad district.
  • This river is known for the story of the bathing of Kunthi Devi, the mother of Pandavas. 

Lantana Camara:

  • It is a small perennial shrub, which forms extensive, dense, and impenetrable thickets.
  • It is a highly variable ornamental shrub, a native of the neotropics.
  • It is native to Central and South America but its original distribution is unclear due to the introduction of a number of ornamental varieties.
  • It is an invasive species that was introduced in tropical regions as an ornamental plant (introduced in India in 1807).
  • It is generally deleterious to biodiversity and has been reported as an agricultural weed resulting in large economic losses.

Cestrum Aurantiacum:

  • It is also known as Orange Cestrum.
  • It is native to North and South America.
  • It is an evergreen, half-climbing shrub reaching 10 ft tall.

Source: The Hindu

Aenigmachannidae

Context:

A new family of bony freshwater fish has been discovered from the paddy fields of Kerala.

  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Education, and Research (IISER), Pune, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Nirmalagiri College in Kerala, Natural History Museums in London and Berne, along with Senckenberg Natural History Collections, Germany, were part of the discovery of the fish family named Aenigmachannidae.

Aenigmachannidae:

  • The fish, with a long and elongated body, was sighted only post-sunset along with the paddy fields of Mallapuram district in north Kerala.
  • It is believed that Aenigmachannidae fish has a lineage going back to Gondwanaland and has survived even after the parting away of the Asian and African continents.
  • The fish has been declared as a ‘living fossil’ because of the CT scans and detailed analysis of the specimen led the scientific team to trace primitive characteristics.
  • The distinction in the newly discovered fish family was that it has remained subterranean i.e., unlike its sister species that have evolved and now thrive in surface water bodies commonly found in the west, central Africa regions, and Asia.

Theory of Continental Drift:

  • This theory was given by Alfred Wegener. The theory states that about 300 million years all the continents had formed a single mass, called Pangaea which meant all earth.
    • Pangaea was surrounded by a mega ocean called Panthalassa which meant all water.
  • About 200 million years ago, the super-continent began to split apart. Pangaea first broke into two large continental landmasses, Laurasia in the northern hemisphere, and Gondwanaland in the southern hemisphere.
  • Laurasia and Gondwanaland then continued to break apart into the various smaller continents that exist today.
  • Wegener put forward pieces of evidence such as the matching of shorelines of South America and Africa, identical geological structures, and identical fossil species along with the coastal parts of Africa and South America.
  • Wegener thought that the continents were moving through the earth's crust, like icebreakers plowing through ice sheets. According to him the movement responsible for the drifting of the continents was caused by pole-fleeing force (Centrifugal force due to rotation of the earth) and tidal force.

Source: Indian Express

Rules for the protection of Good Samaritans

Context:

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has notified the rules for the protection of Good Samaritans.

  • A “Good Samaritan" means a person, who in good faith, voluntarily and without expectation of any reward or compensation renders emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance at the scene of an accident to the victim or transports such victim to the hospital.
  • India witnesses around 1.5 lakh deaths every year due to road accidents which are the highest in the world.

Background:

  • Earlier, In the Save life Foundation and another V/S, Union of India case Supreme Court directed the Central Government to issue necessary directions with regard to the protection of Good Samaritans until appropriate legislation is made by the Union Legislature

New guidelines:

  • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, inserted a new section 134A, named "Protection of good Samaritans" which provides that a Good Samaritan shall not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of the victim of an accident.
  • The people helping the road accidents victims on the spot can no longer be put through legal quagmire at the hospital or later by law enforcement authorities.
  • The rules provide for the rights of good samaritan which include that the good samaritan is treated respectfully without any discrimination on the grounds of religion, nationality, caste, or sex.
  • No police officer or any other person shall compel a Good Samaritan to disclose his/her name, identity, address, or any other personal details. However, he may voluntarily choose to disclose the same.
  • The rules also provide that every public and the private hospital shall publish a charter in Hindi, English, and vernacular language, at the entrance or other conspicuous location, and on their website, stating the rights of Good Samaritans.
  • If a person has voluntarily agreed to become a witness in the case in which he has acted as a Good Samaritan, he shall be examined in accordance with the provisions of the new law.

Source: PIB

Tribes India e-Marketplace

Context:

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has decided to launch the 'Tribes India e-Marketplace' on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.

Tribes India e-Marketplace:

  • It is a pathbreaking initiative of the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • It is an ambitious initiative through which TRIFED aims to onboard 5 lakh tribal producers for sourcing of various handicrafts, handloom, natural food products across the country.
  • It is a state-of-the-art e-commerce platform that can be accessed on the web and also mobile for both customers and the tribal vendors registered.
  • It will showcase the produce and handicrafts of tribal enterprises from across the country.

Significance:

  • The suppliers comprise of individual tribal artisans, tribal SHGs, Organisations/ Agencies/ NGOs working with tribals.
  • The platform provides tribal suppliers with an Omni-channel facility to sell their goods through their own retailers and distributors.
  • It will facilitate Business-to-Business (B2B) trade connecting tribals dependent on Minor Forest Produces and Medicinal plants to large buyers /manufacturers.

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED):

  • It was established in 1987 under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984.
  • The objective is the socio-economic development of tribal people in the country by way of marketing development of the tribal products on which the lives of tribals depend heavily.
  • TRIFED is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. 
  • It was established as a National level Cooperative body under the administrative control of the then Ministry of Welfare of India.

Source: PIB

Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (ASIIM)

Context:

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (ASIIM) under Venture Capital Fund for SCs.

  • Objective: To promoting innovation and enterprise among SC students studying in higher educational institutions.

Venture Capital Fund for SCs:

  • The Ministry of Social Justice had launched the Venture Capital Fund for SCs in 2014-15 with a view to developing entrepreneurship amongst the SC/Divyang youth and to enable them to become 'job-givers’.
  • Objective: To provide concessional finance to the entities of the SC entrepreneurs.

Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (ASIIM):

  • Under this fund, 117 companies promoted by SC entrepreneurs have been sanctioned financial assistance to set up business ventures.
  • Under the ASIIM initiative, 1,000 SC youth would be identified in the next 4 years with start-up ideas through the Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) in various higher educational institutions.
  • They will be funded @ Rs. 30 lakhs in 3 years as equity funding so that they can translate their start-up ideas into commercial ventures.
  • Successful ventures would further qualify for venture funding of up to Rs. 5 Crore from the Venture Capital Fund for SCs.
  • The Ministry has also decided to launch ASIIM through the Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes (VCFSC).

It’s objectives include:

  • To promote entrepreneurship among the SC Youth with special preference to Divyangs;
  • To support (1,000) innovative ideas until 2024 through a synergetic work with the Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) set up by the Department of Science and Technology;  
  • To support, promote, hand-hold the start-up ideas until they reach the commercial stage by providing liberal equity support; and
  • To incentivize students with an innovative mindset to take to entrepreneurship with confidence.

Eligibility:

  • Youth who have been identified by the TBIs.
  • Students who have been awarded under the Smart India Hackathon or Smart India Hardware Hackathon being conducted by the Ministry of Education.
  • Innovative ideas focusing on the socio-economic development of the society identified in the TBIs.
  • Start-ups nominated and supported by corporates through Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) funds.

Significance:

  • This initiative will promote innovation in the SC youth and would help them to become job-givers from job-seekers, and would further give a fillip to the ‘Stand Up India’ initiative.

Source: PIB

 

Annual Crime in India Report

Context:

According to the annual Crime in India 2019 report, a crime against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) saw an increase of over 7% and 26% respectively in the year 2019 compared to 2018.

  • The report is published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Cases against SCs:

  • A total of 45,935 cases were registered for committing a crime against SCs, showing an increase of 7.3% over 2018 when 42,793 such cases were recorded.
  • At 11,829 cases, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of crimes against SCs in 2019, followed by 6,794 cases in Rajasthan and 6,544 cases in Bihar.

Rape cases:

  • In the number of cases of rape of women belonging to SCs, Rajasthan topped the list with 554 cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 537 and Madhya Pradesh at 510 cases.
  • A total of 8,257 cases were registered for committing a crime against STs, an increase of 26.5% over 2018 when 6,528 such cases were registered.
  • Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of cases against STs as it recorded 1,922 cases, followed by Rajasthan, which recorded 1,797 cases and Odisha-576 cases.
  • The highest number of incidents of rape of tribal women- 358 was registered in Madhya Pradesh, followed by 180 incidents in Chattisgarh and 114 in Maharashtra.

Cognizable crimes:

  • A total of 51,56,172 cognizable crimes comprising 32,25,701 Indian Penal Code (IPC) ones and 19,30,471 Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes were registered in 2019. It showed an increase of 1.6% in the registration of cases over 2018 (50,74,635 cases).
  • A total of 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were registered in 2019 compared to 3,78,236 cases in 2018, showing an increase of 7.3%.
  • Cybercrimes increased by 63.5% in 2019. A total of 44,546 cases were registered under cybercrimes, compared to 27,248 cases in 2018. In 2019, 60.4% of cybercrime cases registered were for the motive of fraud (26,891 out of 44,546 cases), followed by sexual exploitation, with 5.1% (2,266 cases), and causing disrepute with 4.2% (1,874 cases).

CHRI statement:

  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a police reform advocacy group, highlights a few cases that were being registered for specific discriminatory action against SCs and STs.
  • Crimes against SCs and STs include the following categories- atrocities committed by non-SC/ST members under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 (hereafter POA Act), the Indian Penal Code, and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.

National Crime Record Bureau:

  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It was set up on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task Force (1985).
  • Objective: To function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • NCRB publishes the Crime in India report.
  • Headquarter: New Delhi.

Source: The Hindu

ICGS Kanaklata Barua

Context:

A Fast Patrol Vessel (FPV) named ICGS Kanaklata Barua was commissioned in the Indian Coast Guard.

  • It is named after a teenage freedom fighter who was shot dead in Assam during the Quit India Movement.

About the ship:

  • It is the fifth and last in a series of FPVs built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd.
    • The other four are ICGS Priyadarshini (named after Indira Gandhi), ICGS Annie Besant, ICGS Kamala Devi (after Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay), and ICGS Amrit Kaur.
  • These FPVs are upgraded versions of the inshore patrol vessels and can achieve a speed of 34 knots.
  • In the Coast Guard, these FPVs and their earlier versions belong to the Rajashree class of patrol vessels.
    • The previous versions were named ICGS Rajashree, Rajtanag, Rajkiran, Rajkamal, Rajdoot, Rajveer, etc; the modified versions are named after freedom fighters.

Significance:

  • These are suited for patrolling, maritime surveillance, anti-smuggling, anti-poaching operations and also for fishery protection, and rescue and search missions.
  • These FPVs are medium-range surface vessels with a length of around 50 m, and a displacement of over 300 tonnes.

Kanaklata Barua:

  • She was one of the youngest martyrs of the Quit India Movement who has iconic status in Assam.
  • She led the Mukti Bahini which was a procession of freedom fighters to unfurl the Tricolour at Gohpur police station in 1942.
  • When police did not let them move forward, an altercation led to the firing, killing Barua at the head of the procession.
  • The Coast Guard had named an earlier ship after her. The previous ICGS Kanaklata Barua was commissioned in 1997 and decommissioned in 2017. The ship was dismantled in 2018 and sold as scrap.

Source: Indian Express

Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH)

Context:

The Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare participated in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH) ‘Accountability Breakfast’ to discuss the issues of maternal and child health.

  • Theme: Protecting gains in Reproductive, Maternal, and Child Health from the COVID pandemic.

Details:

  • At the national level, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued guidance to the States to ensure that women, children, and adolescents continue to get all the healthcare services even under severe strain due to the COVID pandemic.
  • Further, the government has included COVID in the medical conditions covered under the Ayushman Bharat – PM-JAY insurance package provided by the government.
  • The government has tried to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure through its policy of no denial for essential services, like-

Reproductive Maternal Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH):

  • It was launched in 2013 to address the major causes of mortality among women and children as well as the delays in accessing and utilizing health care and services.
  • It mainly focuses on tuberculosis, chemotherapy, dialysis, and healthcare of the elderly, irrespective of the Covid-19 status.

LaQshya program:

  • It aims to reduce preventable maternal and newborn mortality, morbidity, and stillbirths associated with the care around delivery in the Labour Room and Maternity Operation Theatre (OT) and ensure respectful maternity care.

Safe Motherhood Assurance (SUMAN) initiative:

  • It aims to achieve zero preventable Maternal and Newborn Deaths.
  • According to the NITI Aayog data, Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) has dropped by 8% in India to 130 per 100,000 live births. The aim is to get it in line with the Sustainable Development Goal of 70 per 1,00,000 live births by 2030.

About PMNCH:

  • It is founded in 2005 as a global health partnership.
  • It is hosted at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland which joins the maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) communities into an alliance.
  • The Accountability Breakfast aims to convert talk into action for the health and rights of women, children, and adolescents.

The White Ribbon Alliance:

  • It is founded in 1999 as a nonpartisan, non-profit and non-governmental membership organization.
  • Its main objective is to decrease maternal and newborn death globally.
  • Headquarters: Washington, D.C., USA

Source: PIB

Five Species Included in Madhya Pradesh’s Fauna List

Context:

Recently, the researchers from Wildlife Institute of India have come up with a list of five species of amphibians which are to be included in Madhya Pradesh’s fauna list.

  • The five species are dwarf toad, Odisha paddy frog, wrinkled cricket frog, Pierre’s cricket frog, and western burrowing frog.

Details:

  • The study was conducted on the amphibians in the central Indian Panna Tiger Reserve which were hitherto undocumented in this region.
  • The researchers have recorded a call library of eleven species and also have obtained molecular confirmation (through DNA) of the cryptic species.

Dwarf Toad:

  • It is thumbnail-sized species that was discovered in India's the Western Ghats.
  • It has been named Astrobatrachus kurichiyana for its constellation-like markings and the indigenous people of Kurichiyarmala.
  • It is a widespread and common toad in India and Sri Lanka.
  • It is listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Odisha paddy frog:

  • It is a species of frog that is endemic to Odisha state in eastern India.
  • Its scientific name is Fejervarya orissaensis.
  • It is listed as ‘Least Concern’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Wrinkled Cricket Frog:

  • It is a species of night frog in the family Nyctibatrachidae.
  • It is endemic to the Western Ghats.
  • It is listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Pierre’s cricket frog:

  • It is a species of amphibians in the family Dicroglossidae.
  • It is found in Nepal, India, Bhutan, and eastern Bangladesh.
  • It is listed as ‘Least Concern’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Panna Tiger Reserve:

  • Panna National Park was formed in 1981 and in 1994, it was included as India’s 22nd tiger reserve.
  • It is situated in the Vindhyan mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh.
  • The River Ken flows from the south to the north through the reserve.
  • It forms the northernmost tip of the natural teak forests and the easternmost tip of the natural Anogeissus pendula (Kardhai) forests.

Source: The Hindu

Durgam Cheruvu Lake

Context:

Recently, Telangana Minister of State for Home has inaugurated the new ‘Cable-Stayed Bridge’ constructed across Durgam Cheruvu Lake.

Details:

  • The bridge touted as one of its kind in the country has been constructed as part of the Telangana government’s flagship Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP).
  • It is set to ease traffic flow towards the city, reducing commute time between Jubilee Hills and Madhapur.
  • The cable-stayed portion of the bridge is 426 metres long, including the approaches on both ends, and 25.8 metres wide, with a total of 52 stay cables. The approach viaduct and solid ramps are 309.8 metres long with 1.8 metres footpaths on both sides.

Durgam Cheruvu Lake:

  • It is a freshwater lake located in Rangareddy district, Telangana.
  • It is also known as Raidurgam Cheruvu.
  • It served as the drinking water source for the residents of Golkonda fort under the rule of the Qutub Shahi dynasty.
  • The lake is also known as the 'secret lake', as it was naturally hidden between rocks, with Jubilee Hills on one side and Madhapur on the other.

The Qutb Shahi dynasty

  • This dynasty ruled the Golconda Sultanate in south India from 1518 AD to 1687 AD. 
  • The Qutb Shahis were descendant of Qara Yusuf from Qara Qoyunlu a Turkoman Muslim tribe. 
  • After the collapse of Bahmani Sultanate, the "Qutb Shahi" dynasty was established in 1518 AD by Quli Qutb Mulk who assumed the title of "Sultan".
  • In 1636, Shah Jahan forced the Qutb Shahis to recognize Mughal suzerainty, the dynasty came to an end in 1687 during seventh Sultan Abul Hasan Qutb Shah when Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb seized Golconda fort and occupied the kingdom.
  • The kingdom extended from the parts of modern-day states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • The Qutb Shahis were great patrons of Persianate Shia culture, it also adopted the regional culture of the Deccan (Telugu culture, language and the newly developed Deccani dialect of Urdu).
  • The Qutb Shahis were secular.

Source: All India Radio

World Tourism Day

Context:

Ministry of Tourism celebrated World Tourism Day on 27th September.

  • The theme for 2020: ‘Tourism and Rural Development’.
  • The theme encourages the celebration of the unique role played by tourism in job creation outside of the big cities.

Details:

  • This year United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development.
  • Objective: To promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration.

Initiatives to promote tourism in India:

SAATHI:

  • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism with Quality Council of India to assist the hospitality industry to continue to operate safely and thereby instill confidence among the staff, employees, and the guests about the safety of the hotel.

Pathik:

  • It is an initiative on the Incredible India Tourist Facilitators Certification Programme (IITFC).
  • Objective: To communicate a positive message for welcoming events to India when competing destinations are already actively marketing their products.
  • The tone of joy and confidence in getting back to business, warm hospitality, safety protocols in place, and assurance of a delightful experience is the core message of the film.

Dekho Apna Desh:

  • The Ministry of Tourism has launched the Dekho Apna Desh (DAD) initiative in January 2020.
  • Objective: Create awareness among the citizens about the rich heritage and culture of the country, encouraging citizens to travel widely within the country and enhancing tourist footfalls leading to the development of the local economy and creation of jobs at the local level.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme and was launched in 2014 for the integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country.

PRASHAD Scheme:

  • The ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD) was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in 2014.
  • Objective: Holistic development of identified pilgrimage destinations.

Source: PIB

Health in India Report

Context:

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the report of a survey titled ‘Health in India’.

  • Objective: To gather basic quantitative information on India’s health sector.

Details:

  • The report contains health information for separate religious communities, including estimates of their susceptibility to ailments.
  • The report is based on information collected through NSS Schedule 25.0 (Household Social Consumption: Health) spread across the country.
  • Data were collected through a sample survey of 1.13 lakh households covering 5.55 lakh persons.

Illness in the religious group:

  • The Zoroastrian community remains the most susceptible to ailments. As per the report, 31.1 % of Zoroastrians reported that they were suffering from an ailment at the time the survey was conducted.
  • This number for other communities is Jains, 11.2 %; Sikhs 11 %; Christians 10.5 %; Muslims 8.1 %; Buddhists 8 %; and Hindus 7.2 %.

Ailment:

  • The survey defines ailment as any deviation from a person’s state of physical and mental well-being.
  • The ‘Proportion of Persons who Responded as Ailing’ in a 15-day period when they were approached by the surveyors, were registered as those suffering from ailments.

Division in terms of sex:

  • The survey shows that women remain more susceptible to suffering from ailments than men. In rural India, 6.1 % of males said that they were suffering from ailments, while 7.6 % of rural women said the same.
  • Around 7.5 % of Indians reported that they were suffering from ailments, as per the survey. The difference in people suffering from ailments in rural and urban India was stark. 

Zoroastrianism:

  • It is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions and the Parsi community is a follower of it
  • It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in ancient Iran around the 6th-7th century.
  • Zoroastrians believe in one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) who created the world. Their holy scripture is called the Avesta.
  • Nowruz is the Iranian New Year which is celebrated on March 21 in India by the Parsi community.
  • In India, Maharashtra has the highest Parsi population followed by Gujarat.
  • Zoroastrians (Parsis) are among the six religious communities notified as minority communities in India.
    • The other five are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains.

Source: Indian Express

Reset rural job policies to recognise women’s work

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

As the Indian economy comes out of the lockdown restrictions while the health implications of the COVID-19 is still looming, the labour market policy should be designed in a way to reverse the gender-differentiated impact the COVID-19 has had on the Indian economy.

This editorial discusses the need to designing and implementation policies to assist women.

2. GREATER IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON WOMEN

2.1 Effect on jobs

  • The adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are adversely huge on women but very little attention is paid on the adverse impacts of the pandemic on women due to paucity of official statistics on women workers.
  • Due to the inadequate and inaccurate data available on women's work, there is also a lack of specific policies and programmes to assist them.
  • A survey conducted by Azim Premji University on 5,000 workers across 12 States, 52% of whom were women workers revealed that the adverse impact of the nationwide lockdown are disproportionately higher on women worker.
  • The survey revealed that while 71% of women rural casual workers lost their jobs during the lockdown, the number stands at 59% for men.
  • Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) also confirms the above finding. It reveals that job losses in April 2020 were larger for rural women than men when compared to the data for April 2019.

2.2 Effect on health and nutrition

  • As the nationwide lockdown significantly lowered employment in agriculture and allied activities and halted non-agricultural employment completely, the burden of care on women mounted up.
  • All the members of the family were at home during the lockdown. Men out of jobs or working from home, children out of schools, the chores of cooking, cleaning, childcare and elderly care became more onerous.
  • Managing the increased amount of household work that too during a crisis when provisioning has to be done at reduced levels of income and tight budgets will surely have significant long-term effects on the physical and mental health of women.
  • High levels of malnutrition among rural women is most likely going to worsen as rural families survive on reduced food intake.

3. PRE COVID-19 SITUATION

  • For a thorough examination of COVID-19 impact on women workers, we analyse the situation before the pandemic.
  • 25% of adult rural women were counted as “workers” in official data for the year 2017-18 in the national labour force surveys.
  • However, the situation changes drastically when we examine the data from time-use survey.
  • A time-use survey collects information on all activities undertaken during a fixed time period (usually 24 hours).
  • Presently, there are no official time-use survey data available.
  • Although, the National Statistical Office conducted a time-use survey in 2019  but the results are not available.
  • This editorial uses time-use survey from a village in Karnataka.

4. FEATURES OF RURAL WOMEN WORKFORCE

4.1 Crisis of regular employment

  • Rural women face a crisis of regular employment.
  • It suggests that women not reported as 'workers' in official surveys are so because of lack of employment opportunities and not due to “withdrawal” from the labour force.
  • The crisis of regular employment has definitely intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

4.2 Participation by women from all sections

  • Several independent surveys have revealed that women from almost all sections of the peasantry participate in paid work outside the home barring some regional exceptions.
  • Therefore while considering 'potential workforce' women from a majority of rural household should be taken into account and not just women from sections of rural labour or manual worker households.

4.3 More participation by older women

  • Relatively younger and more educated women often do not seek work because they aim at finding work in skilled non-agricultural sectors while older women are more likely to work as manual labour.

4.4 Rising wage gaps

  • Another crucial finding is that wages for the same work for women are rarely equal to wages for men, barring some exceptions.
  • The gap between the wages is highest for non-agricultural works, which is the new and expanding source of employment.

4.5 Exceedingly high work hours

  • A women's workday in rural India is significantly higher.
  • When all forms of work are included viz. economic activity and care work (which includes household chores as cooking, cleaning, childcare, elderly care) the total work hours for women is exceedingly long.
  • Surveys reveal that total work hours for women (in economic activity and care) ranges from 61 to 88 hours in the lean season and up to as high as 91 hours (or 13 hours a day) in the peak season. All women have at least a 60-hour workweek.

5. EFFECT OF THE LCOKDOWN ON JOBS

5.1 Effect on jobs in agriculture sector

  • Various surveys have shown that during the lockdown period no agricultural activity was undertaken during the lean months of March to May in large parts of the country where rain-fed agriculture is prevalent.
  • In parts of India where irrigated agriculture has significant presence there were some harvest operations (such as for rabi wheat in northern India) but these activities were largely mechanised.
  • In yet other harvest operations like that of vegetables there was a low tendency to involve hired labour out of the fear of infection and a majority of households relied on family labour.
  • Hence, summing up even as agricultural activity continued during the lockdown period, employment avenues for women were severely restricted.
  • Similar was the case for agriculture-allied activities like animal rearing, fisheries and floriculture. Both income as well as employment in agriculture-allied activities were adversely affected by the lockdown.
  • Village studies show that women are inevitably a part of the labour process in case the family owns animals whether milch cattle or chickens or goats.
  • During the lockdown, demand for milk fell by at least 25% due to closing up of hotels, restaurants and eateries as well as fear of infection by households.
  • Incomes from the sale of milk to dairy cooperatives fell down for women throughout the nation.
  • In the fisheries sector as well women could not process or sell fish and fish products as fishermen could not go to sea due to the lockdown.

5.2 Effect on jobs in Non-agricultural sector

  • Jobs in non-agricultural sector too halted completely as construction sites, brick kilns, petty stores and eateries, local factories and other firm were completely shut down in the lockdown period.
  • Studies have shown that women have accounted for more than half of workers in public works. But there was a dearth of employment available through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
  • Therefore, in the first month of lockdown there was a total collapse of non-agricultural employment for women although there was a big increase in demand for NREGS employment.
  • Government schemes most importantly those in health and education sectors have been one of the new sources of employment for women in the last few years like women working as Anganwadi workers or mid-day meal cooks.
  • During the pandemic, Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs, 90% of whom are women, have become frontline health workers, although they are not recognised as “workers” or paid a regular wage.

6. WAY AHEAD

  • First and foremost we need to redefine the contours of rural labour market by including the contribution of women as the country emerges from the lockdown.
  • For the immediate and short run provisioning of employment for women, the NREGS can be expanded with special focus on women.
  • A medium to long provisioning of women-specific employment can be done by generating more employment in skilled occupations and in businesses and new enterprises.
  • Women have already been playing a significant role in health care at the grass-root level and therefore in the proposed expansion of health infrastructure in the country, they must be given recognition as 'workers' and should be duly compensated.
  • The announcement of rural infrastructure expansion by Finance Minister is a laudable step but at the same time, safe and easy transport for women from their homes to workplaces needs to be ensured.
  • As the lockdown is slowly opening up, the children and elderly remain at home. The burden of care for them rests on the shoulders of women.
  • In addition, men have seen to have a higher likelihood to contract COVID-19 infection than women do which in turn increases the burden on women to earn the family bread.
  • Given these facts, we also need to reduce the drudgery of care work for women like delivering healthy meals for schoolchildren, elderly and the sick can significantly reduce the burden of home cooking.

7. CONCLUSION

Women should be seen as equal partners in rural workforce and in transforming the rural economy.

To achieve this we need to accurately capture workforce data on women and use it to design and implement policies specific to women.

Striking a blow against Assam’s inclusive ethos

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently the Assam government promulgated a law mandating the Assamese language to be taught from Classes I to X in both public and private schools including the KendriyaVidyalayas.

This editorial discusses on how Assam's language law is indicative of a homogenised nationalism overtaking minority linguistic and cultural aspirations.

2. STATUS OF THE LAW

Current scope of the law

  • The Governor of Assam has already given a formal assent to the Cabinet’s decision.
  • The law however will not be applicable in Barak Valley, Bodoland Council and other Sixth Schedule areas, where Bengali, Bodo and other indigenous languageswill take precedence respectively, over Assamese.
  • The law has risen the spirits of ‘Assamese nationalists’, who demand the extension of the law to the exempted areas as well.
  • There is little debate over how the law will affect other communities like Misings, Deoris, Rabhas and the other smaller tribes and their mother tongues.

3. DATA AND POLITICS

3.1 Misusing statistical data for homogenization

  • Politicians have been using statistical data to construct a linguistic hierarchy and homogenisation in a region.
  • Such moves are motivated to construct and stabilise the regional political economic hegemonies.
  • The census-driven communal split of Hindi and Urdu in North India, which presumes Muslims to be Urdu speakers, while Hindus to be Hindi speakers, most evidently manifests the above idea.
  • This politicization has led to the marginalisation of other regional languages such as Magadhi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Garhwali which are now deemed as mere dialects of the Hindi language.
  • It is to be noted that these so-called dialects of Hindi language have their own rich literary and linguistic traditions.
  • The writer is of the view that this was a political demographic move to ensure dominance of Hindi and Hindi-Hindu elites at the national level.

3.2 Similar Exercise in Assam

  • A similar political demographic plot based on language is being hatched in Assam as well, where the census data is used to project a ‘danger’ to the Assamese language, of which the ‘infiltration’ of Bengali-speaking communities is considered to be the primary reason.
  • The number of speakers of Assamese in 2011 consensus was 48.38% of the population, while in 1971 consensus was 60.89%.
  • This shows a considerable decline in the number of Assamesespeakers in four decades.
  • However, upon a closer and empirical look one notes that  most tribal communities have their own mother tongues, while simultaneously speaking  Assamese not because of school education but due to the fact that Assamese is the dominant market language, especially in the Brahmaputra Valley.

4. CONCERS OF TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

4.1 Impact on tribal languages

  • The forced imposition of Assamese on tribal languages has had an adverse effect on the latter especially those tribal languages, which do not enjoy any constitutional protection.
  • The census data shows a steady decline in the number of speakers of tribal languages.
  • The Mising tribe saw an increase of 41.13% in the number of speakers in the 2001 Census while by 2011 census the numbers reduced to 14.28%. Similarly, the Deorisspeaker fell from 56.19% in the 2001 Census to 15.79% in 2011 census.
  • The Rabhas community have almost completely obliterated their language.
  • Other tribes such as the Sonowal-Kacharis and Tiwas have almost completely lost their languages.

4.2 Plight of tribal communities

  • Tribal communities have been demanding linguistic and territorial protection and attention from the Assam State Government for a long time.
  • The State Government of Assam, after a long struggle by the Mising community introduced the Mising Language as an additional subject in Classes 3 and 4 in the Mising-dominated areas through a gazette notification.
  • The Mising Language was also to be the medium of instruction at the primary level and other initiatives such as appointing Mising language teachers, translating books into Mising, and introduction of Mising textbooks were also planned.
  • By 1994, only 230 teachers were appointed after which the whole process came to a halt.
  • The clause of introducing Mising as the medium of instruction was never implemented.

4.3 Forced Homogenization

  • The attempts of forced homogenisation have always been resisted by the Tribal Communities.
  • The Protest of the Khasi along with other tribal communities against the Official Language Bill in 1960 led to the formation of Meghalaya.
  • The origin of the Bodo movement for autonomy also lie in the same bill.
  • Tribal communities has frequently highlighted that the discourse of ‘Assamese Nationalism’ has a very narrow and limited outlook with almost no scope for other communities.
  • Despite this negligence, tribal communities in Assam like Misings, Deoris, Rabhas, etc. have always supported the Assamese movement against the imposition of Bengali language or Hindi in Assam.
  • However, in return of their support to Assamese, these communities have found themselves consistently marginalised.
  • The State governments and the hegemonic forces in the region have always derecognised the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of these tribes.

4.4As a job requirement

  • In addition to the legislation in question, according to the Home Minister of Assam, the Assam Government is pondering over a separate legislation making the learning of Assamese language until matriculation, a mandatory condition for government jobs in Assam.
  • Such moves indicate precedence of a non-inclusive homogenised Assamese nationalism over inclusion of minority linguistic and cultural aspirations.
  • Legislations like this alienates the linguistic identities of various tribes of Assam like the Misings, Deoris and Rabhas, etc. and restricts the definition of ‘Axomiya’ to just the speakers of Assamese.

5. THE EFFECT OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

  • During the course of anti-(CAA) movement in Assam, a new definition of 'Assamese indigenous' emerged, which was inclusive of tribal and other non-Assamese communities and was based on domicile rather than language alone.
  • Demands regarding protection of indigenous land, culture and languages was raised during the struggle.
  • The anti-(CAA) movement could have been a point of departure in the ‘Assamese Nationalism’ discourse.
  • The government's decision to make Assamese language compulsory in schools has weakened heterogeneous aspirations and anti-hegemonic build-up in the anti-CAA movement in Assam.

6. CONCLUSION

The tribal communities of Assam acknowledge the threats posed by infiltration to the native languages and culture but they are also apprehensive about the Assamese hegemony and homogeneity.

This law will only further increase the marginalisation of these communities and fuelling ethnic tensions and triggering social conflicts once again.

The progressive sections in Assam must overcome the politics of fear and work towards a more inclusive ethos of Assam.

Status of Rhinoceros in India

Context:

On the occasion of World Rhino Day the Minister of State for Environment, Forest & Climate, has congratulated and expressed his gratitude to the frontline forest staff and officials for working tirelessly to save Rhinos.

World Rhino Day:

  • It is celebrated every year on September 22 across the world.
  • It was announced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010.

Status of Rhinoceros in India:

  • The population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros reached the brink of extinction by the end of the 20th century with fewer than 200 animals in wild.
  • Currently, approximately 75% of the entire population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros now occurs in India in the three States viz, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
  • As per the report, there are around 2657 one-horned rhinos in Assam, of which Kaziranga National Park has 2413, Manas National Park 43, Orang National Park 101, and Pobitora Wild Life Sanctuary has 100 rhinos.
  • The timely efforts and stringent protection and management of the Governments of India and the State Governments have revived the population of Rhinos in the country.
  • The Census of Rhinoceros is undertaken at the State-level by the respective State Governments periodically.

Conservation Efforts:

Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 program:

  • The WHO-India launched the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 program to protect and increase the population of the one-horned rhinoceros.
  • It is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.

National Conservation Strategy for the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros:

  • It was launched in 2019 to conserve the greater one-horned rhinoceros.
  • It is a first of its kind in India which aims to work for the conservation of the species under five objectives which include strengthening protection, expanding the distribution range, research and monitoring, and adequate and sustained funding.
  • Its goal is to repopulate the Rhinoceros population in those areas also which used to hold the Rhinoceros earlier by augmenting the existing conservation efforts and strengthening them through scientific and administrative measures.

New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019:

  • India and four rhino range nations have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
  • India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan, and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.

Greater one-horned rhino (Indian rhino):

  • It is the largest of the rhino species and can be found in India and Nepal, particularly in the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • These are semi-aquatic and often take up residence in swamps, forests, and riversides, and anywhere that is near nutritious mineral licks.
  • It is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable (VU) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Source: The Hindu

Shuchi Scheme

Context:

The Karnataka government has not allocated funds to the Shuchi Scheme (a menstrual hygiene project), in its budget for 2020-21.

  • Now, the distribution of sanitary napkins has come to a halt as no funds have been allocated.
  • The State Budget has detected Karnataka had not made allocation for ‘Shuchi’, which is now affecting over 17 lakh school and college girls.

About the scheme:

  • The scheme was introduced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2012.
  • The scheme aims to promote menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 year in rural areas.
  • Earlier the scheme was Centrally-sponsored however, the Centre asked States to take over the scheme from 2015-16.
  • Every year, the State government has been spending a little over Rs 49 crore on the scheme. It was aimed at instilling awareness about menstrual hygiene even among girls in rural areas.

Objectives:

  • To increase awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
  • To increase access to and use of high-quality sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in rural areas.
  • To ensure safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner.

Coverage:

  • The scheme was initially implemented in 2011 in 107 selected districts in 17 States wherein a pack of six sanitary napkins called “Freedays” was provided to rural adolescent girls for Rs. 6.
  • From 2014 onwards, funds are now being provided to States/UTs under the National Health Mission for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins packs for provision to rural adolescent girls at a subsidized rate of Rs 6 for a pack of 6 napkins.
  • The ASHA will continue to be responsible for the distribution, receiving an incentive @ Rs 1 per pack sold and a free pack of napkins every month for her own personal use. She will convene monthly meetings at the Aanganwadi Centres or other such platforms for adolescent girls to focus on the issue of menstrual hygiene and also serve as a platform to discuss other relevant SRH issues.

Source: The Hindu

O-SMART Scheme

Context:

Recently, details review about the O-SMART (Ocean Services, Modelling, Applications, Resources and Technology) scheme has been given by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in the Parliament.

About the scheme:

  • It was launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Objectives:

  • To generate and regularly update information on Marine Living Resources and their relationship with the physical environment in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),
  • To periodically monitor levels of seawater pollutants for health assessment of coastal waters of India, to develop shoreline change maps for assessment of coastal erosion due to natural and anthropogenic activities,
  • To develop a wide range of state-of-the-art ocean observation systems for the acquisition of real-time data from the seas around India,
  • To generate and disseminate a suite of user-oriented ocean information, advisories, warnings, data and data products for the benefit of society,
  • To develop technologies to tap the marine bioresources,
  • To develop technologies generating freshwater and energy from the ocean,
  • To develop underwater vehicles and technologies,

Significance:

  • The scheme provides the necessary scientific and technological background required for the implementation of various aspects of Blue Economy.
  • This also includes setting up of the state-of-the-art Early Warning Systems to effectively deal with ocean disasters like tsunami, storm surges.
  • The technologies being developed under this scheme will help in harnessing the vast ocean resources of both living and non-living resources from the seas around India.
  • O-SMART address issues relating to Sustainable Development Goal-14, which aims to conserve the use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development,

The Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC):

  • It was established at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad.
  • It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences which continues to provide timely tsunami advisories to stakeholders and has functioned flawlessly since its establishment in October 2007.
  • The ITEWC is also providing tsunami services to 25 Indian Ocean Countries as part of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO framework. 
  • In addition to workshops and training for disaster managers, ITEWC is also coordinating with coastal States/UTs to implement Tsunami Ready Programme, a concept introduced by UNESCO, at the community level.
  • Odisha has implemented the programme in two villages (Venkatraipur and Noliasahi) and based on the national board recommendation, IOC (UNESCO) recognized these villages as Tsunami ready communities.

Source: The Hindu

Destination North East-2020

Context:

The Union Minister of State unveiled the Logo and song for the festival “Destination North East-2020” (The Emerging Delightful Destinations).

About the Festival:

  • It is a Four-Day Event which holds a special presentation of art and craft, textiles, ethnic products, tourism promotion, etc. of the northeastern states.
  • Digital North East Vision 2022 emphasizes leveraging digital technologies to transform the lives of people of the northeast and enhance the ease of living.

Participants:

  • Ministry of Development of North-East Region responsible for the matters relating to the planning, execution, and monitoring of development schemes and projects in the NE Region.
  • North Eastern Council (NEC) is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the NE Region which consists of the eight States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. It was constituted in 1971 by an Act of Parliament.
  • NERCORMP: North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP) is a livelihood and rural development project aimed to transform the lives of the poor and marginalized tribal families in NE India.
    • It is a joint developmental initiative of the NEC, Ministry of DoNER, and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Initiatives for the development of North East:

  • In 2001, the Ministry of Development of the North East Region (MDoNER) was established. The ministry functions as the nodal Department of the Central Government to deal with the socio-economic development of the eight states of NER.
    • It acts as a facilitator between Central Ministries/ Departments and the State Governments of NERs.
  • Regional Connectivity Scheme has been launched to provide connectivity to unserved and underserved airports within the country and to promote regional connectivity by making the airfare affordable through Viability Gap Funding (VGF).
    • The North East has been kept as a priority area under this scheme.
  • Under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism, projects worth Rs.1400.03 crore has been sanctioned for the North East Region in the last five years.
  • Mission Purvodaya: It is aimed at driving the accelerated development of Eastern India through the establishment of an integrated steel hub.
  • It is expected that out of the 300 MT capacity by 2030-31, over 200 MT can come from this region alone, driven by Industry 4.0.

Source: PIB

Nandankanan Zoological Park

Context:

Recently, the Death of two sloth bears has been reported from the Nandankanan Zoological Park (NZP), Odisha.

Details:

  • Since August 30 a total of three bears have died in the Nandankanan Zoo. One of them was a Himalayan black bear. The average lifespan of a Himalayan black bear is estimated to be 30 years.
  • The bear that died at Nandankanan was already 28 years old and the death was said to be age-related. But the deaths of two sloth bears are said to be a cause for worry.
  • After the death of the three bears, NZP is left with 14 bears. Suspecting some kind of viral infection, the authorities have kept the bears in separate cells
  • In 2019, four out of the eight elephants in the park died within a span of one month due to Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV).
    • When infected with EEHV, the platelet count of elephants drops considerably and leads to internal bleeding with little outward manifestation.

Nandankanan Zoological Park:

  • It was inaugurated in 1960 and located 15 km from Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
  • Nandankanan, literally meaning The Garden of Heaven. Nandankanan lies in the vicinity of Kanjia lake. 
  • It was the world’s first captive crocodile breeding center, where gharials were bred in captivity in 1980.
  • It is the first zoo in the country to become a member of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA).
  • It is recognized as a leading zoo for the breeding of the Indian pangolin and white tiger.
  • Leopards, mouse deer, lions, ratel, and vultures are also bred here.

Sloth Bears:

  • It is also called the honey bear, Hindi bhalu, it is a forest-dwelling member of the family Ursidae (comprises 8 species of bears) that inhabits tropical or subtropical regions of India and Sri Lanka.
  • It is ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List.
  • It is listed in Appendix I in CITES.
  • It is in the Schedule I category of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Himalayan Black Bear:

  • It is also called the Asiatic black bear, it inhabits mountainous and heavily forested areas across southern and eastern Asia.
  • It is ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List.
  • It is listed in Appendix I in CITES.
  • It is in the Schedule I category of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Source: The Hindu

Protest Against Three Ordinances

Context:

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana and other parts of the country have been protesting against three ordinances promulgated by the Central government.

  • The government has introduced three Bills to replace these ordinances and recently Lok Sabha passed these bills.

Three ordinances:

  • The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020
  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

Details:

  • Indian farmers are protesting against all three ordinances.
  • Their objections are mostly against the provisions of the first. And their concerns are mainly about sections relating to “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee” in the first ordinance. 

Trade area:

  • Section 2(m) of The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 defines “trade area” as any area or location, place of production, collection and aggregation including:
    • farm gates; factory premises; warehouses; silos; cold storages; or any other structures or places, from where the trade of farmers’ produce may be undertaken in the territory of India.
  • The definition does not, however, include “the premises, enclosures and structures constituting:
    • Physical boundaries of principal market yards, sub-market yards and market sub-yards managed and run by the market committees formed under each state APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act”.
    • It also excludes “private market yards, private market sub-yards, direct marketing collection centres, and private farmer-consumer market yards managed by persons holding licences or any warehouses, silos, cold storages or other structures notified as markets or deemed markets under each State APMC Act in force in India.

Concerns:

  • The existing mandis established under APMC Acts have been excluded from the definition of trade area under the new legislation.
  • As per the government, the creation of an additional trade area outside of mandis will provide farmers with the freedom of choice to conduct trade in their produce.
  • Farmers mentioned that this provision will confine APMC mandis to their physical boundaries and give a free hand to big corporate buyers.

Trader:

  • Section 2(n) of the first ordinance defines a “trader” as “a person who buys farmers’ produce by way of inter-State trade or intra-State trade or a combination thereof, either for self or on behalf of one or more persons for the purpose of wholesale trade, retail, end-use, value addition, processing, manufacturing, export, consumption or for such other purpose”.
    • Thus, it includes processor, exporter, wholesaler, miller, and retailer.
  • According to the Ministry of the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, “Any trader with a PAN card can buy the farmers’ produce in the trade area.”
    • A trader can operate in both an APMC mandi and a trade area.
      • However, for trading in the mandi, the trader would require a licence/registration as provided for in the State APMC Act. In the present mandi system, arhatiyas (commission agents) have to get a licence to trade in a mandi.

Concern:

  • Arhatiyas have credibility as their financial status is verified during the licence approval process. “But how can a farmer trust a trader under the new law?

The provision on ‘market fee’ :

  • Section 6 states that “no market fee or cess or levy, under any State APMC Act or any other State law, shall be levied on any farmer or trader or electronic trading and transaction platform for trade and commerce in scheduled farmers’ produces in a trade area.
  • As per the government, this provision will reduce the cost of the transaction and will benefit both the farmers and the traders.
  • Under the existing system, such charges in states like Punjab come to around 8.5% — a market fee of 3%, a rural development charge of 3% and the arhatiya’s commission of about 2.5%.

Concern:

  • This provision does not provide a level playing field to APMC mandis. 
  • The provision of dispute resolution under Section 8 does not sufficiently safeguard farmers’ interests.
  • In case of a dispute arising out of a transaction between the farmer and a trader, the parties may seek a mutually acceptable solution through conciliation by filing an application to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. 
    • The Sub-Divisional Magistrate shall refer such dispute to a Conciliation Board to be appointed by him for facilitating the binding settlement of the dispute.
  • Farmers fear the proposed system of conciliation can be misused against them. They say the ordinance does not allow farmers to approach a civil court.

Source: Indian Express

Wetlands Conservation in Rajasthan

Context:

Rajasthan government is going to take safety measures for the wetlands for ensuring their utilization, stopping encroachments on them, and enabling the local authorities to maintain them.

  • Wetlands are defined as: "lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water".
    • Wetlands are very productive ecosystems. 
    • Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. 
    • Wetlands have played an important role in the storage of sediment and nutrients.

Wetlands in Rajasthan:

  • In Rajasthan, six wetlands are already identified and 52 more have been earmarked for time-bound development. 
  • In Rajasthan, Sambhar Lake and Keoladeo Ghana National Park are in ‘Wetland of International Importance’, by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
  • The state government mentioned that the wetlands would be strengthened for increasing vegetation of aquatic plants and protecting biodiversity.

Initiatives:

  • As per the government, no waste would be allowed to be dumped at the wetlands and effective steps would be taken for water conservation.
  • The strict action would be taken against those running submersible pump sets for illegal salt mining in the world-famous Sambhar Lake, where a large number of migratory birds had died last year.
  • The State Government's Directorate of Environment and Climate Change will function as the secretariat of the State Wetland Authority.
  • The environment committees would take up the works for the conservation of wetlands and water bodies, which were home to a wide range of plant and animal life, at the district level.
  • The fresh and saline lakes supporting unique ecosystems in the State would be protected with the strict implementation of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2019.

Ramsar Convention:

  • The Convention came into force in 1975 and is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords for preserving the ecological character of wetlands.
  •  It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.
  • The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
  • India has 37 Ramsar Sites which are the Wetlands of International importance.

Montreux Record:

  • It is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution, or other human interference.
  • Wetlands of India that are in Montreux Record:
    • Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan
    • Loktak Lake, Manipur.
  • Chilka Lake was placed in the record but was later removed from it.

Source: The Hindu

Human Capital Index

Context:

World Bank has released the annual Human Capital Index. The Index benchmarks key components of human capital across countries.

About the index:

  • The 2020 Human Capital Index update includes health and education data for 174 countries – covering 98% of the world’s population – up to March 2020.
    • The index provides a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.
    • The analysis shows that pre-pandemic, most countries had made steady progress in building the human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.
  • Despite this progress, and even before the effects of the pandemic, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56% of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health.
  • The pandemic puts at risk the decade’s progress in building human capital, including the improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment, and reduced stunting.
  • The economic impact has been particularly deep for women, poor families, and COVID leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.

Key findings:

  • India has been ranked at the 116th position in the latest edition. However, India’s score increased to 0.49 from 0.44 in 2018. 
    • In 2019, India had raised “serious reservations” over the Human Capital Index, wherein India was ranked 115 out of 157 countries. This year India finds itself at 116th from among 174 countries.
  • The Index provides a basis on which the government can prioritize and a dimension to support human capital. 
  • Data also shows disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.
  • Eighty million children are missing out on essential vaccinations. More than a billion children have been out of school due to Covid-19. And that could lose as much as USD 10 trillion in lifetime earnings because of the reduced learning, the school closing and the potential for dropping out of school, and the disproportionate impact on girls.

Impact of COVID:

  • The coronavirus has deepened inequality globally, in addition to increasing poverty and distress. 
  • Due to the COVID, more than 1 billion children have been out of school and could lose out half a year of schooling.
  • The impact of Covid-19, on developing countries particularly has been hard, there is the collapse of the formal and informal market, and also there is a very limited social safety net. The World Bank estimates a 12% drop in employment.
  • There has been a major decline in remittances and total income is going down by 11 or 12%. All this is likely to have a disproportionate effect on the poor and on women.

Source: Hindustan Times

DNA Sequencing of Viking Skeletons

Context:

The world’s largest DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Copenhagen.

Details:

  • The researchers claimed to debunk the modern image of Vikings as having blonde hair and reveal that not all of them were from Scandinavia.
  • The researchers carried out DNA sequencing on more than 400 Viking skeletons of men, women, children, and babies to understand the global influence of their expansion.
  • The study reveals that skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were local people who could have taken on Viking identities and, therefore, were buried as them.
  • It was found that Viking identity was not limited to Scandinavian genetic ancestry and that Scandinavia’s genetic history itself was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe.

Key findings:

  • As per the DNA analysis, Vikings were hunter-gatherers, farmers, and populations from the Eurasian steppe.
  • The research also mentioned three major genetically diverse hot spots where people mixed with people from other regions during the era:
    • One in what is now Denmark, and one each on the islands of Gotland and Öland, in what is now Sweden.
    • All three locations are thought to have been hotbeds of trade at the time.
  • Vikings are not a homogenous group of people. A lot of the Vikings are mixed individuals with ancestry from both Southern Europe and Scandinavia, for example, or even a mix of Sami (Indigenous Scandinavian) and European ancestry.
  • The study also confirms the large-scale movement of the Vikings outside Scandinavia.

Viking Age:

  • The word Viking comes from the Scandinavian term “Vikingr”, which means pirate.
  •  Viking described groups of Scandinavian seafarers between A.D. 750 and 1050s (Viking era).
  • The Vikings played an important role in changing the political and genetic course of Europe. Further, the Vikings also exported ideas, technologies, language, beliefs, and practices to other places.
  • As of today, 6 % of people in the UK are predicted to have Viking DNA in their genes as compared to 10 % in Sweden.

Source: Indian Express

Scheme for Health Workers

Context:

The ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19’ has now been extended for another 180 days.

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has collaborated with the New India Assurance (NIA) Company Limited for providing the insurance amount based on the guidelines prepared for the scheme.

About the scheme:

  • In March 2020 the scheme was announced for 90 days and was extended for 90 days (up to Sept. 25).
  • It is a central sector scheme and provides an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact and care of COVID-19 patients and therefore at risk of being infected.
  • It also includes accidental loss of life on account of contracting the infection.
    • It covers private hospital staff/retired/volunteer/local urban bodies/contract/daily wage/ad-hoc/outsourced staff requisitioned by States/Central hospitals/autonomous hospitals of Central/States/UTs, AIIMS & INIs/hospitals of Central Ministries drafted for COVID-19 related responsibilities.
  • The insurance is over and above any other insurance cover being availed of by the beneficiary.
  • There is no age limit for this scheme and individual enrolment is not required. The entire amount of premium is being borne by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
  • The benefit/claim is in addition to the amount payable under any other policies.

PM Garib Kalyan Package:

  • It was announced by the Finance Minister to reduce the loss caused by the outbreak of Covid-19.

Benefits:

  • For Health worker: An Insurance Cover of Rs. 50 Lakh for any health worker in government hospitals and healthcare centres who are treating Covid-19 patients.
    • These health workers include Safai karamcharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors, and specialists.
    • All government health centres, wellness centres, and hospitals of Centres, as well as States, would be covered under this scheme.  
  • For poor people: The government provides free 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for 80 crore poor people for the next three months.
  • For farmers: The Government to front-load Rs. 2,000 paid to farmers in the first week of April under the existing PM Kisan Yojana which will benefit 8.7 crore farmers.
  • For wage earners in organized sectors: The PM Garib Kalyan Package also helps the Wage-earners who are earning below Rs. 15,000 per month in businesses that are having less than 100 workers.
    • The wage workers who are at risk of losing their employment will be provided with 24 % of their monthly wages into their PF accounts for the next three months which would prevent disruption in their employment.

Source: The Hindu

The National Hispanic Heritage Month

Context:

The National Hispanic Heritage Month began in the US.

The National Hispanic Heritage Month:

  • The observation was started by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was extended to an entire month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, the year it was enacted into law.
  • The event honours the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors hailed from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, is marked every year from September 15 to October 15.
  • The Hispanic Heritage Month “pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”

Significance:

  • The Month begins in the middle of September, because of the significance September 15 holds in Latin American history being the Independence Day of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
    • The five Central American nations declared their independence from Spain together on September 15, 1821.
  • The next two days September 16 and September 18 are also important, being the Independence Days of Mexico and Chile, respectively. Both became free from Spanish rule in 1810 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
    • Another nation on the American continent, Belize, became independent from Great Britain on September 21, 1981.
  • Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, a culturally important celebration, also falls on October 12 during the 30-day period.
  • Every year, events honoring Hispanic American art and culture are organized by several institutions.

Hispanics in the US

  • Hispanic Americans (5.7 crores) are currently the largest minority group in the US, making up a fifth of the total US population.
  • More than half are of Mexican origin (3.5 crores), followed by Puerto Rican (53 lakh), and about 10 lakh each of Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, and Colombians.
  • The community is referred to as Hispanic, Latino or Latinx. The terms refer to a person’s origin or culture, without considering their race.
  • In the US Census of 2020, those who could identify their origin as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin”, were counted as Hispanic or Latino or Spanish.

Source: Indian Express

National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) 

Context:

Central Government is supplementing the efforts of the State Governments and Union Territories in addressing the challenges of pollution abatement of rivers by providing financial and technical assistance through the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).

National River Conservation Plan (NRCP):

  • Objective: To improve the water quality of the major rivers which are the major freshwater source in the country through the implementation of pollution abatement Schemes.
  • The pollution abatement works taken up under the NRCP include:
    • Interception and diversion works/ laying of sewerage systems to capture raw sewage flowing into the rivers through open drains and diverting them for treatment.
    • Setting up of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) for treating the diverted sewage
    • Construction of Low-Cost Sanitation Toilets to prevent open defecation on river banks
    • Construction of Electric Crematoria and Improved Wood Crematoria to conserve the use of wood
    • River Front Development works, such as improvement of bathing ghats
    • Public participation & awareness and capacity building, etc.
    • Under NRCP, various pollution abatement works relating to interception and diversion of raw sewage, construction of sewerage systems, setting up of sewage treatment plants, low-cost sanitation, riverfront/bathing ghat development, etc are taken.

Implementing Agency:

  • The National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is the implementing agency of NRCP.
  • NRCD is only providing financial assistance under the National River Conservation Plan to the State Governments/ local bodies to set up an infrastructure for pollution abatement of rivers in identified polluted river stretches based on proposals received from the State Governments/ local bodies.
  • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.

Details:

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change is presently implementing the works for pollution abatement of rivers, other than Ganga and its tributaries. 
  • Since 2014, all works relating to Ganga and its tributaries have been transferred to the Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Presently NRCP (excluding Ganga and its tributaries) has covered polluted stretches of 33 rivers.

Source: PIB

Mekedatu Project

Context:

The Karnataka government is likely to bring pressure on the Centre to approve the construction of the Mekedatu reservoir on Cauvery river.

Background:

  • The reservoir was proposed to store water for drinking purposes.
  • In 2017, the Rs 9,000 crore project was approved by the Karnataka government.
  • The project has also received approval from the Union Water Resources Ministry and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) even as Tamil Nadu has approached the Supreme Court against the project.

Reasons for Opposition by Tamil Nadu:

  • Tamil Nadu is opposed to any project being proposed in the upper riparian unless it was approved by the Supreme Court.
  • Tamil Nadu mentioned that the project is against the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in which the SC held that no state can claim exclusive ownership or assert rights to deprive other states of the waters of inter-state rivers.
  • The tribunal has found that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate for storing and distributing water so Karnataka’s proposal is ex-facie (on the face of it) untenable and should be rejected outright.
  • Tamil Nadu also claims that Karnataka has no right to construct any reservoir on an inter-state river without the consent of the lower riparian state.
  • It has also held that the reservoir is not just for drinking water alone, but to increase the extent of irrigation, which is in clear violation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Award.
  • The approval of the project from MoFCC is crucial because 63% of the forest area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary will be submerged.
  • 4.75 thousand million cubic feet of water could be drawn from the reservoir to partially meet the drinking needs of Bengaluru.

Mekedatu dispute:

  • Mekedatu is a location along Cauvery in Kanakapura Taluk of Ramanagara District of Karnataka.
  • Karnataka wants a reservoir across Cauvery at Mekedatu, to meet Bengaluru’s water problem.
  • Ontigondlu is the proposed reservoir site, situated at Ramanagara district in Karnataka about 100 km away from Bengaluru.
  • The project is the midst of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Tamil Nadu objected the project and mentioned that Karnataka had not sought prior permission for the project.
  • Its argument was that the project would affect the flow of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
  • Tamil Nadu also argues that the reservoir violates the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Cauvery Tribunal.

Source: The Hindu

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

Context:

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer observed on 16 September.

Background

  • In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
  • The slogan of the day: ‘Ozone for life’, it reminds us that not only is ozone crucial for life on Earth but that we must continue to protect the ozone layer for future generations.

Ozone depletion:

  • Many commonly used chemicals have been found to be extremely harmful to the ozone layer.
  • Halocarbons: These are chemicals in which one or more carbon atoms are linked to one or more halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine).
    • It contains bromine which has much higher ozone-depleting potential than those containing chlorine.
  • The man-made chemicals that have provided most of the chlorine and bromine for ozone depletion are methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and families of chemicals known as halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

Vienna Convention:

  • The convention is mainly for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.
  • The scientific confirmation of the depletion of the ozone layer leads to establish a mechanism for cooperation to take action to protect the ozone layer. 
  • On 22 March 1985, this was formalized in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and signed by 28 countries, In 1987, this led to the drafting of The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Montreal Protocol:

  • Objective: To protect the ozone layer by taking measures to control total global production and consumption of substances that deplete it.
  • The protocol is structured around several groups of ozone-depleting substances. The groups of chemicals are classified according to the chemical family and are listed in annexes to the Montreal Protocol text.
  • The timetable set by the Protocol applies to the consumption of ozone-depleting substances.
    • Consumption: It is defined as the quantities produced plus imported, less those quantities exported in any given year. 
  • There are a few exceptions for essential uses where no acceptable substitutes have been found, for example, in metered-dose inhalers commonly used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems or halon fire-suppression systems used in submarines and aircraft.

HCFC phase-out schedule:

  • In 1992 the HCFC phase-out schedule was introduced for developed and developing countries, the latter with a freeze in 2015, and final phase-out by 2030 in developed countries and 2040 in developing countries.
  • In 2007, Parties to the Montreal Protocol decided to accelerate the HCFC phase-out schedule for both developed and developing countries.

Universal ratification:

  • On 16th September 2009, the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification.

Kigali Amendment:

  • The Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer reached an agreement at their 28th Meeting of the Parties on 15 October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Source: United Nations

“Catch the Rain” Campaign

Context:

National Water Mission has initiated the “Catch the Rain” campaign in order to promote the creation of Rain Water Harvesting Structures (RWHS) suitable for the climatic conditions and sub-soil strata to store rainwater.

Suggestions under the campaign:

  • Drives to make water harvesting pits,
  • Removal of encroachments and de-silting of tanks to increase their storage capacity;
  • Removal of obstructions in the channels which bring water to them from the catchment areas;
  • Repairs to traditional water harvesting structures like step-wells and using defunct bore-wells and old wells to put the water back to aquifers etc.

National Aquifer Mapping and Management (NAQUIM):

  • Central Ground Water Board is implementing a nationwide program of “National Aquifer Mapping and Management (NAQUIM)” for mapping of aquifers (Water bearing formations), their characterization, and development of aquifer management plans to facilitate sustainable development of groundwater resources.

National Water Mission:

  • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • It is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) for combating the threats of global warming.
  • Under the mission, the National Water Policy would be revisited in consultation with States to ensure basin-level management strategies to deal with variability in rainfall and river flows due to climate change.

Goals of the National Water Mission:

  • Comprehensive water database in public domain and assessment of the impact of climate change on the water resources.
  • Promotion of citizen and state actions for water conservation, augmentation, and preservation.
  • Focused attention to vulnerable areas including over-exploited areas.
  • Increasing water use efficiency by 20%.
  • Promotion of basin level integrated water resources management.

Other water conservation programs:

National Rural Drinking Water Programme:

  • The objective of the program is to provide every rural person with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking, and other basic domestic needs.

Composite Water Management Index

  • It is published by NITI Aayog
  • Objective: To achieve effective utilization of water. The index mainly focuses on water scarcity and deaths due to the lack of access to safe water.

Jal Shakti Ministry and Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • The efforts like the formation of the Jal Shakti Ministry and the goal to provide piped water to all rural households by 2024, under the Jal Jeevan mission, are steps in the right direction.

Source: The Hindu

Steps to Develop and Promote Buddhist Sites

Context:

Ministry of Tourism has undertaken the development of tourism-related infrastructure and facilities at various Buddhist sites under Swadesh Darshan & PRASHAD schemes.

  • A total number of 5 projects for an amount of Rs. 353.73 crore has been sanctioned for the development of Buddhist Sites under the Swadesh Darsha Scheme.

Steps Taken to Promote Buddhist Sites:

  • Swadesh Darshan Scheme: Buddhist sites have been identified as one of the 15 thematic circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
  • PRASHAD Scheme: 30 projects for the development of infrastructure have also been undertaken under the PRASHAD Scheme.
  • Iconic Tourist Sites: Buddhist Sites at Bodhgaya, Ajanta & Ellora have been identified to be developed as Iconic Tourist Sites (aimed at enhancing India’s soft power).
  • Buddhist Conclave: Ministry of Tourism organizes Buddhist Conclave every alternate year with the objective of promoting India as a Buddhist Destination and major markets around the globe.
  • Diversity of Languages: Signages have been installed in the Chinese language at Buddhist monuments in Uttar Pradesh and in the Sinhala language (the official language of Sri Lanka) at Sanchi monuments in Madhya Pradesh.

Gautam Buddha:

  • He was the founder of Buddism
  • He was born as Siddhartha Gautama in circa 563 BCE, in a royal family in Lumbini which is situated near the Indo-Nepal border.
  • His family belonged to the Sakya clan which ruled from Kapilvastu, Lumbini.
  • At the age of 29, Gautama left home and embraced a lifestyle of asceticism or extreme self-discipline.
  • After 49 consecutive days of meditation, Gautam attained Bodhi (enlightenment) under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya, Bihar.
  • Buddha gave his first sermon in the village of Sarnath, near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. This event is known as Dharma Chakra Pravartana (turning of the wheel of law).
  • He died at the age of 80 in 483 BCE at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. The event is known as Mahaparinibban or Mahaparinirvana.
  • He is believed to be the eighth of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu (Dashavatar).

PRASHAD Scheme:

  • The ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive’ (PRASAD) was launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Tourism.
  • Objective: Holistic development of identified pilgrimage destinations.
  • In 2017, the name of the scheme was changed from PRASAD to “National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD).
  • After the discontinuation of the HRIDAY scheme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the development of Heritage destinations was included in the PRASAD Scheme, changing it to PRASHAD.
  • Implementation Agency: The projects identified under this scheme shall be implemented through the identified agencies by the respective State/ Union Territory Government.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  • It was launched in 2014 as a Central Sector Scheme for the integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country.
  • Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for infrastructure development of circuits.
  • This scheme is envisioned to synergize with other schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, Make in India, etc.

Source: PIB

The Commission on Status of Women (CSW)

Context:

India has been elected as a member of the Commission on Status of Women (CSW).

  • India beats China to become a member of the UN's Commission on Status of Women.

Details:

  • Duration: India will be a member for four years from 2021 to 2025.
  • It is a ringing endorsement of India's commitment to promoting gender equality and women's empowerment in all the endeavors.
  • India, Afghanistan, and China had contested the elections to the Commission on Status of Women. While India and Afghanistan won the ballot among the 54 members, China failed to cross the half-way mark. 
  • The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The Commission on Status of Women (CSW):

  • CSW is a body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 
  • CSW is a functional commission of the ECOSOC, it was established by ECOSOC resolution 11(II) of 21 June 1946. 
  • 45 member states of the United Nations serve as members of the Commission at any one time.
  • It promotes women’s rights, highlights the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and helps in shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council:

  • It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for coordinating the economic and social fields of the organization, specifically in regards to the 15 specialized agencies, the eight functional commissions, and the five regional commissions under its jurisdiction.
  • ECOSOC serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy.
  • In addition to a rotating membership of 54 UN member states, over 1,600 nongovernmental organizations have consultative status with the Council to participate in the work of the United Nations.
  • Headquarters: New York, United States

Source: The Hindu

Krishna-Godavari Basin Source of Methane Fuel

Context:

A research conducted by the Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) finds that the methane hydrate deposits are located in the Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin.

  • The study was conducted as a part of the DST-SERB young scientist project titled ‘Elucidating the community structure of methanogenic archaea in methane hydrate’.
  • Agharkar Research Institute works under the government's Department of Science and Technology.

Methane Hydrate:

  • Methane hydrate is formed when hydrogen-bonded water and methane gas come into contact at high pressures and low temperatures in oceans.
  • The study identified the methanogens that produced the biogenic methane trapped as methane hydrate, which can be a significant source of energy.
  • It is a crystalline solid that consists of a methane molecule surrounded by a cage of interlocking water molecules.
  • Methane hydrate is an "ice" that only occurs naturally in subsurface deposits where temperature and pressure conditions are favorable for its formation.
  • The four Earth environments have the temperature and pressure conditions suitable for the formation and stability of methane hydrate i.e.
    • Sediment and sedimentary rock units below Arctic permafrost;
    • Sedimentary deposits along continental margins;
    • Deep-water sediments of inland lakes and seas; and
    • Under Antarctic ice.

Key findings:

  • The methane hydrate deposit in Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin is a rich source that will ensure adequate supplies of methane, a natural gas.
  • The presence of methane hydrate deposits in the Krishna-Godavari basin is of biogenic origin.

Krishna-Godavari (KG) Basin:

  • It is an extensive deltaic plain formed by two large east coast rivers, Krishna and Godavari in the state of Andhra Pradesh and the 16 adjoining areas of Bay of Bengal.
  • It is a petroliferous basin of continental margin located on the east coast of India.
  • The basin contains about 5 km thick sediments with several cycles of deposition, ranging in age from Late Carboniferous to Pleistocene.

Godavari River:

  • The source of the Godavari River is situated near Trimbak in Nashik District of Maharashtra.
  • It is the second-longest (1465 km) river in the country (after the Ganges). The river is also named as Southern Ganges or Dakshin Ganga.
  • The drainage basin of the river is present in six states of India: Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Orissa.
  • Tributeries: Manjira River, Indravati, Sabari River, and Bindusara River.

Krishna River:

  • It is originated from Mahabaleswar in the vicinity of Jor village in the state of Maharashtra.
  • Krishna River is the fourth largest river in India after Ganga, Godavari, and Brahmaputra.
  • Tungabhadra River is the most important tributary of the river which is the result of the union between two rivers - the Tunga River and Bhadra River.
  • Other tributaries: Koyna, Venna, Malaprabha, Bhima, Yerla, Ghataprabha, Dindi, Warna, Musi, Paleru, and Dudhganga.

Source: The Economic Times

The Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework

Context:

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) 2.0, along with the ‘Streets for People Challenge’ under the Smart Cities Mission.

  • Objective: To provide a clear roadmap for cities towards combating Climate Change while planning and implementing their actions, including investments.

The need for the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework:

  • In the last decade, an increasing frequency of cyclones, floods, heatwaves, water scarcity, and drought-like conditions have had adverse impacts on many cities.
  • Such extreme events and risks cause loss of life as well as impact economic growth.
  • In this context, the CSCAF initiative intends to inculcate a climate-sensitive approach to urban planning and development in India.

Details:

  • This assessment framework was developed after a review of existing frameworks and assessment approaches adopted throughout the world followed by a series of extensive consultative processes with more than 26 organizations.
  • Implementation: The Climate Centre for Cities under the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) is supporting MoHUA in the implementation of CSCAF.
  • The framework has 28 indicators across five categories namely:
    • Energy and Green Buildings,
    • Urban Planning, Green Cover & Biodiversity,
    • Mobility and Air Quality,
    • Water Management and
    • Waste Management.
  • Currently, cities face many challenges in providing safe, affordable, and equitable modes of transport that enable social distancing.
  • Limited public transport options, narrow, crowded sidewalks particularly in the market places and deterioration of mental health, are key issues that must be addressed on priority. The pedestrianization of streets for walking and creating public spaces is a crucial step towards mitigating these issues.
  • Cities around the world, such as Bogota, Berlin, and Milan have responded by transforming streets for walking and cycling, to ensure safe mobility during COVID-19.

The Streets for People Challenge:

  • Objective: To inspire cities to create walking-friendly and vibrant streets through quick, innovative, and low-cost measures.

Details:

  • All cities participating in the challenge shall be encouraged to use the ‘test-learn-scale’ approach to initiate both, flagship and neighborhood walking interventions.
  • It is the response to the need for making cities more walkable and pedestrian-friendly.
  • The Challenge builds on the advisory issued by MoHUA for the holistic planning for pedestrian-friendly market spaces.
  • It will support cities to develop a unified vision of streets for people in consultation with stakeholders and citizens.
  • Adopting a participatory approach, cities will be guided to launch their own design competitions to gather innovative ideas from professionals for quick, innovative, and low-cost tactical solutions.

Source: PIB

Smothering the housing rights of the urban poor

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

A three Judge bench of Supreme Court directed State authorities to remove the thousands of slum dwellings along the railway tracks in the national capital within a period of three months.

ALL ABOUT THE CASE

  • An affidavit was filed by additional Divisional Railway Manager at DRM Office of Northern Railway about the presence of jhuggies’ in Delhi along the 140 km route length of track in the region of NCT of Delhi.
  • This is the region where the railway tracks take off in different directions and also include a ring connecting the takeoff of all these routes
  • About 70 km route length of track is affected by large jhuggie jhopri’ clusters existing in close vicinity of tracks.
  • These clusters have about 48,000 numbers of jhuggies in the region adjacent to railway tracks.
  • Earlier a report was filed by the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), in which it sought direction to Railways to present a time-bound plan for solid waste management in the northern region, starting with Delhi and its vicinity.

SC VERDICT:

  • Made comprehensive plan for removal of jhuggies be made and executed in a phased manner.
  • Remove the jhuggi jhopri clusters in the railway safety zone within a period of three months.
  • No Court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments and in case any such interim order is granted ‘that shall not be effective’.
  • No interference, political or otherwise, should be there
  • The action taken should be reported to the Court within a period of one month.

A FLAWED ORDER

  • The orders for the demolition of the informal settlements of poor urban residents have raised serious legal questions.
  • The order has been criticized for ignoring the principles of natural justice, judicial precedents on the right to shelter, and state policies governing evictions.

Violation of Natural Justice:

  • The decision of the demolition of slums (jhuggi jhopris) has been taken by the apex court without even hearing the affected party, the jhuggi dwellers. It is the violation of principles of natural justice and due process.
  • The verdict was passed in the long-running case, M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India & Ors., regarding pollution in Delhi and was also in response to a report by Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority for the National Capital Region on the piling up of garbage along railway tracks.
  • It is important to note that the case or the report do not concerns itself with the legality of informal settlements and still the Court made an unconvincing connection between the piling of garbage and the presence of slums and gave an eviction order without giving the residents a fair hearing.

Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN)

  • It is an independent organization based in New Delhi, India, works for the recognition, defence, promotion, and realization of the human rights to adequate housing and land, which involve gaining a safe and secure place for all individuals and communities, especially marginalized communities, to live in peace and dignity.
  • It is registered as an Indian charitable trust works on research, education, and advocacy related to housing and land rights.

Right to livelihood and shelter

  • The following two cases proved that why the present order of the Supreme Court is opposite to its long-standing jurisprudence on the right to livelihood and shelter upheld in various judgments:
    • Olga Tellis & Ors vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Ors (1985): In this landmark decision which concerns pavement-dwellers, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court stated that the right to life also includes the ‘right to livelihood’ and that no eviction shall take place without notice and hearing those affected.
    • Chameli Singh vs. State Of U.P. (1995): In this case Supreme Court recognized the ‘right to shelter’ as a component of the right to life under Article 21 and freedom of movement under Article 19(1)(e).

Policies and case laws on slum eviction and rehabilitation

  • Sudama Singh & Others vs Government Of Delhi & Anr. (2010): High Court of Delhi held that prior to any eviction, a survey must be conducted and those evicted should have a right to “meaningful engagement” with the relocation plans.
    • The procedure laid down in this judgment formed the basis for the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015.
  • Ajay Maken & Ors. vs Union Of India & Ors. (2019): This case was about the demolition of Shakur Basti on railway land. Here Delhi High Court invoked the idea of the ‘Right to the City’ to uphold the housing rights of slum dwellers.
  • This case led to the framing of a Draft Protocol for the 2015 Policy on how meaningful engagement with residents should be conducted. However, neither the case laws nor the state policies were referred to by the Court.
  • So, the Court also failed to consider the policies and case laws on slum eviction and rehabilitation in Delhi.

Ignoring Humanitarian Moral grounds

  • Supreme Court’s order of removing lakhs of people and making them homeless came amid the health and economic emergency is callous and unconscionable.
  • The pandemic has already makes urban informal livelihoods more vulnerable. It is the reason UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing has called on member-states to declare an end to forced evictions.
  • As per a report of the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), over 20,000 people were displaced in 45 incidents of forced evictions in March and July, when India was under lockdown.
  • Over the last three years, over five lakh people have been evicted, most often for various “city beautification” projects.

HOUSING IS A RIGHT, NOT A COMMODITY

  • Housing is the basis of stability and security for an individual or family. It is the centre of social, emotional and sometimes economic lives.
  • Increasingly viewed as a commodity, housing is most importantly a human right. Under international law, to be adequately housed means having secure tenure not having to worry about being evicted or having ones home or lands taken away.
  • In its most recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur explores the financialization of housing and its detrimental impact on human rights, in particular, the right to housing.
  • The Special Rapporteur called for governments to ensure markets serve housing needs rather than investment priorities, and reminds states that they are first and foremost accountable to human rights.

CONCLUSION

The courts are admitting Public Interest Litigation (PIL), relying on reports of court-appointed committees and ignoring the specific issues. These are ignoring the specific issues and without even hearing the affected populations ordering the demolition of slums. This represents a dangerous turn of PIL jurisprudence whereby its procedural relaxations are used to deny principles of natural justice to the most marginalised groups. The promise of the right to housing offered by Sudama Singh and Ajay Maken is now being undone by an insidious and legally dubious order that pre-empts other courts from giving orders to stop the eviction. However, residents need to employ a combination of political and legal strategies to protect their housing rights and ensure that no eviction or rehabilitation is conducted without their prior informed consent.

Source: The Hindu

Five Star Villages Scheme

Context:

The Department of Posts has launched a scheme called Five Star Villages.

Objective: To ensure universal coverage of flagship postal schemes in rural areas of the country.

About the Scheme:

  • The scheme seeks to bridge the gaps in public awareness and reach of postal products and services, especially in interior villages.