11 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Rajasthan to boost farm supply chains (2) Grain & chaff - Editorial - Economy
  • India ailing pedagogic spaces - Lead Article Social Justice
  • Iran's calculated risk Article - International Relations
  • Israel set to open up parts of Herod's Palace World Map
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Rajasthan to boost farm supply chain + Grain and Chaff | Page 04+06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Indian Economy – Agriculture

    Sub Theme: Farm supply chain | Reform in Agriculture | UPSC

    Context: Rajasthan Government has passed three bills to counter the farm laws enacted by the Central Government. The Rajasthan bills mandate that crops will be bought or sold for no less than the minimum support price (MSP) and provide for imprisonment of 3 to 7 years for harassing farmers along with fine of Rs. 5 Lakhs.

    The three state bills passed by Rajasthan Assembly are

    The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020 - empowers the state to fix stock limits to check hoarding and black marketing during famine, price rise, natural calamity or any other extraordinary situation.

    Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020 - No farming agreement for the sale or purchase of a crop will be valid unless the price paid for the agricultural produce is equal to, or greater than, the prevailing MSP announced by the Central government, according to the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance Bill.

    Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020 – In this Bill, one of the amendments relates to regulation of notified agriculture produce. It says the state government may notify a fee or cess on such produce bought or sold by a corporate or trader in a trade area.

    What does the news highlight?

    • Based on these reforms, Rajasthan government has formulated plans to expand agricultural supply chain infrastructure and take up post-harvest management projects.
    • Loans worth Rs. 9,015 crore will be disbursed to farmers, cooperative societies, self-help groups and agricultural entrepreneurs during the next four years.
    • According to Chief Secretary of State, 21 banks had been authorised to develop the supply chains by sanctioning loans for different projects, while the agricultural processing and export policy would be linked to them.
    • New warehouses, silos, pack houses, grading and sorting units, cold storages, primary processing centres, fruit ripening chambers and other logistic facilities would be constructed on a large scale across the State to strengthen supply chain logistics.
    • The assets for community farming, organic farming, smart and precision agriculture and farm clusters will also be created.

    Assurances given by the Centre to Farmers

    • Amidst ongoing protest by farmers, the Centre has now offered a written assurance that
    • Government procurement at minimum support price would remain,
    • along with proposals to amend the laws to deal with farmers’ concerns regarding parity between State-run and private mandis, registration of traders, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
    • These assurances are in response to the concerns being raised by the farmers, but they find them inadequate and half-hearted.  Framers have decided to intensify the strike, demanding complete repeal of the controversial laws.
    • The government has ruled out their repeal, setting the stage for a showdown.

    What should be done?

    • The editorial suggests that howsoever politically motivated farmers might be in their protests, they are at the mercy of market forces and government policies.
    • In this battle of unequals, the government should look at a just settlement and not mere political compromise. 
    • Farmers have intensified the protest based on recent examples where some farmers had to sell their produce much below the Minimum Support Price.
    • In the open market, farmers will be forced to sell at market prevailing prices and especially small farmers might be at the mercy of corporates to sell their produce at market driven price or even lower.
    • This might force number of small farmers owning smaller lands to change occupation.
    • Thus, the government needs to balance the issue of farming and marketing of produce as any gap between the two might hamper food security.
    • Government can propose a mechanism whereby the interests of farmers are secured especially while dealing with big corporates in the future. So, any reform suggested by the centre must inspire confidence among farmers.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:All is now fair in India’s ailing pedagogic spaces | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Issues - Education   

    Sub Theme:  Challenges of Online Education | Use of technology in Education | National Educational Technology Forum | UPSC    

    Context: COVID-19 has forced the education industry to go online and this has impacted both the teachers and students. The article elaborates on various pitfalls for young children learning through online education. It is important to understand that New Education Policy 2020 in its Report has mentioned in PART III about “Technology Use and Integration”. So, let us understand the viewpoints discussed along with a brief understanding of NEP on Technology Use and Integration.

    Challenges of Online Education – (Lead Article)

    • No alternative to online learning has erased the need to make stage-wise distinctions and age-specific provisions.
    • Rural schools and their children are the worst sufferers.
    • Slashing of syllabus to ensure completion of course due to loss of time.
    • More hardship for teachers – they cope with new methods of teaching combining screen time with messaging and responding.
    • Focus on only result oriented study will diminish the charm of learning or admiring a subject or developing deep fascination or curiosity about certain topics.
    • Competing claims by private coaching to enhance intellectual growth of children.
    • Making children prepare for jobs from a very early stage robs them from enjoying their childhood – eg: by teaching them about coding without understanding its implication. This moulds cognitive ability towards demand driven world.
    • Terms marketed by private players such as ‘analytical skills’ and ‘critical inquiry’ as brand signs for the so-called ‘21st century skills’ easily attracts parents for a secure future for their children.
    • Children are glued to their screen and spend less time in interaction with other students. This hampers a child’s inter-personal skills.
    • Fascination for early or premature cognitive development of child – referred as precocity is often admired as an intellectual virtue. This will lead to imbalance in the natural pace of intellectual maturation of a child.
    • Child’s freedom to admire and learn different skill sets such as painting, music, acting, sports etc. will be impacted severely as schools and private players inculcate competitiveness from a young age duly supported by their parents.
    • Children’s unlimited access to internet may foster them to develop illegal/immoral habits – online gambling/pornography/extreme violent form of entertainment etc.

    Technology Use and Integration – NEP, 2020   

    • Given the explosive pace of technological development allied with the sheer creativity of tech-savvy teachers and entrepreneurs including student entrepreneurs, it is certain that technology will impact education in multiple ways, only some of which can be foreseen at the present time.
    • New technologies involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, block chains, smart boards, handheld computing devices, adaptive computer testing for student development, and other forms of educational software and hardware will not just change what students learn in the classroom but how they learn, and thus these areas and beyond will require extensive research both on the technological as well as educational fronts.
    • Use and integration of technology to improve multiple aspects of education will be supported and adopted, provided these interventions are rigorously and transparently evaluated in relevant contexts before they are scaled up.
    • An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on, both for school and higher education.
    • The aim of the NETF will be to
    • facilitate decision making on the induction, deployment and use of technology
    • by providing to the leadership of education institutions, State and Central governments, and other stakeholders, the latest knowledge and research as well as
    • the opportunity to consult and share best practices.
    • The NETF will have the following functions:
    • provide independent evidence-based advice to Central and State Government agencies on technology-based interventions
    • build intellectual and institutional capacities in educational technology
    • envision strategic thrust areas in this domain; and
    • articulate new directions for research and innovation.
    • To remain relevant in the fast-changing field of educational technology, the NETF will maintain a regular inflow of authentic data from multiple sources including educational technology innovators and practitioners and will engage with a diverse set of researchers to analyze the data.
    • To support the development of a vibrant body of knowledge and practice, the NETF will organize multiple regional and national conferences, workshops, etc. to solicit inputs from national and international educational technology researchers, entrepreneurs, and practitioners.
    • The thrust of technological interventions will be for the purposes of improving teaching learning and evaluation processes, supporting teacher preparation and professional development, enhancing educational access, and streamlining educational planning, management, and administration including processes related to admissions, attendance, assessments, etc.
    • A rich variety of educational software, for all the above purposes, will be developed and made available for students and teachers at all levels. All such software will be available in all major Indian languages and will be accessible to a wide range of users including students in remote areas and Divyang students.
    • Teaching-learning e-content will continue to be developed by all States in all regional languages, as well as by the NCERT, Central Institute of Educational Technology - CIET, CBSE, National Institute of Open Schooling-NIOS, and other bodies/institutions, and will be uploaded onto the DIKSHA platform. This platform may also be utilized for Teacher ’s Professional Development through e-content.
    • CIET will be strengthened to promote and expand DIKSHA as well as other education technology initiatives. Suitable equipment will be made available to teachers at schools so that teachers can suitably integrate e-contents into teaching-learning practices.
    • Technology-based education platforms, such as DIKSHA/SWAYAM, will be better integrated across school and higher education, and will include ratings/reviews by users, so as to enable content developers create user friendly and qualitative content.
    • This policy has been formulated at a time when an unquestionably disruptive technology - Artificial Intelligence (AI) 3D/7D Virtual Reality - has emerged. AI's disruptive potential in the workplace is clear, and the education system must be poised to respond quickly.
    • In response to MHRD's formal recognition of a new disruptive technology, the National Research Foundation will initiate or expand research efforts in the technology.
    • In the context of AI, National Research Foundation (NRF) may consider a three-pronged approach:
    • advancing core AI research,
    • developing and deploying application-based research, and
    • advancing international research efforts to address global challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, and climate change using AI.

    Online and Digital Education: Ensuring Equitable Use of Technology

    • New circumstances and realities require new initiatives. The recent rise in epidemics and pandemics necessitates that we are ready with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible.
    • In this regard, the National Education Policy 2020 recognizes the importance of leveraging the advantages of technology while acknowledging its potential risks and dangers. It calls for carefully designed and appropriately scaled pilot studies to determine how the benefits of online/digital education can be reaped while addressing or mitigating the downsides.
    • In the meantime, the existing digital platforms and ongoing ICT-based educational initiatives must be optimized and expanded to meet the current and future challenges in providing quality education for all.
    • However, the benefits of online/digital education cannot be leveraged unless the digital divide is eliminated through concerted efforts, such as the Digital India campaign and the availability of affordable computing devices. It is important that the use of technology for online and digital education adequately addresses concerns of equity.
    • Teachers require suitable training and development to be effective online educators. It cannot be assumed that a good teacher in a traditional classroom will automatically be a good teacher in an online classroom. Aside from changes required in pedagogy, online assessments also require a different approach.
    • There are numerous challenges to conducting online examinations at scale, including limitations on the types of questions that can be asked in an online environment, handling network and power disruptions, and preventing unethical practices.
    • Certain types of courses/subjects, such as performing arts and science practical have limitations in the online/digital education space, which can be overcome to a partial extent with innovative measures.
    • Further, unless online education is blended with experiential and activity-based learning, it will tend to become a screen-based education with limited focus on the social, affective and psychomotor dimensions of learning.

    Key Initiatives

    Given the emergence of digital technologies and the emerging importance of leveraging technology for teaching-learning at all levels from school to higher education, this Policy recommends the following key initiatives:

    • Pilot studies for online education: Appropriate agencies, such as the NETF, CIET, NIOS, IGNOU, IITs, NITs, etc. will be identified to conduct a series of pilot studies, in parallel, to evaluate the benefits of integrating education with online education while mitigating the downsides and also to study related areas, such as, student device addiction, most preferred formats of e-content, etc. The results of these pilot studies will be publicly communicated and used for continuous improvement.
    • Digital infrastructure: There is a need to invest in creation of open, interoperable, evolvable, public digital infrastructure in the education sector that can be used by multiple platforms and point solutions, to solve for India’s scale, diversity, complexity and device penetration. This will ensure that the technology-based solutions do not become outdated with the rapid advances in technology.
    • Online teaching platform and tools: Appropriate existing e-learning platforms such as SWAYAM, DIKSHA, will be extended to provide teachers with a structured, user-friendly, rich set of assistive tools for monitoring progress of learners. Tools, such as, two-way video and two way-audio interface for holding online classes are a real necessity as the present pandemic has shown.
    • Content creation, digital repository, and dissemination: A digital repository of content including creation of coursework, Learning Games & Simulations, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will be developed, with a clear public system for ratings by users on effectiveness and quality. For fun based learning student-appropriate tools like apps, gamification of Indian art and culture, in multiple languages, with clear operating instructions, will also be created. A reliable backup mechanism for disseminating e-content to students will be provided.
    • Addressing the digital divide: Given the fact that there still persists a substantial section of the population whose digital access is highly limited, the existing mass media, such as television, radio, and community radio will be extensively used for telecast and broadcasts. Such educational programmes will be made available 24/7 in different languages to cater to the varying needs of the student population. A special focus on content in all Indian languages will be emphasized and required; digital content will need to reach the teachers and students in their medium of instruction as far as possible.
    • Virtual Labs: Existing e-learning platforms such as DIKSHA, SWAYAM and SWAYAMPRABHA will also be leveraged for creating virtual labs so that all students have equal access to quality practical and hands-on experiment-based learning experiences. The possibility of providing adequate access to SEDG students and teachers through suitable digital devices, such as tablets with pre-loaded content, will be considered and developed.
    • Training and incentives for teachers: Teachers will undergo rigorous training in learner-centric pedagogy and on how to become high-quality online content creators themselves using online teaching platforms and tools. There will be emphasis on the teacher’s role in facilitating active student engagement with the content and with each other.
    • Online assessment and examinations: Appropriate bodies, such as the proposed National Assessment Centre or PARAKH, School Boards, NTA, and other identified bodies will design and implement assessment frameworks encompassing design of competencies, portfolio, rubrics, standardized assessments, and assessment analytics. Studies will be undertaken to pilot new ways of assessment using education technologies focusing on 21st century skills.
    • Blended models of learning: While promoting digital learning and education, the importance of face-to-face in-person learning is fully recognized. Accordingly, different effective models of blended learning will be identified for appropriate replication for different subjects.
    • Laying down standards: As research on online/digital education emerges, NETF and other appropriate bodies shall set up standards of content, technology, and pedagogy for online/digital teaching-learning. These standards will help to formulate guidelines for e-learning by States, Boards, schools and school complexes, HEIs, etc.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Iran's calculated risk| Page – 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relation   

    Sub Theme: | Iran’s Nuclear Program | Israel and Saudi opposition to the nuclear deal | UPSC       

    Context:

    The author analyses the dynamics that have been at play in the finalization of Iran Nuclear and the subsequent withdrawal of the US from it under Trump administration. However, Iran has once again started its Nuclear program. This poses a challenge for the stability of the region. But with the election of democratic president Joe Biden, it is being said that the nuclear deal can be revived which can play a crucial role in reversing the Iranian Nuclear program.  So, in this context let us understand the different aspect of the Iranian deal and its various dimensions. 

    Obama Era -

    • Iran's Nuclear program was seen as a national security threat, which was addressed by the Obama administration through diplomacy which led to the finalization of the Iran Nuclear deal.
    • However not all stakeholders in the West Asian region were happy about the deal.
    • Israel and Saudi Arabia who are American allies in the region were against the finalization of such a deal.

    Why Israel and Saudi opposed the deal?

    • Iran has backed non state militias,
    • It also aims at being the dominant power in the region.
    • This has led to a cold war between the Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    • The nuclear deal although paused the threat of the Nuclear program, it allowed Iran to increase its economic and political influence. This was a cause of concern for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    Trump Administration

    • It reversed the gains made under the Obama era and withdrew from the deal without taking into consideration the United Nations certification that Iran was compliant with the term of the deal.
    • This policy of trump era Known as "maximum pressure” was in sync with the approach of Israel and Saudi Arabia of containing Iran.
    • As a consequence, Israel had carried various operations to cut the wings of Iran.

    Some Instances - In 2018, Israeli spies carried out a daring mission at a warehouse inside Iran and stole thousands of documents related to Iran’s nuclear programme. Iranian nuclear scientists came under attacks. In Syria, where Iran has deployed militias backing the government of Bashar al-Assad, Israel continued to bomb Iranian targets.

    Israel's Motives

    • With the election Joe Biden the US is likely to revive the Nuclear deal.
    • And due to this Israel has recently assassinated a top Iranian Nuclear Scientist Mohsen Fakhri Zadeh in order to provoke Iran to take an action which might further derail the process of revival of the Nuclear deal.
    • If Iran retaliates out humiliation, the outgoing Trump administration and Israel could launch strikes on Iran's Nuclear facilities with an aim of closing the diplomatic path for the Biden administration.

    Iran's response

    • Iran has not retaliated; however, it has passed a bill to start the Uranium enrichment once again.
    • Further it has stated that it will stop the access of UN authorities to the nuclear sites within two months if sanctions are not removed.
    • So with the coming of the Biden administration Iran expects that revival of the deal and dropping of the sanctions.

    Way forward

    So, Iran is taking a calculated risk by enhancing its nuclear programme, which can be reversed if talks are revived. But it is leaving the Israel problem unaddressed, for now. Israel wants Iran to be contained, not just Iran’s nuclear programme. This leaves the region vulnerable to a prolonged crisis.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Israel set to open up parts of Herod’s palace | Page - 13

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: History & Culture | Mains – GS Paper I – History & Culture

    Sub Theme: Herod’s palace | UPSC

    Context: Israeli authorities are set to unveil previously off-limits structures within King Herod’s palace-fortress, Herodium, which the tyrannical Roman-era leader interred as his enormous burial plot.

    Herodium, a popular tourism destination, is near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank but falls in an area where Israel exercises military and civilian control. Archaeologists say Herod decided towards the end of his life to bury his palace, using ground from below the hill it was perched upon, until the outline of the structure was no longer visible.

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