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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Teaching the teacher

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Need to reform the teacher education system in India.

Context

Our teacher education system must be aligned with global standards.

Learning crisis and teacher vacancies in India

  • Teacher education as a status check on schooling education: Comparable to the role of a thermometer in diagnosing fever, an assessment of the quality of teacher education can be a status check on the schooling system.
    • Teachers remain at the heart of the issue, and translating schooling into learning is a critical challenge.
  • The gravity of learning crisis: The learning crisis is evident in the fact that almost half of the children in grade 5 in rural India cannot solve a simple two-digit subtraction problem,
    • While 67 per cent of children in grade 8 in public schools score less than 50 per cent in competency-based assessments in mathematics.
  • Teacher vacancies: India is dealing with a scenario of significant teacher vacancies, which are to the tune of almost 60-70 per cent in some states.
  • In fact, there are over one lakh single-teacher schools present across the country.
  • Excess teachers produced by TEIs: On the other hand, there are 17,000-odd Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) that are responsible for preparing teachers through programmes such as the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed), and Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed).
    • 19 lakh teachers every year: Taking their sanctioned intake into account, at full operation, these TEIs could generate over 19 lakh freshly trained teachers every year as against the estimated annual requirement of 3 lakh teachers.
    • To put things in perspective, currently, there are about 94 lakh teachers across all schools in India.
    • Every year, the teacher education system could, therefore, be producing one-fifth of the total number of school teachers.

The quality aspect of the teachers

  • Poor quality teachers: Not only are these TEIs generating a surplus supply of teachers, but they are also producing poor-quality teachers.
  • Pass percentage in eligibility test below 25%: Besides it being reflected in the dismal state of learning across schools, the pass-percentage in central teacher eligibility tests that stipulate eligibility for appointments as teachers has not exceeded 25 per cent in recent years.
    • This begs a pertinent question — how did we get here?

What are the reasons for such problems?

  • The answers lie in:  The inadequacies of planning, regulation, policy and organisational structures.
  • The role and issues in NCTE: The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) and its four regional committees (north, south, east and west), established by statute, are responsible for teacher education in India.
    • Toothless in terms of powers: The Act assigns disproportionate power to the regional committees which grant programme affiliation while the Council has been rendered toothless.
  • Proliferation of sus-standard TEIs: Perverted incentives, widespread corruption and commercialisation have resulted in a massive proliferation of sub-standard TEIs.
    • In fact, while most of these TEIs are financially unviable, some function out of tiny rooms with duplicate addresses, and a few could even be selling degrees at a fixed price.
    • No system to ensure the entry of meritorious: These institutes function in isolation from the rest of the higher education system, and there is no system to assess and accredit them. Consequently, there is no systemic sieve to ensure the entry of only motivated and meritorious individuals into the teacher education space.
  • Disparity regional spread of TEIs: A more granular look reveals disparities across regions and programmes offered.
    • One-third in UP: Almost one-third of the TEIs are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh.
    • In fact, Ghazipur, a district in UP with a population of around one lakh, has a whopping 300 TEIs.
    • Approximately half of the total TEIs are in the northern region with Rajasthan having the second-largest number of institutes.
  • Poor planning: While there are about 17 recognised teacher education programmes, a majority of TEIs offer only B.Ed and D.El.Ed programmes.
    • This reinforces the point of poor planning as the country is actually facing a shortage of subject teachers in secondary schools and teacher-educators for whom a Master of Education (M.Ed) degree is a requisite (offered in less than 10 per cent of the TEIs).
  • Outdated curriculum: Adding to the mix of challenges is an outdated teacher preparation curriculum framework that was last updated over a decade ago.
  • Regulation by multiple agencies: On the governance front, multiple agencies have oversight on teacher education.

Way forward

  • Collect the credible data: Any reform initiative must be built on credible data.
    • No data available: To date, there is no accurate real-time database of the number and details of teacher education institutes, students enrolled and programmes offered.
    • How the data can be helpful? Such data could be used to create a comprehensive plan for the sector, devising the optimal number of TEIs, their regional spread and programme-wise intake.
    • One cannot but underscore the significance of proper planning. The teachers will concur.
  • Develop the system of assessment and accreditation: An accurate system of assessment and accreditation must be developed to ensure high-quality teacher education.
    • The National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC), responsible for quality-standards in higher education, has only covered 30 per cent of all institutes since its establishment back in 1994.
    • Given the extensive landscape of the teacher education sector alone and current capacity constraints, it is necessary that multiple accreditation agencies be empanelled.
    • A common accreditation framework should be designed through a consultative process including all relevant stakeholders to facilitate its wider acceptability.
    • A transparent and credible system of accreditation could form the bedrock for weeding out substandard TEIs and propelling quality improvements in the rest.
  • The curriculum of global quality: Core determinant of quality is the curriculum which must be regularly revamped and revised to ensure that our teacher education system is aligned to global standards.
    • Ideally, given that teacher education requires a good mix of curricular inputs and good-quality pedagogy, experts are rightly advocating for a shift towards integrated four-year subject-specific programmes to be housed in multidisciplinary colleges and universities.
    • In the first phase, these may be initiated in select central and state universities.
    • Potential to outsource teachers: This could also potentially serve as an avenue for India to outsource its surplus high-quality teachers to over 70 countries that face a teacher shortage.
  • Administrative will and execution: Finally, reforms must be driven by administrative will and executed through a well-established governance mechanism, clearly establishing ownership and accountability for set work streams across multiple agencies.
    • The draft National Education Policy presents a ray of hope.
    • Its vision to restore integrity and credibility to the teacher education system needs to be translated into effective action.

Conclusion

India is estimated to have the largest workforce within the next decade. This means that a population bulge is on the cusp of entering the higher education ecosystem now. The pressing need of the hour is to focus on providing the best quality teacher education to those who aspire to build the future of this country.

 

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

A blow against social justice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Constitutional provision for the reservation in the government jobs.

Mains level : Paper 2- Reservation in the government jobs is not the fundamental right.

Context

The recent verdict of a two-judge Supreme Court Bench on reservations and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes promotions — has mainly raised four constitutional questions.

The first question-Whether reservation in promotions is a fundamental right or not. 

  • Scope for the reservation: Addressing the first question, the scope for reservation for the Backward Classes is promised in Part III of the Constitution under Fundamental Rights.
    • Articles 16(4) and 16(4A) which empowers the state to provide reservation for SCs and STs are a part of the section, “Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment”.
    • The right to equality is also enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution. Many construe that the reservation is against Article 16 (Right to equality).
  • The basis for the reservation: One should understand that the absence of equal opportunities for the Backward Classes due to historic injustice by virtue of birth entails them reservation.
    • In other words, the right to equality is the basis of reservation as there is no level-playing field among castes.
    • Articles 16 (2) and 16(4) are neither contradictory nor mutually exclusive in nature. In fact, they are complementary to each other; even Article 16(4) is not a special provision.
  • Whether reservation should be applied in promotions?
    • The answer is yes because, in India, where there is a peculiar hierarchical arrangement of caste, it is conspicuous that SCs and STs are poorly represented in higher posts.
    • Confined to lower cadre jobs: Denying application of reservation in promotions has kept SCs and STs largely confined to lower cadre jobs. This is even seen in the higher judiciary.
    • Hence, providing reservation for promotions is even more justified and appropriate to attain equality.
    • Need of the reservation at every level: The question of law is not about enabling reservations in promotions or not, but this judgment destabilises the very basis of reservation; when there is no direct recruitment in higher posts, the implementation of the reservation is justified at every level to get a reasonable representation.
    • Subdivision of reservation not correct: It is not correct to subdivide the scope of reservation at the entry-level and in promotions; this delineation will only lead to confusion in the implementation of reservation.
    • Now, by declaring that reservation cannot be claimed as a fundamental right is a dangerous precedent in the history of social justice.

The second question- Can a court issue a mandamus to the state for providing reservation?

  • Will it be appropriate for the courts to issue a mandamus in this regard?
    • This is inappropriate because when the court is empowered to pass orders to create extra seats every year for forward-caste students who claim to be affected by reservation, why cannot it direct the state to provide reservation in promotions?
  • Use of powers under Article 142: The Supreme Court has extraordinary powers under Article 142, which empowers the Court to pass any order necessary for doing “complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it”.

Third question-Necessity of quantifiable data

  • Data to prove inadequate representation: The next question is about the necessity of quantifiable data to show an inadequate representation of reserved category people.
  • Article 16 addresses the question: This question has been addressed in the Constitution. Article 16(4) reads: “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.”
  • How “opinion of the State” should be construes: Here, “in the opinion of State” should not be construed as the discretion of the state to give the reservation or not; on the contrary, if the state feels that SCs and STs are under-represented, then it is in the domain of the state to provide reservation.
  • Quantifiable data for exceeding the 50% limit: In the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India case (Mandal Commission) the idea of quantifiable data on inadequate representation was applied for exceeding the 50% cap for reservation; within 50% where the existing quotas for SCs and STs are accommodated were not affected.
    • Responsibility to collect data on the State: The responsibility of collecting data on representation by the Backward Classes lies with the state.
    • Pathetically, the last caste-based census was in 1935, and in the pre-Independence era, by the British government.
    • No caste-based census in India: After Independence, no government has had the inclination to conduct a caste-based census due to political reasons.
    • Even if a caste-based census is collected, the population and proportionate representation of SCs and STs will be low. For this reason alone, a proper caste-based census has not been conducted in independent India.
    • No mention of quantifiable data: Moreover, Article 16(4) clearly mentions that if the state, in its opinion, feels that SCs and STs are not adequately represented, then it can provide reservation for them. There is no mention of “quantifiable data” in the Constitution. Even after 70 years of SC/ST reservation, their representation is as low as 3%.

Fourth question-Whether it is the obligation of the state to give reservation?

  • Obligatory on the government: Finally, if the argument is that it is not binding on the state to give reservation, it must be noted that when reservation rights are in Part III as Fundamental Rights, it is the obligation of the state to ensure reservation to the underprivileged.
  • Interpretation as obligatory provisions: This judgment has interpreted Articles 16 (4) and 16(4A) only as enabling provisions.
  • Enabling provisions mean that these provisions empower the state to intervene; it does not mean the state is not bound to provide it.
  • Interpreting the Constitution by paraphrasing and selective reading is dangerous.

 Administrative efficiency

  • Reservation should not affect the efficiency of administration: More importantly, this judgment has raised a new point — that the decision of the State government to provide reservation for SC/STs should not affect the efficiency of administration.
    • This implies that the entry of SC/STs in the job market can reduce the quality of administration; this by itself is discriminatory.
  • No evidence to support the claim: There is no evidence that performance in administration is affected on account of caste.
  • There have been many attempts to dilute reservation in the past. But, this judgment appears to be debatable in the larger context and should be challenged in a constitutional bench.

Conclusion

In a country of parliamentary democracy, even the Constitution of India can be amended. If the government at the Centre has a genuine concern for SC/STs, it can amend the Constitution using its political majority.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

The growth challenge

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Prospects of recovery of Indian economy and indications from demand and supply side.

Context

The focus in the near future should to increase investments and facilitate credit for funding these productive assets so that India’s potential output growth can steadily rise.

Growth prospects of India

  • The NSO forecast at 5%: The latest data from the National Statistical Office (NSO) retained India’s economic growth forecast at 5 per cent for the current financial year.
    • Growth has dropped from 6.1 per cent in the previous year.
  • Fall in nominal GDP: More strikingly, nominal GDP growth has decelerated from an average of 11 per cent during 2016-17 to 2018-19 to 7.5 per cent this year.
    • Lower inflation added to the volume slowdown.
    • The value of India’s GDP for FY20 is estimated at around $2.9 trillion.

Input and output side growth prospects

  • GDP is estimated from both output and demand lenses, using specific economic indicators as proxies for activity in specific sectors.
  • Output side: From the output side, sector-wise estimates were as following-
    • Agriculture sector growth was revised up to 3.7 per cent (up from the 2.8 per cent previously).
    • Agricultural production is expected to improve based on the third advance estimates of the rabi season crops, as well as higher horticulture and allied sector output (livestock, forestry and fishing), which now is significantly larger than conventional food crops.
    • Industrial activity was lowered to 1.5 per cent (from 2.3 per cent earlier).
    • The key concern regarding the continuing slowdown is the increasing weakness in the industrial sector (particularly of manufacturing, whose growth has progressively fallen from 13.1 per cent in FY16 to 5.7 per cent in FY19, and plummeting to 0.9 per cent in FY20).
    • Services output remained largely unchanged at 6.5 per cent.
  • Demand-side: From a demand perspective, the obverse side to the manufacturing slowdown is the even sharper drop in fixed asset investment growth — down sharply from an average 8.5 per cent during FY17 and FY19 to -0.6 per cent in FY20.
    • The causes for this contraction needs to be understood in detail, and we will return to this.

Private consumption- a significant driver of growth

  • Private consumption at 60% of GDP: The other significant driver of growth in India has been private consumption. For perspective, the share of private consumption had averaged 59-60 per cent during FY16-FY20.
  • Government consumption 10% of GDP: Reflecting the higher spending over the last couple of years, the share of government consumption in GDP has risen from an average of 10.5 per cent of GDP over FY12-17 to almost 12 per cent in FY20, resulting in the share of total consumption above 70 per cent.

Drop in the share of nominal investment

  • Drop from 39 % to 30 % of GDP: The really remarkable trend, though, as noted above, is the share of nominal investment in GDP progressively dropping from 39 per cent in FY12 to 30 per cent in FY20.
  • Is it a good sign? Part of this is actually good, reflecting higher Capex efficiency.
    • Slowing household consumption: One narrative underlying the contraction in fresh Capex in FY20 was slowing household consumption growth, which, in nominal terms, fell from an average 11.6 per cent during FY16-19 to an estimated 9.1 per cent in FY20.
    • Disproportionate contribution to lower growth: Though the deceleration prima facie does not seem significant enough to result in a broader economic slowdown of the current magnitude, the high share of household consumption has contributed disproportionately to lower growth.
    • Fall in capacity utilisation: A direct fallout of this is that seasonally adjusted capacity utilisation (based on RBI surveys) had shrunk from 73.4 per cent in the first quarter of FY20 to 70.3 per cent in the second quarter, and this is unlikely to have improved materially in the second half of the year.
    • This is one of the reasons for the low levels of fresh investment.

Reduced flow of credit to the commercial sector

  • Impediment to growth revival: The other cause of the low Capex, more from the supply side, is a much-reduced flow of credit to the commercial sector, and this remains the proximate impediment for growth revival, with signs of risk aversion in lending still strong despite the recent measures by RBI to incentivise credit to productive sectors.
    • Funds from selected sources, over April-January FY20, was only about Rs 9 lakh crore as against Rs 15 lakh crore in the corresponding 10 months of FY19.
  • Bank credit lowest in three months: Growth in bank credit (which is still the largest source of financing) till mid-February 2020 was down to 6.3 per cent — the lowest in three years.
    • Even this is almost wholly driven by retail credit; incremental credit to industry and services over this period was negative.

Investor confidence and coronavirus factor

  • A bright feature of the economic environment: One bright feature in this economic environment is strong foreign investor confidence in India, reflected in both FPI equity and FDI flows.
    • Many borrowers have used offshore sources to refinance or pay down domestic bank loans and debt.
    • A global risk-off environment might restrict even this channel in the near future.
  • Robust corporate bond issuances: Domestic corporate bond issuances have also remained robust, although the dominant set of borrowers still remain public sector agencies and financial institutions.
  • Coronavirus factor likely to moderate the gains: Monthly economic indicators suggest that the growth deceleration has likely bottomed out in the third quarter.
    • The bet has been on reducing inventories and the consequent production ramp-up to replenish stocks. However, the evidence on this is mixed.
    • The coronavirus effects, both concurrent and lagged, will also moderate some of the emerging positive effects of counter-cyclical policy measures of the past six months.
    • If the outbreak does not abate over the next month or so, the complex supply chains of intermediates sourced from China will run dry and add to the already weak system demand.
  • Growth prospects in the next few weeks: Surveys indicate that both business and consumer confidence, which while improving, remain muted. A growth revival, hence, is likely to be only very modest over the next few quarters.

Conclusion

A $5 trillion economy by 2025 is still a worthwhile target and aspirational; coordinated strategies, policies, execution and institutional mechanisms will be needed to move up to a sustained 8 per cent plus growth consistent with achieving the target. The focus in the near future should to increase investments and facilitate credit for funding these productive assets so that India’s potential output growth can steadily rise.

 

Human Rights Issues

Explained: Why UN Human Rights Commission intends to intervene in a SC case against CAA?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNHRC

Mains level : Global intervention over CAA

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “intends to file” an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India seeking to intervene in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1474 of 2019 and praying that it be allowed to make submissions.

On what grounds is a UN body seeking to intervene in a case regarding a domestic Indian law?

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the leading UN entity on human rights.
  • The UN General Assembly entrusted both the High Commissioner and her Office with a unique mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all people.
  • As the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights for all, OHCHR leads global human rights efforts speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide.
  • This resolution, adopted by the UNGA in 1994, created the post of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Its jurisdiction

  • The application says that successive High Commissioners have filed amicus curiae briefs on issues of particular public importance within proceedings before a diverse range of international and national jurisdictions.
  • It includes the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and at the national level, the United States Supreme Court and final appeal courts of States in Asia and Latin America.

What exactly does the intervention application say?

  • The OHCHR has welcomed as “commendable” the CAA’s stated purpose, “namely the protection of some persons from persecution on religious grounds.
  • It also “acknowledges the history of openness and welcome that India has exhibited to persons seeking to find a safer, more dignified life within its borders”.
  • However the examination of the CAA raises important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees, says the OHCHR.
  • The CAA, it says, raises “important human rights issues, including its compatibility in relation to the right to equality before the law and nondiscrimination on nationality grounds under India’s human rights obligations”.
  • The application acknowledges that “the issue of nondiscrimination on nationality grounds falls outside the scope of this intervention”, but insists that “this in no way implies that there are not human rights concerns in this respect”.

Why intervene?

  • The application questions the reasonableness and objectivity of the criterion of extending the benefits of the CAA to Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan alone.
  • It points out that while the Indian government has suggested that persons of Muslim faith, regardless of denomination or ethnicity, are protected there.
  • However recent reports by UN human rights show that Ahmadi, Hazara and Shia Muslims in these countries warrant protection on the same basis as that provided in the preferential treatment proposed by the CAA.

Is there a specific basis on which the OHCHR has faulted the CAA?

The application flags some central principles of international human rights law:

  1. the impact of the CAA on some migrants
  2. the enjoyment of human rights by all migrants and the rights of all migrants (non-citizens) to equality before the law and
  3. the principle of non-refoulment, which prohibits the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to be persecuted
  • The application mentions that all migrants “regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and/or immigration status enjoy human rights and are entitled to protection”.
  • It cites international human rights instruments to urge the inclusion of non-discrimination, equality before the law, and equal protection before the law into the foundation of a rule of law.
  • International human rights law, the application says, does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens or different groups of non-citizens for the purposes of providing them protection from discrimination, “including in respect of their migration status”.

India’s stance

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
  • MEA spokesperson insisted that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.
  • The CAA was “constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of (India’s) constitutional values”, and “is reflective of our long-standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India”.

River Interlinking

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

Mains level : Interlinking of rivers

 

 

The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body to implement projects for linking rivers.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority

  • To be called the NIRA, the proposed body is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects.
  • It will also make arrangements for generating up funds, internally and externally.
  • Headed by Union Minister of Jal Shakti, the panel includes Irrigation or Water Resources Ministers and Secretaries of States.
  • It is being assisted by a Task Force for ILR, which is a committee of experts essentially drawn from the Jal Shakti Ministry, Central Water Commission and the NWDA.

About National River Linking Project (NRLP)

  • The NRLP formally known as the National Perspective Plan, envisages the transfer of water from water ‘surplus’ basins where there is flooding to water ‘deficit’ basins where there is drought/scarcity, through inter-basin water transfer projects.
  • It is designed to ease water shortages in western and southern India while mitigating the impacts of recurrent floods in the eastern parts of the Ganga basin.
  • Interlinking of rivers was conceived more than 125 years ago by Sir Arthur Cotton, mainly to facilitate trade but it was not implemented then.
  • The proposed NRLP, now comprises 29 canals totalling 9,600 km, will involve the movement of 245 trillion litres of water.
  • If and when implemented, it will be one of the biggest inter-basin water transfer projects in the world.

ILR Projects in India

  • As of now, six ILR projects — the Ken-Betwa, Damanganga- Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga, Mahanadi-Godavari and Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) — have been under examination of the authorities.
  • The Ken-Betwa ILR is India’s first such project.
  • With regard to the peninsular rivers, the Centre has chosen to focus on the Godavari-Cauvery link than the earlier proposal to link the Mahanadi-Godavari-Krishna-Pennar-Cauvery rivers.

Issues and Concerns

Ecological issues

One of the major concerns is that rivers change their course in 70–100 years and thus once they are linked, future change of course could create huge practical problems for the project.

Aqua life

A number of leading environmentalists are of the opinion that the project could be an ecological disaster. There would be a decrease in downstream flows resulting in reduction of fresh water inflows into the seas seriously jeopardizing aquatic life.

Deforestation

Creation of canals would need large areas of land resulting in large scale deforestation in certain areas.

Areas getting submerged

Possibility of new dams comes with the threat of large otherwise habitable or reserved land getting submerged under water or surface water. Fertile deltas will be under threat, with coastal erosion expected to threaten the land and livelihoods of local economies that support 160 million people.

Displacement of people

As large strips of land might have to be converted to canals, a considerable population living in these areas must need to be rehabilitated to new areas.

Dirtying of clean water

As the rivers interlink, rivers with dirty water will get connected to rivers with clean water, hence dirtying the clean water.

Disrupting of ecological flow

On implementation, water discharge in 23 out of 29 rivers will reduce considerably, they say. The Ganga will see a 24% decrease in flow. Its tributaries Gandak (-68%) and Ghaghara (-55%) will be the worst affected. While the Brahmaputra will see only a 6% loss, its tributaries will see massive flow reductions: Manas (-73%), Sankosh (-72%) and Raidhak (-53%). Changes in water flow and trapping of silt in reservoirs will see a dip in the sediment deposited by rivers.


Must read:

https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/national-river-linking-project-dream-or-disaster

Air Pollution

[pib] Biomethanation Process

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biomethanation Process

Mains level : Biomethanation as an alternative for stubble burning

 

 

In an all India coordinated project, efforts are on to produce bio-gas for kitchen use and quality manure for fields using bio-methanation of rice straw by anaerobic digestion method. Six domestic level paddy straw-based bio-gas plants have been installed in Punjab for field trials and further study is in progress.

What is Biomethanation?

  • It is a process by which organic material is microbiologically converted under anaerobic conditions to biogas.
  • Three main physiological groups of microorganisms are involved: fermenting bacteria, organic acid oxidizing bacteria, and methanogenic archaea.
  • Biomethanation has strong potential for the production of energy from organic residues and wastes. It will help to reduce the use of fossil fuels and thus reduce CO(2) emission.

How it works?

  • Microorganisms degrade organic matter via cascades of biochemical conversions to methane and carbon dioxide.
  • Syntrophic relationships between hydrogen producers (acetogens) and hydrogen scavengers (homoacetogens, hydrogenotrophic methanogens, etc.) are critical to the process.
  • A wide variety of process applications for biomethanation of wastewaters, slurries, and solid waste have been developed.
  • They utilize different reactor types and process conditions (retention times, loading rates, temperatures, etc.) in order to maximize the energy output from the waste and also to decrease retention time and enhance process stability.

Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[pib] Amendment to the Export Policy of APIs and formulations made from these APIs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

Mains level : Regulations of API

The Government has made amendments in the export policy and restricted export of specified APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) and formulations made from these APIs.

Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs)

  • All drugs are made up of two core components: the API, which is the central ingredient, and the excipients, the substances other than the drug that helps deliver the medication to your system.
  • The API is the part of any drug that produces its effects.
  • Excipients are chemically inactive substances, such as lactose or mineral oil.
  • The quality of APIs has a significant effect on the efficacy and safety of medications.

The notification covers the following APIs and formulations made from these APIs:

  • Paracetamol
  • Tinidazole
  • Metronidazole
  • Acyclovir
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Progesterone
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Erythromycin Salts
  • Neomycin
  • Clindamycin Salts
  • Ornidazole

Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

[pib] Regulating Content of Trans-Fat in Oils and Fats

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Trans-Fat

Mains level : Trans-Fat related health hazards

 

 

The limit of trans-fats to be not more than 5% is prescribed under Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 for vanaspati, bakery shortenings, bakery and industrial margarine and interesterified vegetable fats/oils.

What are Trans Fats?

  • Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  • Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

Why this move?

  • Studies have recently shown that 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are caused due to high consumption of trans fats.
  • Since the impact of trans fats on human health is increasing exponentially, it is very important to create awareness about them.

Standards for Trans-fats

  • A draft notification to limit trans-fat to be not more than 2% by weight of the total oils/fats present in the processed food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient on and from 1st January, 2022 was issued on 28.08.2019
  • Standards prescribed under various regulations of FSSAI are enforced to check that they comply with the standards laid down under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and the rules and regulations made thereunder.
  • In cases where the food samples are found to be non-conforming, recourse is taken to penal provisions under Chapter IX of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

Students Suicides in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Suicides in India

 

 

Between 2016 and 2018, nearly 10,000 students committed suicide every year in India, data tabled by the Human Resource Development Ministry in Parliament show.

About the Report

  • HRD Ministry sourced its data from ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’.
  • The report is based on data provided by the states and UTs.

Highlights of the Report

  • Maharashtra accounted for 1 in every 7 student suicides in the country — 4,235 out of 29,542 in the three years combined, or about 1,400 a year.
  • Maharashtra had over 1,300 student suicides in each of the three years, while West Bengal was the only other state with over 1,000 in any single year — 1,147 in 2016.
  • In the overall three-year totals, Maharashtra was followed by Tamil Nadu (2,744), Madhya Pradesh (2,658) and West Bengal (2,535).
  • Eight more states totalled over 1,000 student suicides in the three years, with Karnataka the highest among these at almost 2,000.
  • Among the Union Territories, Delhi had 626 student suicides — 211, 212 and 203 in the three successive years.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Swamp Wallaby

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swamp Wallaby and its uniqueness

Mains level : NA

 

Researchers reported that the swamp wallaby, a marsupial related to the kangaroo, is pregnant throughout its adult life. It typically conceives a new embryo days before delivering the newborn from its previous pregnancy.

Swamp wallaby

IUCN Status: Least Concerned

  • The swamp wallaby is a small macropod marsupial of eastern Australia. It is likely the only mammal pregnant and lactating all lifelong.
  • Female wallabies and kangaroos have two uteri and two separate ovaries.
  • At the end of a pregnancy in one uterus, a new embryo develops in the other uterus.
  • Kangaroos and wallabies regularly have an embryo in the uterus, a young joey in the pouch, and a third semi-dependent young at foot, still drinking its mother’s milk.

How it is different from Kangaroo?

  • In kangaroos, the new embryo is conceived a day or two after the previous birth.
  • In the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), the new conception happens one or two days before the previous joey is delivered.

What happens after?

  • As soon as the mature foetus is born and settles in the pouch, the swamp wallaby arrests the development of the new embryo.
  • This is called embryonic diapause, which happens in many animals to pause reproduction until the conditions are right — season, climate, food availability.
  • For wallabies, this is also to ensure that the new one is born only when the pouch is free again.
  • If this did not happen, the swamp wallaby would be birthing new young every 30 days — it has a short gestation period — and its pouch could not support that.