Why in News?
- The Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education will launch National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat).
- The launch of NIPUN Bharat marks an important step undertaken by the Department of School Education and Literacy, among a series of measures taken for implementation of the National Education Policy 2020, that was released on 29th July 2020.
- The vision of NIPUN Bharat Mission is to create an enabling environment to ensure universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy, so that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy by the end of Grade 3, by 2026-27.
- NIPUN Bharat will be implemented by the Department of School Education and Literacy and a five-tier implementation mechanism will be set up at the National- State- District- Block- School level in all States and UTs, under the aegis of the centrally sponsored scheme of Samagra Shiksha.
- The Centre’s new mission to ensure that every Class 3 child has foundational literacy and numeracy within five years will be rolled out soon.
- Although the National Education Policy had included a 2025 deadline to achieve the goal, the Centre has pushed back the target date to 2026-27, given that COVID-19 has already disrupted two academic years.
Why in News?
- A unique scientific exercise serving the combined national objectives of reducing desertification and providing livelihood and multi-disciplinary rural industry support has been initiated by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
- The project named “Bamboo Oasis on Lands in Drought” (BOLD) is the first of its kind exercise in India which was launched recently from the tribal village Nichla Mandwa in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
- 5000 saplings of special bamboo species – Bambusa Tulda and Bambusa Polymorpha specially brought from Assam – have been planted over vacant arid Gram Panchayat land.
- Project BOLD, which seeks to create bamboo-based green patches in arid and semi-arid land zones, is aligned with Prime Minister call for reducing land degradation and preventing desertification in the country.
- The initiative has been launched as part of KVIC’s “Khadi Bamboo Festival” to celebrate 75 years of independence “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”.
- Bamboos grow very fast and in about three years’ time, they could be harvested.
- Bamboos are also known for conserving water and reducing evaporation of water from the land surface, which is an important feature in arid and drought-prone regions.
Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021
Why in News?
- Ministry of Women and Child Development has invited comments/suggestions from all the stakeholders on the draft ‘Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021’.
- The objective of the bill is to prevent and counter trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them and also to ensure prosecution of offenders, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- This Act shall apply to every offence of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.
New draft Bill proposes
- Any person committing an offence of “trafficking in persons” shall be punished with imprisonment not less than seven years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to a fine of at least one lakh rupees.
- The bill also lists more severe punishments and penalties for offences classified as “aggravated forms of trafficking.”
- The Bill also brings in tough measures to crackdown on organised crime syndicates, organised criminal groups including offences with cross border implications.
- The National Investigation Agency shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.
- Once the law is enacted, the Centre will notify and establish a National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, for ensuring overall effective implementation of the provisions of this law.
- In the section on offences and penalties, “Trafficking in Persons” is defined to include
a) any person who recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives another person;
b) by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of authority or of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person;
(c) for the purpose of exploitation of that person; shall be guilty of an offence of trafficking in persons.”
- The Bill elaborates on “exploitation” in the definition to say that it will include the “prostitution of others” or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography, any act of physical exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced removal of organs, illegal clinical drug trials or illegal bio-medical research or the like.
- Some examples of aggravated offences listed in the Bill include offences that result in the death of the victim or his dependent or any other person, including death as a result of suicide.
- Aggravated offences will be made out in cases where the victim, or his dependent or any other person suffer an injury amounting to grievous hurt, or acid attack, or genital mutilation or removal of organs, or an injury or exploitation that causes him to be in a persistent vegetative state.
- This also includes cases where the offence has been caused by administering any chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity.
- It is proposed that whoever commits the offence of aggravated form of trafficking of a person shall be punishable with a term for ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to Rs 10 lakh.
- Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section against a child of less than twelve years of age, or against a woman for the purpose of repeated rape, the person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for twenty years, but which may extend to life. In case of second or subsequent conviction, the accused may be punished with death sentence. The fine may extend up to Rs 30 lakh.
- When a public servant, or a police officer, or a person in charge of or a staff of a women’s or children’s home or institution is involved, he shall be punishable on conviction for the remainder of natural life and fine of up to Rs 30 lakh.
- The bill also makes it clear a person advertising, publishing, printing, broadcasting or distributing any material that promotes trafficking of a person or exploitation of a trafficked person will invite punishment.
- Also every person who knows or has reason to believe that a person has been trafficked shall report the same to the nearest police station. Failure to report shall be punishable with imprisonment that may extend to three months or with fine up to Rs 25,000 or both.
- The Bill also lays down the timeframe for granting compensation.
- The draft states that on registration of the first information report, the investigating officer shall forward a copy of the same to the district anti- human trafficking committee and the district legal services authority (DLSA), which shall provide immediate relief to the victim and dependent, including aid and assistance for medical and rehabilitation needs, within seven days.
- The proposed draft also states that the DLSA shall award interim relief to a victim or any dependant within a period of thirty days of an application submitted and after due assessment.
- The district anti-human trafficking committee too shall ensure relief and rehabilitation of the victim and dependent after registration of FIR and within thirty days of an application having been made in this regard by or on behalf of the victim.
- To prevent the traffickers from using their properties and assets for further abuse, the bill states, “whoever owns, possesses or otherwise acquires any property, whether in India or outside, out of proceeds of commission of an offence shall be punishable with a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”
- The trafficker will also be slapped with a fine of not less than Rs 2 lakh but which may extend to Rs 1 crore and such property shall also be liable for attachment and forfeiture.
International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)
Why in News?
- Team India 2021 won 9 Grand Awards and 8 Special Awards at Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) for innovations ranging from identification of genes responsible that resist abiotic stress in species to augmented reality smart stethoscope that allows non-medicals to perform accurate pulmonary screening.
- ‘IRIS National Fair’ is a program of EXSTEMPLAR Education Linkers Foundation; funded by Broadcom and supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.
- School students based in India in the age group 10 to 17 with innovative projects can participate in it responding to invitations for applications.
- IRIS aligns with 5 national level mega-fairs – National Children Science Congress (NCSC); Science Fair by National Council of Science Museums (NCSM); Jawaharlal Nehru Science Fair by National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT); Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Science Exhibition; Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) awards program.
Prevention of child marriages
Why in News?
- Odisha has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of child marriages prevented over the past four years following increased awareness and better coordination among field-level staff.
- As against 657 child marriages stopped in 2019, 1,108 were stopped in 2020. In the first five months in the current year, attempts to solemnize 726 such marriages have been foiled.
- According to the “Odisha strategic action plan to end child marriage”, the prevalence among girls was reported to be 21.3% against the national average of 26.8% whereas for boys it was only 11% against the national average of 20.3% (NFHS-4, 2015-16).
- Fifteen districts including many southern districts have higher percentages than the State average. There are eight districts where the practice is higher than the national average.
- Odisha witnessed a decline of nearly 16 and 11 percentage points (between NFHS 2005-06 and 2015-16), for girls and boys marrying before the legal ages of 18 and 21 years respectively.
- Still one in five women was married by the age of 18 in Odisha. On the other hand, one in 10 men were reported to have been married before 21 years indicating that early marriages among girls are twice compared to that of boys.
- As per the government strategy paper prepared with the help of UNICEF and UNFPA, poverty is one of the main reasons cited in western Odisha districts for families to opt for child marriage.
- Girls from poor households are more likely to marry as children, since marriage becomes a ‘solution’ to reduce the size of the family. The cost of marriage, however, slides families further into poverty.
Why in News?
- Heatwaves have claimed more than 17,000 lives in 50 years in India.
- There were 706 heatwave incidents in the country from 1971-2019.
- Heatwave is one of the extreme weather events (EWE).
- The maximum heatwave deaths were in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha.
- Core Heatwave Zone (CHZ) is the most prone area for heatwave (HW) and severe heatwave (SHW) with the highest frequency of occurrence during the month of May.
- The CHZ covers states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- Recently, an intense heatwave swept through parts of Canada and the U.S. in north America claiming lives of scores of people. Vancouver recorded a record-breaking temperature of more than 49 degrees Celsius.
- There is an increase in mortality due to heatwaves, an extreme weather event, and lightning for vulnerable states.
- Heatwave over a station is declared only when the actual temperature of the station is 40 degrees Celsius for the plains and 30 degrees Celsius for hilly regions.
- However, when the maximum temperature is 40 degree Celsius for coastal stations and 45 degrees Celsius for other stations, conditions are declared as heatwave.
- A heatwave is declared when the actual maximum temperature is greater than the normal maximum temperature which is greater than 40 degrees Celsius.
- One of the reasons for the increase in heat waves is global warming associated with the increase in greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, methane etc in the atmosphere.
- Heatwave is also associated with health risks.
- Four common health impacts resulting from excessive exposure to heatwaves include dehydration, cramps, exhaustion and heatstroke.
- It is also learnt that there is a sharp rise in the number of cases of acute gastroenteritis and food poisoning due to spoilage of food and reduction of its shelf life owing to high temperatures.
Why in News?
- Strobilanthes reptans appears ornamental. But it has earned the Indian tag with the reputation of being an invasive weed in the Indo-Pacific islands.
- The Strobilanthes reptans was found growing up to 20 cm tall on grassy hill slopes at 150 metres above mean sea level. It sported tubular white or pale violet flowers with darker veins from June to September, and yielded fruit from July to December.
- The researchers said the plant could possibly have escaped from cultivation from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia or Sri Lanka, where it has naturalised.
- The plant has also been recorded in Taiwan, Ryukyu islands of Japan, northern Australia, Singapore, Hawaii and a few other countries.
Child Soldier Recruiter List
Why in News?
- The United States of America has added Pakistan and 14 other countries to a Child Soldier Recruiter List that identifies foreign governments having government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers, a designation that could result in restrictions on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.
- The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) requires the publication in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year (April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021).
- The countries which have been added to the annual TIP list of the US State Department this year are: Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
- The United Nations, too, has identified the recruitment and use of child soldiers as among six “grave violations” affecting children in war and has established numerous monitoring and reporting mechanisms and initiatives to combat this practice.
So, who is a child soldier?
- The recruitment or use of children below the age of 15 as soldiers is prohibited by both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions, and is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
- In addition, the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict further prohibits kids under the age 18 from being compulsorily recruited into state or non-state armed forces or directly engaging in hostilities. The United States is a party to the Optional Protocol.
What are prohibited for countries in the list?
- The following types of security assistance are prohibited for countries that are in the list:
- Licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment
- Foreign military financing for the purchase of defense articles and services, as well as design and construction services
- International military education and training
- Excess defense articles
- Peacekeeping operations
- The countries will also not be eligible for the US Department of Defence’s “train and equip” authority for building the capacity of foreign defense forces.
Arctic’s ‘Last Ice Area’
Why in News?
- A part of the Arctic’s ice called “Last Ice Area”, located north of Greenland, has melted before expected. Scientists had believed this area was strong enough to withstand global warming.
- But now researchers note that in August 2020 the area where the Last Ice Area (LIA) is located, experienced a record low concentration of sea ice. Significantly, they point out that sea-ice has been thinning for years, a trend they think has been prevalent because of climate change.
So, what is the Last Ice Area?
- In an article published in 2015, the National Geographic noted that while climate projections forecast the total disappearance of summer ice in the Arctic by the year 2040, the only place that would be able to withstand a warming climate would be this area of ice called the “Last Ice Area”.
- The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes that climate change is shrinking the extent of Arctic summer sea ice, which is not only important for animals but also the local Inuit communities.
Why is the area important?
- The area is important because it was thought to be able to help ice-dependent species as ice in the surrounding areas melted away.
- The area is used by polar bears to hunt for seals who use ice to build dens for their offspring. Walruses too, use the surface of the ice for foraging.
Why in News?
- Chinese astronauts have performed the country’s first tandem spacewalk, working for seven hours on the outside of the new Tiangong station in orbit around Earth.
- Tiangong’s construction is a significant step in China’s ambitious space programme. China has previously landed a rover on Mars and sent probes to the moon.
- This was the first of two spacewalks planned for the mission, both expected to last six or seven hours. It was the first time since 2008 that Chinese astronauts have gone outside their spacecraft.
- Back then, Zhai Zhigang made China the third country to complete a spacewalk after the Soviet Union and the US.
- This is China’s first crewed mission in nearly five years, and a matter of huge prestige as the country marks the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist party this month with a massive propaganda campaign.
- China’s ambition to build an orbiting outpost of its own was fuelled in part by a US ban on Chinese astronauts on the International Space Station, a collaboration between the US, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.
- The ISS is due for retirement after 2024, although Nasa has said it could remain functional beyond 2028.
- Tiangong is expected to have a lifespan of at least 10 years, and China has said it would be open to international collaboration on the station.
Why in News?
- A strong explosion has shaken the Caspian Sea area where Azerbaijan has extensive offshore oil and gas fields.
- The cause of the blast was not immediately determined, but state oil company Socar said preliminary information indicated it was a mud volcano.
- The Caspian Sea has a high concentration of mud volcanoes, which spew both mud and flammable gas.
- The explosion “certainly could be a mud volcano,” and that the location “fits roughly” with a mud volcano called Makarov Bank, which exploded in 1958, releasing a column of flame 500-600m high and 150m wide.
- Scientists aren’t certain of what causes mud volcanoes to ignite, but the likeliest theory is that the boulders and rocks propelled upwards during an explosion can knock against each other, causing a spark that lights gasses.
- Azerbaijan is known as the “Land of Fire” because of its subterranean oil and natural gas reserves. Explorer Marco Polo wrote about the fires – caused by the burning gas – in the 13th century.
About Mud Volcano
- A mud volcano or mud dome is a landform created by the eruption of mud or slurries, water and gases.
- Several geological processes may cause the formation of mud volcanoes. Mud volcanoes are not true igneous volcanoes as they do not produce lava and are not necessarily driven by magmatic activity.
- Mud volcanoes may range in size from merely 1 or 2 meters high and 1 or 2 meters wide, to 700 meters high and 10 kilometers wide.
- The mud produced by mud volcanoes is mostly formed as hot water, which has been heated deep below the Earth’s surface, begins to mix and blend with subterranean mineral deposits, thus creating the mud slurry exudate.
- This material is then forced upwards through a geological fault or fissure due to local subterranean pressure imbalances. Mud volcanoes are associated with subduction zones
- About 86% of the gas released from these structures is methane, with much less carbon dioxide and nitrogen emitted.