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Daily Current Affairs

27-February-2024- Top News of the Day

1. Maharashtra Dilutes RTE Act, Sparks Debate over Education Equity

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Education This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the ongoing reforms in the education sector, particularly concerning access to quality education for disadvantaged groups.
Context:
  • Maharashtra recently introduced amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act), joining states like Karnataka and Kerala in diluting private schools’ obligations to reserve 25% of seats for disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in the neighborhood.
More about the news: The Rule: Exemption for Private Schools:
  • The amendment stipulates that private unaided schools within a one-kilometer radius of government or aided schools will be exempt from the requirement to reserve 25% of seats for disadvantaged groups and weaker sections.
  • Instead, students from these neighborhoods will be considered for admission to nearby government or aided schools first, effectively relieving private schools of their RTE admissions obligation.
Comparison with Karnataka and Kerala:
  • Maharashtra’s move aligns with similar measures adopted by Karnataka and Kerala.
  • Karnataka implemented a comparable rule in 2018, while Kerala introduced regulations in 2011, limiting fee concessions for RTE quota students only if no government or aided schools are within walking distance.
Rationale behind the Amendment:
  • Two primary reasons drive states to enact such amendments.
  • First, there’s a decline in enrollment in government schools, with Karnataka citing a significant drop in enrollment ratios due to the previous policy allowing parents to opt for private schools despite government schools in the vicinity.
  • Additionally, private schools have raised concerns over the failure of states to reimburse fees for RTE quota students, as mandated by the RTE Act.
Diverging Responses: Welcomed by Some, Criticized by Others:
  • Private unaided schools have generally welcomed the new rules, anticipating a reduction in RTE admissions, which could potentially increase enrollment in government schools.
  • However, critics view the amendment as unjustified, arguing that it undermines the RTE Act’s aim to address education disparities and ensure equality of opportunity for all children.
Conclusion:
  • Maharashtra’s amendment to the RTE Act has sparked debate over education equity and the government’s role in ensuring access to quality education for all children.
  • While some stakeholders view the exemption for private schools as a positive step, others criticize it for compromising the Act’s foundational principles.
  • The issue underscores broader challenges in education policy and the need for balanced approaches to address disparities in the education system.
What are the significant provisions of the RTE act?
Right to free and compulsory elementary education
  • All children between the ages of 6 and 14 years have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school.
  • A child above 6 years of age who is not enrolled in school or was unable to complete his education shall be enrolled in an age-appropriate class.
  • Elementary education shall be free until completion, even if the child is older than 14 years.
  • No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
Curriculum and recognition
  • The appropriate government (central or state government) shall specify an academic authority to develop the curriculum and evaluation procedure for elementary education.
  • All schools must comply with pupil-teacher ratio norms.
  • No school shall be established or recognized unless they satisfy the norms prescribed.
  • Teacher qualification: The teacher should pass the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET), which will be conducted by the appropriate Government. The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) has laid down the minimum qualifications for a person to be eligible for appointment as a teacher in classes I to VIII.
Responsibilities of schools and teachers
  • Government schools shall provide free and compulsory education to all admitted children.
  • Similarly, aided schools shall provide free and compulsory education proportionate to the funding received, subject to a minimum of 25%.
  • Teachers are prohibited from giving private tuitions and undertaking non-teaching duties except for census, disaster relief, and election work.
  • Schools shall constitute School Management Committees (SMC) comprising local authority officials, parents and guardians, and teachers, which shall monitor the school’s utilization of government grants and prepare a school development plan.
Responsibilities of appropriate governments
  • Central Government:
    • Constituting a National Advisory Council which shall advise the government on the implementation of the Act.
    • Create a national curriculum framework.
    • Developing and enforcing teacher training standards.
  • State Government:
    • Providing free and compulsory elementary education for children ages 6-14 years.
    • Ensuring compulsory admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education
    • Providing for the availability of neighborhood schools.
Grievance redressal
  • The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights shall review the safeguards for rights provided under this Act. It investigates complaints and has the powers of a civil court in trying cases.
  • The appropriate government may also constitute a State Commission for Protection of Children Rights to carry out these functions.
Financial resources
  • The Act states that the central and state governments shall share financial responsibility.
  • The central government may request the Finance Commission to consider providing additional resources to the state governments in order to carry out provisions of the Act.
PYQ: Consider the following statements: (2018) 1) As per the right to education (RTE) Act, to be eligible for appointment as a teacher in a state, a person would be required to possess the minimum qualification laid down by the concerned State council of Teacher education. 2) As per the RTE Act, for teaching primary classes, a candidate is required to pass a Teacher Eligibility Test conducted in accordance with the National Council of Teacher Education guidelines. 3) In India, more than 90 % of teacher education institutions are directly under the State Governments. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 and 2 (b) 2 only (c) 1 and 3 (d) 3 only Answer: (b)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of Maharashtra’s recent amendment to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act. (150 words/10 m)
 

2. Government's Increasing Customs Duties Sparks Debate amid Concerns over Impact on Industry and Trade

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy –  Effects of liberalization on the economy GS2 – International Relations This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about India’s tariff policies and their implications on imports from China which highlights crucial aspects of trade policy and diplomacy.
Context:
  • Multiple wings within the government have raised concerns over the Centre’s plans to incrementally raise customs duties, particularly targeting imports from China.
  • There’s a debate within the government regarding the nuanced use of tariffs as a diplomatic tool, as some fear that excessive tariff hikes could undermine India’s manufacturing-focused initiatives like the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme.
More about the news: Dependence on Chinese Imports:
  • Despite the push for reducing imports from China, it remains a significant source, contributing to 14% of India’s imports across various sectors, including electronics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and capital goods.
  • However, the increasing tariffs in India have made the country less competitive compared to other nations like Vietnam, Thailand, and Mexico.
Impact on Industries and Supply Chains:
  • Industry lobby groups, including those representing Apple Inc. and other cellphone manufacturers, have voiced concerns over India’s high tariffs, which they argue deter supply chain diversification away from China.
  • Countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Mexico are offering lower tariffs to attract investments vacated by China.
Government’s Response and Internal Disputes:
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has raised concerns about high production costs due to tariffs and has proposed reductions in duties on various IT goods.
  • However, conflicting viewpoints within the government persist regarding the role of tariffs in promoting domestic manufacturing versus their impact on export competitiveness.
Tariff Hikes and Industry Opposition:
  • Tariff hikes initiated by the government have faced opposition from industry stakeholders, resulting in protests and withdrawals of duty increases in some cases.
  • Despite the government’s argument that tariff adjustments aim to support domestic industries, critics argue that protectionist measures have not significantly boosted India’s manufacturing sector.
Conclusion:
  • While the government justifies tariff hikes as measures to support domestic industries and ease supply constraints, critics argue that such protectionist policies have not led to substantial growth in manufacturing.
  • The debate over the role of tariffs in promoting domestic production versus their impact on export competitiveness underscores the challenges and complexities of India’s trade policy.
What is Customs Duty?
  • Customs Duty refers to the tax that is imposed on the transportation of goods across international borders. It is a kind of indirect tax that is levied by the government on the imports and exports of goods. Companies that are into the export-import business need to abide by these regulations and pay the customs duty as required.
  • Put differently, the customs duty is a kind of fee that are collected by the customs authorities for the movement of goods and services to and from that country. The tax that is levied for the import of products is referred to as import duty, while the tax levied on the goods that are exported to some other country is known as an export duty.
  • The primary purpose of customs duty is to raise revenue, safeguard the domestic business, jobs, environment and industries etc. from predatory competitors of other countries. Moreover, it helps reduce fraudulent activities and the.
PYQ: Consider the following statements: (2018) 1. The quantity of imported edible oils is more than the domestic production of edible oils in the last five years. 2. The Government does not impose any customs duty on all the imported edible oils as a special case. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 only (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) Neither 1 nor 2 Ans: (a)
Practice Question:  Analyse the implications of India’s recent moves to increase customs duties, particularly targeting imports from China, on the country’s trade policy, domestic manufacturing, and international relations. (250 words/15 m)

3. Prime Minister Modi Inaugurates Key Railway Section in Jammu & Kashmir, Promising Enhanced Connectivity and Economic Growth

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc. This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about infrastructure development projects like the Banihal-Sangaldan railway line are crucial for the socio-economic development of regions.
Context:
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Banihal-Sangaldan section of the railway line that links Baramulla in north Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu.
  • This inauguration also marked the flagging off of the first electric train in Jammu and Kashmir, running from Sangaldan to Srinagar and Baramulla.
More about the news: Banihal-Sangaldan Section Details:
  • The Banihal-Sangaldan section spans 48 kilometers, with over 90% of it passing through tunnels in the mountainous Ramban district, featuring the country’s longest tunnel, measuring 12.77 kilometers (T-50).
  • Additionally, the section includes 16 bridges and three escape tunnels totaling 30.1 kilometers for passenger safety and rescue operations. The project was completed at a cost of Rs 15,863 crore.
Significance of the Railway Line:
  • The inauguration of this railway line holds multiple significances.
  • Firstly, it provides an alternative travel option between Jammu and Kashmir when the National Highway-44 is closed due to landslides, thus ensuring connectivity even during road closures.
  • Secondly, it promotes tourism and economic activity by opening up remote areas of the Jammu division to tourists, facilitating exploration of attractions like the Gool Valley and hot water springs near Sangaldan.
Collaboration and Progress:
  • The launch signals a commitment to collaboration, with a scheduled brainstorming session to identify expertise, strengths, and opportunities.
  • The NQM envisions substantial progress in the coming months, emphasizing collaboration with industry and startups to translate research into deployable technologies.
History of Railways in J&K:
  • A brief overview of the historical development of railways in the region reveals the challenges and advancements in connecting Jammu and Kashmir to India’s railway network.
  • From the initial line between Jammu and Sialkot in 1897 to the current extensive projects like the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway line, the narrative underscores the evolution and challenges faced in railway infrastructure development.
Challenges and Innovations:
  • The rugged Himalayan terrain poses significant challenges for railway construction, especially in the seismically active Zones IV and V.
  • Engineers have devised innovative methods like the Himalayan Tunneling Method (HTM) to overcome these obstacles, ensuring the structural integrity of tunnels and bridges despite the challenging geological conditions.
Benefits for the Valley:
  • The newly inaugurated railway line promises several benefits for the region.
  • It significantly reduces travel time between Srinagar and Jammu, enhances transportation efficiency for goods such as apples, dry fruits, and handicrafts, and is expected to lower the cost of transporting essential goods to the Valley.
  • Additionally, plans for cargo terminals along the route aim to further streamline logistics and boost economic activities in the region.
Conclusion:
  • The inauguration of the Banihal-Sangaldan railway line in Jammu and Kashmir marks a significant milestone in the region’s transportation infrastructure.
  • With its historical context, innovative engineering solutions, and anticipated benefits for connectivity, tourism, and economic growth, the project underscores the ongoing efforts to enhance connectivity and development in the Himalayan region.
 
PYQ: With reference to ‘National Investment and Infrastructure Fund’, which of the following statements is/are correct? (2017) 1) It is an organ of NITI Aayog. 2) It has a corpus of 4,00,000 crore at present. Select the correct answer using the code given below: (a) 1 only (b) 2 only (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) Neither 1 nor 2 Ans: (d)
Practice Question:  What are the implications of the inauguration of the Banihal-Sangaldan railway line in Jammu and Kashmir on regional connectivity, tourism, and economic development? (150 words/10 m)

4. Modi to inaugurate three ISRO facilities today

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Space GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectorsThe UPSC may focus on Gaganyaan’s progress, ISRO’s advancements, and India’s growing capabilities in space exploration for national development.
Context
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review Gaganyaan human spaceflight progress, announce astronauts’ names, and dedicate three ISRO facilities.
  • Facilities seek to enhance aerodynamics, PSLV missions, and engine testing capabilities.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre to review the progress of the Gaganyaan human spaceflight program.
  • During the visit, he is expected to announce the names of astronauts for the Gaganyaan program and present them with ‘mission patches.’
  • The Gaganyaan program, set to launch in 2025, aims to demonstrate India’s human spaceflight capability by sending astronauts into orbit and safely returning them to Earth.
  • Three facilities developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be dedicated during the visit: Trisonic Wind Tunnel, PSLV Integration Facilities (PIF) at Sriharikota, and the Semi-cryogenic Integrated Engine and Stage Test Facility (SIET) at the ISRO Propulsion Complex.
  • These facilities, developed at a cost of ₹1,800 crore, enhance aerodynamic testing, increase PSLV mission capacity, and enable testing of semi-cryogenic engines.
ISRO’s Gaganyaan Project
  • Goal: To send a 3-member crew to orbit Earth at 400 km for up to 7 days and return them safely.
  • Significance:

○     Marks India’s entry into human spaceflight.

○     Demonstrates India’s technological capabilities.

○     Opens doors for future space endeavors.

  • Current Status:

○     Successfully completed several test phases.

○     Facing a delay due to development of the life support system.

○     Targeting a launch by 2025.

  • Vehicle:

○     Crew Module (CM): Carries the crew and provides life support.

○     Service Module (SM): Provides propulsion, power, and thermal control

Practice Question:  Critically examine the significance of the Gaganyaan mission for India’s space aspirations, highlighting the challenges encountered and suggesting measures to overcome them. (250 words/15 m)

5. Govt. launches project aimed at anaemia control in girls

Topic: GS2 –  Social Justice – Health
UPSC may focus on Mission Utkarsh for its holistic approach, involving Ayurveda, addressing anaemia in aspirational districts for national health improvement.
Context
  • The Centre launches Mission Utkarsh, a joint initiative by Ministries of Ayush and Women and Child Development, using Ayurveda to address anaemia in adolescent girls in five aspirational districts.
 Additional information on this news:
  • The Centre initiates Mission Utkarsh to address anaemia in adolescent girls using Ayurveda.
  • Joint effort by Ministries of Ayush and Women and Child Development, launching in five aspirational districts initially.
  • Mission Utkarsh aims to elevate districts to state and national averages, involving 15 central ministries and around 10,000 Anganwadi Centres.
  • An MoU signed between the two ministries, with Union Ministers Sarbananda Sonowal and Smriti Irani present at the launch.
  • Ayush systems, supported by evidence from institutions like ICMR, provide a cost-effective solution to combat anaemia.
Anaemia Burden In  Women In India
Data:
  • Prevalence: Approximately 50% of women in India suffer from anaemia.
  • Age Group: High prevalence in reproductive age groups, with adolescents and pregnant women being particularly affected.
  • Geographical Disparities: Varied prevalence across different states and regions. Rural areas have higher prevalence compared to urban areas.
Reasons:
  • Nutritional Deficiency: Inadequate intake of iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
  • Poor Dietary Practices: Lack of diverse and balanced diets.
  • Menstrual Blood Loss: Contributing to iron depletion.
  • Infections: Parasitic infections like hookworm affecting nutrient absorption.
Way Forward:
  • Nutritional Programs: Strengthen and promote government nutritional programs emphasizing iron-rich foods and supplements.
  • Health Education: Raise awareness about the importance of a balanced diet and the significance of iron supplementation, especially during pregnancy.
  • Menstrual Hygiene: Promote menstrual hygiene practices to reduce blood loss and iron depletion.
  • Health Infrastructure: Strengthen healthcare facilities to provide timely diagnosis and treatment.
  • Community Involvement: Engage communities in addressing cultural and dietary practices impacting anaemia.
Addressing the multifaceted causes of anaemia through a combination of nutritional interventions, health education, and community involvement is crucial for reducing the burden among women in India.
PYQ: Consider the following statements in the context of interventions being undertaken under Anaemia Mukt Bharat: (2023) 1.    It provides prophylactic calcium supplementation for pre-school children, adolescents and pregnant women. 2.    It runs a campaign for delayed cord clamping at the time of childbirth. 3.    It provides for periodic deworming to children and adolescents. 4.    It addresses non-nutritional causes of anaemia in endemic pockets with special focus on malaria, hemoglobinopathies and fluorosis. How many of the statements given above are correct? a) Only one b) Only two c) Only three d) All four Ans: c)
Practice Question:  In the context of India, critically assess the factors contributing to the high prevalence of anaemia among women, and propose effective policy measures for its mitigation. (150 words/10 m)

6. India-specific AI model to find gestational age developed

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Indigenization of technology Garbhini-GA2 AI model addresses India’s maternal healthcare gaps, enhances precision in gestational age, crucial for UPSC healthcare policy understanding.
Context
  • IIT-Madras and THSTI develop Garbhini-GA2 AI model for precise gestational age estimation in Indian population, improving maternal healthcare.
Additional information on this news:
  • Development of AI Model: Researchers at IIT-Madras and Translational Health Science and Technology Institute developed “Garbhini-GA2” – an India-specific AI model for gestational age estimation in the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Population-specific Model: Unlike Western population-based models, Garbhini-GA2 is tailored to the Indian population, accounting for variations in foetal growth.
  • Accuracy Improvement: Garbhini-GA2 significantly reduces estimation errors, enhancing precision in determining foetal age by almost three times compared to existing models.
  • Reducing Maternal and Infant Mortality: Accurate gestational age estimation aids in providing appropriate care for pregnant women, reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The project, part of the DBT India initiative (GARBH-Ini), emphasizes end-to-end collaboration between clinicians and data scientists for clinically relevant and integrated healthcare solutions.
  • Publication: The findings were published in Lancet Regional Health Southeast Asia, validating the effectiveness of Garbhini-GA2.
Potential advantages of this model:
  • Precision in Gestational Age: Garbhini-GA2 offers highly accurate gestational age estimation in the later trimesters, reducing errors and providing a more reliable assessment.
  • Tailored for Indian Population: Being specifically designed for the Indian population, the model accounts for ethnic and demographic variations, enhancing its applicability and reliability in the local context.
  • Reduction in Maternal and Infant Mortality: Accurate gestational age determination facilitates timely and targeted medical interventions, potentially reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.
  • Customized Healthcare: The model enables healthcare professionals to provide more personalized and effective care by precisely determining the gestational age of the foetus in the diverse Indian population.
  • Scientific Advancement: The development of Garbhini-GA2 showcases India’s capability in leveraging advanced data science and AI/ML techniques for improving maternal and child healthcare outcomes.

7. Will ‘colour molecules’ make quantum computers accessible?

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology Room-temperature qubits in Metal-Organic Frameworks mark a crucial advancement in quantum computing, pivotal for UPSC’s science And technology’s understanding.
Context
  • The article discusses the development of room-temperature qubits using Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) in Japan, showcasing a significant breakthrough in quantum computing, potentially reducing costs and advancing the field.
 Introduction:
  • Classical computers use bits with two states (0 and 1) for computations.
  • Qubits, the fundamental quantum computer components, exhibit superposition—unlike classical bits, they can exist in multiple states simultaneously.
Challenges in Quantum Computing:
  • Superposition in qubits is fragile due to interactions with other systems, leading to “decoherence.”
  • Qubit collections must fulfill criteria like identicality, controllability, and room-temperature operation.
Common Qubit Systems:
  • Superconducting junctions, trapped ions, and quantum dots are traditional qubit systems.
  • These often require low temperatures or high vacuums, making quantum computers expensive.
Room-Temperature Qubits – Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOF):
  • Recent research in Japan introduces qubits in MOFs, structures with metal atoms linked by organic molecules.
  • The chosen MOF uses zirconium and a chromophore, pentacene, for qubit creation.
Singlet Fission Mechanism:
  • Chromophores in a singlet excited state can undergo singlet fission, generating two triplet excited chromophores.
  • MOF’s porous nature allows chromophore rotation, influencing interaction strength and coherence duration.
Room-Temperature Coherence:
  • The Japanese study demonstrates coherence of superposition of two four-electron states at room temperature.
  • Coherence lasting a fraction of a microsecond at room temperature is a significant achievement compared to other qubit systems.
Implications and Challenges Ahead:
  • Room-temperature qubits open possibilities for less expensive quantum computing.
  • Challenges remain in demonstrating quantum gate operations, assembling qubits, and achieving controllability.
Conclusion:
  • Achieving room-temperature qubits in MOFs is a promising step, inviting further exploration and advancements in quantum computing.
PYQ: Which one of the following is the context in which the term “qubit” is mentioned? (2022) (a) Cloud Services (b) Quantum Computing (c) Visible Light Communication Technologies (d) Wireless Communication Technologies Ans: (b)

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