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2nd September Current Affairs

UGC proposes clustering of colleges

(GS-II: Issues related to the development of the social sector relating to education, government policies and interventions for the development of various sectors etc)

In News:

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has finalized guidelines for transforming colleges and universities into multidisciplinary institutions.

Background:

Promoting multidisciplinary institutions was a key recommendation of the National Education Policy 2020.

Guidelines for Transforming Higher Educational Institutions into Multidisciplinary Institutions: These aim to help State governments and universities frame appropriate rules and policies.

Key Highlights:

Academic collaboration through clusters: The UGC has suggested academic collaboration between institutions through “clusters” of higher education institutions (HEIs) in order to promote multidisciplinary education and research in online and offline

Cluster system Importance:

  • The cluster system will help single-stream institutions with poor enrolment.
  • Such centres will improve the grades in National Assessment And Accreditation Council (NAAC)

Affiliated colleges during the initial phase: The member colleges in a cluster will continue to function as affiliated colleges under the university in the initial phase

After the initial years, the affiliating university may affiliate the cluster of colleges as a single unit

The merger of single-stream institutions, with other multidisciplinary institutions under the same management or different management

Expanding the number of departments in a college or university: By adding new subjects such as languages, literature, music, Indology, sports, etc.

Credit mobility: Students opting for courses offered as a result of collaborations and mergers can also avail of credit mobility between partnering institutions

The National e-Governance Division of MeitY has developed the ABC platform:

  • Which allows students to open an academic account
  • Add HEIs of interest
  • Store credits earned from them for receiving degrees and diplomas.

Student orientation programmes: The guidelines also identify student orientation programmes as an important element to familiarize them with the new options available to them.

Capacity-building for faculty: It suggests capacity-building for faculty so that they can teach, train and research in multi-disciplinary academic programmes such as Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) as well as investment in learning assessment tools.

Setting up Education Departments in universities and colleges: They will teach curriculum design, pedagogy, communication and writing to future teachers.

National Education Policy 2020:

Multidisciplinary institutions: It envisages that by 2040 all HEIs should aim to become multidisciplinary with student enrolments in thousands.

Underserved regions: It also says that more HEIs will be established and developed in underserved regions to ensure equity and inclusion.

Creating new institutions: By 2030 there should be one large multi-disciplinary HEI in or near every district, achieved by creating new institutions apart from consolidating, expanding and improving existing HEIs.

Crime in India (NCRB)

Cybercrime:

Increasing trend: India reported over 50,000 cases in 2021 (an increase of nearly 6 % over 2020)

Maximum from Telangana, UP, Karnataka and MH.

Previously the report had highlighted:

Overall crime in India increased by 7.6% (seven point six).

The increase in violent crimes and suicides in 2021 point to the indirect consequences of the pandemic

Death due to suicide in 2021 — 12 per one lakh people was the highest in the last five years.

Crime against children passes pre-pandemic level (2021 reported 49 lakh (one point four nine) such cases)

Death due to road accidents increased by 14.3% (fourteen point three).

Greenhouse gas and sea levels reached record highs in 2021

In News:

As per the NOAA Report, the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was 414.7 parts per million (four hundred fourteen point seven) in 2021, which is 2.3 parts (two point three) higher than in 2020.

Other findings of the report:

  • Sea levels rose for the tenth year in a row. They reached a new record of 8 inches (three point eight) above the average for 1993 when satellite measurements began.
  • Tropical storms, which increase as the Earth warms, spiked in 2021g. Super Typhoon Rai, which killed nearly 400 people in the Philippines in December.
  • The premature blooming of cherry trees in Kyoto, Japan, for the first time after 1409.
  • The incidence of wildfires has increased.

Reason for it: The rise in greenhouse gas levels has been due to easing fossil fuel emissions last year, as much of the global economy has slowed sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

It is an American scientific and regulatory agency that predicts changes in climate, weather, ocean, and coasts, shares that knowledge and information with others, and conserves and manages coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

NDPS Act

In News:

The Karnataka High Court has recently granted bail to a man arrested for bhang and ganja, and argued that NDPS Act nowhere mentions it as a prohibited drink/ drug. Also, SC recently dismissed a petition to ‘decriminalize personal consumption of drugs’ under the NDPS act.

What is Bhang?

Bhang is the edible preparation made from the leaves of the cannabis plant, often incorporated into drinks such as thandai and lassi, along with various foods.

NDPS Act:

  • NDPS Act 1985 deals with drugs and their trafficking.
  • The NDPS Act defines cannabis (hemp) as a narcotic drug – Charas, Ganja and any other mixture.
  • Only Bhang which is made with the leaves of the plant is not mentioned in the NDPS Act.
  • The Act prohibits theproduction, sale, purchase, transport and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, except for medical and scientific purposes.
  • The act extends to the whole of India and also to aircraft and ships that are registered in India.
  • Exemptions:The Act states that the government may allow the cultivation of any cannabis plant for industrial purposes only of obtaining fibre or seed or for horticultural purposes.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, there was a decrease of more than 27% in crimes related to personal consumption of drugs from 2019 to 2020.

Single-use plastic

(GS-III: Environment Conservation/ Science and Technology)

In News:

MoEFCC has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12, 2021.

Details:

India has signed a resolution to draw up an agreement (under UNEA, India is a party to it) that will make it legally binding for signatories to address the full life cycle of plastics, from production to disposal.

 What is single-use plastic?

As the name suggests, it refers to plastic items that are used once and discarded. E.g., plastics used in packaging items, bottles (shampoo, detergents, cosmetics), polythene bags, face masks, coffee cups, cling film, trash bags, food packaging etc.

Status:

As per the Minderoo Foundation report (2021): single-use plastics account for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels.

India features in the top 100 countries of single-use plastic waste generation – at rank 94 (the top three being Singapore, Australia and Oman).

India’s domestic production of SUP is 8 million metric tonnes annually, and its import of 2.9 MMT.

India’s per capita generation is 4 kg.

The largest share of single-use plastic is that of packaging – with as much as 95% of single-use belonging to this category – from toothpaste to shaving cream to frozen foods.

Why SUP is a cause of concern?

Harm environment: Single-use plastic also accounts for the majority of plastic discarded – 130 million metric tonnes globally in 2019 — all of which are burned, buried in landfills or discarded directly into the environment.

GHG emission: On the current trajectory of production, it has been projected that single-use plastic could account for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

What are the items being banned?

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced a ban on – earbuds; balloon sticks; candy and ice-cream sticks; cutlery items including plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, trays; sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packs; PVC banners measuring under 100 microns; and polystyrene for decoration.

Polythene bag: The Ministry had already banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, expanding the limit from the earlier 50 microns. From December 2022, the ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 micron

Sachets: According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is also a complete ban on sachets using plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.

Why these items?

As per the ministry: The choice for the first set of single-use plastic items for the ban was based on “difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling”.

How will the ban be enforced?

Monitoring by CPCB: The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.

Stop raw materials supply: for example, to all petrochemical industries — to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.

Directions to industries: SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees will modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.

Fresh licensing required: Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.

Encouraging compostable plastics: CPCB has issued one-time certificates to 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic and the BIS passed standards for biodegradable plastic.

Penalty: Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.

Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation by the SPCB.

What are the challenges?

Previously, almost 25 Indian States previously banned plastic at the state level. However, these bans had a very limited impact in reality because of the widespread use of these items.

What should be done:

Awareness: The consumer needs to be informed about the ban through advertisements, newspaper or TV commercials, or on social media.

Find sustainable alternatives: companies need to invest in research and development.

How are other countries dealing with single-use plastic?

Consensus on SUP in UN: This year, 124 countries, parties to the United Nations Environment Assembly, including India, signed a resolution to draw up an agreement which will in the future make it legally binding for the signatories to address the full life of plastics from production to disposal, to end plastic pollution.

68 countries have plastic bag bans with varying degrees of enforcement

Bangladesh: Bangladesh became the first country to ban thin plastic bags in 2002.

China: China issued a ban on plastic bags in 2020 with a phased implementation.

EU: EU bans certain single-use plastics for which alternatives are available.

Conclusion:

While the total ban on the use of plastic sounds a great idea, its feasibility seems difficult at this hour, especially in the absence of workable alternatives.