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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 12 January 2021

Contents

  1. Call for action plan to stop school drop-outs
  2. Impeachment process for U.S. President Trump
  3. Automakers seek relief on emission norms

CALL FOR ACTION PLAN TO STOP SCHOOL DROP-OUTS

Context:

The Education Ministry issued a directive that Schools must relax detention norms in order to prevent drop-outs in a year when COVID-19 has disrupted the teaching and learning process.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues with Educational development)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background to reason for higher risk of Drop-outs in 2020
  2. Challenges in ensuring the continuation of studies
  3. Ministry’s directive to the States to prevent drop-outs in 2020
  4. Steps taken to ensure access to education during the COVID Lockdowns
  5. Major Initiatives under National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT)
  6. National Statistical Organisation (NSO) survey report on digital divide affecting Education during Lockdown

Background to reason for higher risk of Drop-outs in 2020

  • Schools shut down in mid-March 2020, just before the COVID-19 lockdown. Some States have started reopening physical classes for high school students over the last two months, but most of India’s 25 crore students have spent the last 10 months at home.
  • While some have access to online classes, the majority are making do with televised classes, WhatsApp teaching, and learning on their own.
  • Globally, the United Nations had estimated that almost 24 million school age children are at risk to drop-out from the educational system due to COVID-19 this year.

Challenges in ensuring the continuation of studies

  • As schools slowly reopen for physical classes, students may need bridge courses to adjust to the school environment, and remedial learning programmes to mitigate learning loss and inequality.
  • Identifying students across different grades based on their learning levels, and relaxing detention norms to prevent drop-out this year is recommended.
  • Meanwhile, awareness on COVID-19-appropriate behaviours is also necessary before reopening schools.

Ministry’s directive to the States to prevent drop-outs in 2020

  • To determine the scope of the problem, the Education Ministry directed States to identify out-of-school children in the 6 to 18 years age group through a comprehensive door-to-door survey.
  • Awareness and enrolment drives would then need to be conducted to ensure that such children return to the school system.
  • The Ministry has directed the states to prepare an action plan to prevent increased drop-outs, lower enrolments, loss of learning and deterioration in the gains made in providing universal access, quality and equity in recent years.
  • For those who are still studying from home, targeted home visits, counselling and distribution of worksheets and other supplementary material to support home-based education are needed.
  • Easy and timely access to uniforms, textbooks and mid-day meals are also needed to prevent drop-outs.
  • Classes in small groups at classrooms-on-wheels can be explored as the pandemic abates in many areas.

For children who can’t attend schools

  • For children who cannot go to school, the Ministry also offered guidelines for the continuation of non-residential training through volunteers, local teachers and community participation.
  • Children with special needs must also receive home-based educational support — and financial support for girl children with special needs — through volunteers and special educators, it said.

Steps taken to ensure access to education during the COVID Lockdowns

  • Some states have launched innovative mobile apps and portals as means to facilitate remote learning.
  • Many states have had to be creative with low tech forms of teaching and instruction delivery with low or nil requirements of the internet. For instance- In Arunachal Pradesh, primary class students are receiving interesting Radio talks in their mother tongue through All India Radio.
  • Andhra Pradesh has started Toll Free Call Centre and Toll-Free Video call centre for students for understanding critical topics and clearing their doubts.
  • Due to poor mobile connectivity and unavailability of internet services, Chhattisgarh has started Motor iskool.
  • Some of the major digital initiatives by State Governments are SMILE (Social Media Interface for Learning Engagement) in Rajasthan, Project Home Classes in Jammu, Padhai Tunhar duvaar (Education at your doorstep) in Chhattisgarh, Unnayan Initiatives in Bihar through portal and mobile application, Mission Buniyaad in NCT of Delhi, Kerala’s own educational TV channel (Hi-Tech school programme), E-scholar portal as well as free online courses for teachers in Meghalaya.

Major Initiatives under National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT)

  1. SWAYAM: The Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses, covering school (9th to 12th) to Postgraduate Level. The online courses are being used not only by the students but also by the teachers and non-student learners, in the form of lifelong learning.
  2. SWAYAM Prabha: It is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on a 24X7 basis.
  3. National Digital Library of India (NDL): It is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. Presently, there are more than 3 crore digital resources available through the NDL.
  4. Spoken Tutorial: They are 10-minute long, audio-video tutorial, on open-source software, to improve employment potential of students. It is created for self-learning, audio dubbed into 22 languages and with the availability of online version.
  5. Free and Open-Source Software for Education (FOSSEE): It is a project promoting the use of open-source software in educational institutions. It does that through instructional material, such as spoken tutorials, documentation, such as textbook companions, awareness programmes, such as conferences, training workshops, and internships.
  6. Virtual Lab: This is a project to develop a fully interactive simulation environment to perform experiments, collect data, and answer questions to assess the understanding of the knowledge acquired. There are about 225 such labs operational, with more than 1800 experiments that benefitted more than 15 lakhs students.
  7. E-Yantra: It is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and robotics. More than 275 colleges across India have benefited with this initiative.

National Statistical Organisation (NSO) survey report on digital divide affecting Education during Lockdown

  • National Statistical Organisation (NSO) survey shows just how stark is the digital divide across States, cities and villages, and income groups.
  • Across India, only one in ten households have a computer — whether a desktop, laptop or tablet.
  • However, almost a quarter of all homes have Internet facilities, accessed via a fixed or mobile network using any device, including smartphones.
  • Most of these Internet-enabled homes are located in cities, where 42% have Internet access.
  • In rural India, however, only 15% are connected to the internet.
  • The biggest divide is by economic status, which the NSO marks by dividing the population into five equal groups, or quintiles, based on their usual monthly per capita expenditure.
  • Even as digital literacy is likely to grow during this pandemic, concerns remain about basic literacy.
  • Over the last decade, literacy rates have increased from 71.7% to 77.7%, with the highest gains coming among rural women.

-Source: The Hindu


IMPEACHMENT PROCESS FOR U.S. PRESIDENT TRUMP

Context:

Democrats in the House of Republicans introduced an article of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump — the “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the attack on the Capitol recently.

If impeached Donald Trump will the first President to be impeached twice.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Comparison of Constitutions, President)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Impeachment of the President of the United States of America
  2. Process of Impeachment of U.S. President
  3. To Compare with: Impeachment of the Indian President

Impeachment of the President of the United States of America

Impeachment is a provision that allows the U.S. Congress (equivalent to Indian Parliament) to remove the President of the United States.

Roles played

  1. Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House – similar to Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament) has the “the sole power of impeachment”
  2. The Senate (Upper House – Similar to Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”, i.e., legal procedure of hearing the case and adjudicating.
  3. The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has the duty of presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate.

The Grounds for Impeachment of the President in U.S.

  • The President can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.
  • What constitutes these “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” however, is not clearly spelt out.

Process of Impeachment of U.S. President

HOUSE VOTE:

  • When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached.
  • Next, the proceedings move to the Senate.

SENATE TRIAL & VOTE:

  • The Senate holds a trial, overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, play the role of prosecutors.
  • The President has defence lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury.
  • If at least two-thirds of the Senators present find the President guilty, he is removed and the Vice President takes over as President.

To Compare with: Impeachment of the Indian President

  • The only condition for the initiation of impeachment of the Indian president is the ‘violation of the constitution.’
  • Indian Constitution contains no definition of ‘violation of the constitution.’
  • Both the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha can initiate the impeachment charges against the President of India.
  • Once the resolution if passed in whichever house the impeachment process was initiated – it will move to the other house which will investigate and pass it if it finds those charges valid.

Comparison of the Impeachment Process of the Presidents of India and USA

-Source: The Hindu


AUTOMAKERS SEEK RELIEF ON EMISSION NORMS

Context:

The auto industry has requested the government to defer the implementation of fuel efficiency norms and second stage of emission norms to April 2024, in a bid to keep the cost of acquisition stable.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Steps taken towards the Conservation of Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Reasons for request of relaxation of emission norms
  2. Importance of Emission norms such as CAFÉ and BS-VI
  3. About CAFE regulations
  4. About Bharat stage emission standards (BSES)
  5. BS-VI Stage II Norms

Reasons for request of relaxation of emission norms

  • The primary reason for that has been the sharp rise in cost of acquisition of cars in India.
  • Almost 50 per cent of the car buyers in India are first-time buyers and since price elasticity for car purchase is high in India, it is a major factor for slowdown in growth.
  • If rising cost of raw materials is a factor, insiders say that high tax rates and shift from BS-IV to BS-VI in a quick time has lifted the acquisition cost.

Importance of Emission norms such as CAFÉ and BS-VI

  • Studies show that vehicles are a major source of pollutants that cause climate change.
  • Such norms help in improving emission control, fuel efficiency and engine design.
  • Cutting down on vehicular emission will also result in better air quality in cities.

About CAFE regulations

  • CAFE or Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency/Economy regulations are in force in many advanced as well as developing nations, including India.
  • They aim at lowering fuel consumption (or improving fuel efficiency) of vehicles by lowering carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, thus serving the twin purposes of reducing dependence on oil for fuel and controlling pollution.
  • Corporate Average refers to sales-volume weighted average for every auto manufacturer.
  • The norms are applicable for petrol, diesel, LPG and CNG passenger vehicles. CAFE regulations in India came into force from 2017 by the Union Ministry of Power (MoP) under Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is the nodal agency responsible for monitoring and reporting a summary of annual fuel consumption by automobile manufacturers at the end of each fiscal year.
  • The regulation is in accordance with the fuel consumption standards of 2015 that aim to increase fuel efficiency of vehicles road by 35% by 2030.
  • The norms are applicable for petrol, diesel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) passenger vehicles.
  • The CAFÉ-2 norms have set a Carbon dioxide emission target of 130 gram/kilometre by 2022-23 and 113 g/km 2022-23 onwards.

About Bharat stage emission standards (BSES)

  • Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from compression ignition engines and Spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000. Progressively stringent norms have been rolled out since then. All new vehicles manufactured after the implementation of the norms have to be compliant with the regulations.
  • While automobile manufacturers are making available vehicles that comply with the new norms, oil companies will have to provide fuel that meet these standards.
  • BS-VI standard fuel is said to be the world’s cleanest fuel.

BS-VI Stage II Norms

  • The central government has mandated that vehicle makers must manufacture, sell and register only BS-VI (BS6) vehicles from 1st April, 2020.
  • BS-VI is equivalent to Euro-VI norms currently in place across countries in Europe.
  • As per BS-VI emission norms, petrol vehicles will have to affect a 25% reduction in their NOx, or nitrogen oxide emissions. Diesel engines will have to reduce their HC+NOx (hydro carbon + nitrogen oxides) by 43%, their NOx levels by 68% and particulate matter levels by 82%.
  • Some of the measures to be introduced from 2023 onwards include deciding the confirmatory factor for in-service compliance, market surveillance and independent verification testing of in-use vehicles by regulatory authorities, adoption of more stringent driving cycle for emissions testing, public disclosure of emissions data by the manufacturers on publicly accessible websites, and on-board fuel consumption meters among others.

-Source: Indian Express

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