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23rd August Current Affairs

Not centres of learning yet

(GS-II: Issues related to the development of the social sector)

In News:

Anganwadi system, part of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) serves over 30 million children in the age group of 3-6 in 1.3 million centres across the country.

Issue of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS):

On Attendance:

The ICDS scheme is designed to support all children under six with their health, nutrition, and education needs.

Over 70% of children are enrolled in Anganwadis in India but ICDS is plagued by low attendance.

Role of parents:

Not willing to speak parents’ language: In ICDS reports, parents are routinely addressed as “beneficiaries” — passive recipients of ration, immunization camps, and lately, education.

Focus on English language and math skills: Most of parents feel their kids’ best pathway for social mobility through education is via learning English (speaking and writing) and math skills.

Solutions:

ECCE curricula: It focuses on local language-driven, play-based pedagogy, and activity-based learning, facilitated by a skilled educator.

Exploring and manipulating their physical environments to develop early language, early numeracy, socio-emotional, executive function, and motor skills.

Focus on developing cognitive, literacy and numeracy skills in children

Regular parents-teacher meetings: E.g. Shiksha Choupals (parent-teacher meetings)

Engagement with parents: Regular messages can be shared with the parents to equip them on the nature of engagement expected from their kids.

Conclusion:

Parents as stakeholders: A mass campaign for awareness of age-appropriate ECCE that brings parents in as stakeholders, is crucial in the next five years — our youngest children, and their developing brains, deserve no less.

‘abhibhavak-bhagidari’ (participation of parents): In the ECCE ecosystem, we need to embrace the power of ‘abhibhavak-bhagidari’ (participation of parents) to activate Anganwadi 2.0.

Women in Science

(GS-III: Science and Technology)

In News:

As per the Department of Science and Technology data, the number of women scientists has gone up in over the past two decades.

Findings:

Women among researchers: Increased from 13. 9% (2015) to 18.7% (2018)

Good number of participation of women till post-graduate level and then there is a drop at the post-doctoral level.

Women in Engineering (14.5%) < Women in natural Science (22.5%) < Women in Health (24.5%)

Issues:

According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap report, India is ranked 108 out of 149 countries.

The 2019 All India Survey on Higher Education shows a significant lag in female participation at doctoral levels, partly owing to the pressures of marriage and family planning.

Other issues: Loneliness of being an outlier in a male domain, where biases are rampant and getting oneself heard, a constant struggle, glass-ceiling effect.

Women scientists often have to shoulder a disproportionate burden of academic housekeeping in comparison to their male counterparts.

Some famous names: Tessy Thomas, Soumya Swaminathan, Gagandeep Kang, N Kalaiselvi, and Annapurni Subramaniam.

Government measures:

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy 2020 target of 30 per cent of women at a post-doctoral level by 2030.

GATI (by DST) a grading system for institutes based on the enrollment of and impetus to the careers of women in its ranks (it is based on the UK’s Athena Swan Charter)

The Athena Swan Charteris a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research.

KIRAN (Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through nurturing) Scheme to encourage women Scientists

CURIE: For infrastructure in women’s universities

Vigyan Jyoti Scheme: Encourage girls in high school to pursue STEM

Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM (STEM and Medicine)

Conclusion:

While policies and leadership roles are excellent incentive models, the further benefit could come from a system of mentoring and availability of funds, especially for those who want to get back into the workforce after a hiatus.

Pandurang Khankhoje

In News:

Speaker Om Birla will unveil a statue of the freedom fighter and agricultural scientist during his visit to Mexico.

About:

Pandurang Khankhoje (1883-1967) was a Maharashtra-born freedom fighter and agriculturalist.

Contribution:

Khankhoje was one of the founding members of the Ghadar Party, established by Indians living abroad in 1914, mostly belonging to Punjab.

He was a professor at the National School of Agriculture in Chapingo, near Mexico City. He researched corn, wheat, pulses and rubber, developing frost and drought-resistant varieties, and was part of efforts to bring in the Green Revolution in Mexico.

Later on, the American agronomist Dr Norman Borlaug, called the Father of the Green Revolution in India, brought the Mexican wheat variety to Punjab.

What are cloudburst incidents and are they rising across India

In News:

Over 20 people have been killed in the destruction caused by cloudbursts and flash floods in different parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand recently.

Details:

A cloudburst is a localised but intense rainfall activity. Short spells of very heavy rainfall over a small geographical area can cause widespread destruction, especially in hilly regions where this phenomenon is the most common.

A cloudburst has a very specific definition: Rainfall of 10 cm or more in an hour over a roughly 10 km x 10-km area is classified as a cloudburst event.

Cloudbursts are not uncommon events, particularly during the monsoon months. Most of these happen in the Himalayan states where the local topology, wind systems, and temperature gradients between the lower and upper atmosphere facilitate the occurrence of such events.

Can cloudbursts be forecast?

Specific cloudburst events cannot be forecast. No forecast ever mentions a possibility of a cloudburst. But there are warnings for heavy to very heavy rainfall events, and these are routinely forecast four to five days in advance.

Frequency of Cloudburst:

While the overall amount of rainfall in India has not changed substantially, an increasing proportion of the rainfall is happening in a short span of time. This kind of pattern, attributed to climate change, does suggest that cloudburst events might also be on the rise.

MGNREGS

(GS-II: Government Policies and Interventions)

In News:

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj’ released an action taken report on MGNREGA. The government has accepted 26 of the 33 recommendations made.

Suggestions by the Panel and action taken:

Increase number of work days to 150 (from the current 100): However, it has been implemented only in drought/calamity hit areas (by providing 50 additional days) and in some states (using their own fund) e.g., Uttarakhand(150 days)

Promote women-centric work: Despite efforts to involve more women, women’s participation has stagnated at around 50% in the last 5 years.

Increase in wages and link it with inflation: But currently, it is linked with CPI-AL (agriculture labour)

Timely funding: Currently, (as per a study) wage payments were delayed for 71 per cent of the transactions beyond the mandated seven days

Convergence of various rural development schemes along with MGNREGA as it would help address rural poverty

Doorstep medical facilities for job cardholders have been recommended by the committee

Roll back the system of caste-based wages, under which NREGS workers are paid based on whether they belong to a Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, or Others, with the earlier system by which a single Fund Transfer Order.

About MGNREGS:

It guarantees “the right to work”, by legally providing at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India.

Implementation: The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) in association with state governments. It is a centrally-sponsored scheme.

Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded (demand-driven scheme), wage employment will be provided to the applicant, and allowances in case employment are not provided.

Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory

Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat approve the shelf of works under MGNREGA and fix their priority.