Over 40% govt schools don’t have power, playgrounds
Almost half the government schools in the country do not have electricity or playgrounds, according to a report submitted by the parliamentary panel on education.
- In its report on the 2020-2021 demand for grants for school education submitted to the Rajya Sabha, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD) expressed concern that budgetary allocations saw a 27% cut from proposals made by the School Education Department. Despite proposals for ₹82,570 crore, only ₹59,845 crore was allocated.
- Noting similar 27% reductions for the central and centrally sponsored schemes as well, the panel recommended that these core schemes get additional funds at the revised estimates stage.
- The panel recommended that the HRD Ministry collaborate with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to construct boundary walls, and work with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to provide solar and other energy sources so that schools have access to power.
- Overall, for the core Samagra Shiksha Scheme, the department had only spent 71% of revised estimates by December 31, 2019.
About Samagra Shiksha Scheme –
- It is an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class XII, aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education.
- It envisages the ‘school’ as a continuum from pre-school, primary, upper primary secondary to senior secondary school.
- Entitlements include free uniforms, textbooks, special training of out-of-school children etc., provision for inclusive education of Children with Special Needs (CWSN) and vocational education among others.
The iconic and endangered Red Panda (ailurus fulgens) has fewer hunters because the younger generations of people across its Himalayan habitat are losing interest in animal products, a new study by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC has found.
Important facts –
- About 5,000-6,000 red pandas are estimated to be present in four Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and West Bengal.
- This is the second-largest population after China (6,000-7,000).
- Nepal accounts for 580 animals, while Bhutan and Myanmar have no estimate of the animal’s population.
About red panda –
- The red panda is a small reddish-brown arboreal mammal.
- It is listed as Endangered in the IUCN red list of Threatened Species and under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- It is found in the forests of India, Nepal, Bhutan and the northern mountains of Myanmar and southern China.
- It thrives best at 2,200-4,800m, in mixed deciduous and conifer forests with dense under stories of bamboo.
TRAFFIC – The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network –
- TRAFFIC is a leading non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
- It is a joint program of WWF and IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature created in 1976.
- TRAFFIC focuses on leveraging resources, expertise and awareness of the latest globally urgent species trade issues such as tiger parts, elephant ivory and rhino horn.
Commercial cord blood banking
Poona Citizen Doctor Forum (PCDF), a body that aims to rebuild trust among citizens and doctors, and promote ethical rational medical practice, has come forward to bust the aggressively promoted concept of cord blood banking.
What is cord blood?
- Cord blood (short for umbilical cord blood) is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta post-delivery. It contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases.
- The umbilical cord fluid is loaded with stem cells. They can treat cancer, blood diseases like anaemia, and some immune system disorders, which disrupt your body’s ability to defend itself.
What is cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking involves taking the umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of stem cells, and preserving it for future use.
Ethical concerns –
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) does not recommend commercial stem cell banking. It says so far there is no scientific basis for preservation of cord blood for future self use and this practice therefore raises ethical and social concerns.
- Despite such guidelines, a nexus of doctors and stem cell banking companies thrives and these companies get access to data of to-be parents. Activists say stem cell banking companies start approaching their prospective customers much before the delivery and offer competitive packages.
War heroes who resisted Portuguese : Marakkars
Last moth, a petition was filed in the Kerala High Court against a film, alleging ‘distortion of history’ and demanding a stay on the release. The court decline. The movie titled ‘The Lion of the Arabian Sea’ is set to be released. It is a war film depicting the heroics of the Marakkar clan, whose leaders were naval chieftains of the Zamorin of Calicut during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Who were the Marakkars?
- By some accounts, they were of Arab origin and had migrated from Tunisia to Panthalayani near Koyilandy in present-day Kozhikode, and later moved to the region around present-day Kottakkal and Thikkodi near Payyoli.
- By other accounts, the Marakkars were descendants of affluent businessman from the Cochin kingdom who migrated later to Calicut.
- Historians say the name ‘Marakkar’ could have originated from maram or marakkalam, meaning ship, as these families lived along the coast and used ships.
- Alternatively, it could have originated from the Arabic word markaba, meaning those who migrated via ships.
- The Marakkars were mostly Muslims, but in some parts, they have been found to be Hindus as well.
What was the war against the Portuguese about?
- The Zamorin, Samoothiri in Malayalam, was the title given to rulers of the Calicut kingdom on the Malabar coast.
- Faced with invading Portuguese ships, the Zamorin reached out to the Marakkars to defend the coast. The Marakkars fought against Portuguese invaders for nearly a century.
- Their strategy was similar to guerrilla warfare. The Portuguese had massive ships which could not make easy manoeuvres in the sea.
- The Marakkars used small ships which could easily surround the Portuguese ships, enabling the fighters to attack at will.
Who is depicted the ‘Lion of the Arabian Sea’?
- Kunjali Marakkar IV earned his reputation with his fierce onslaught on Portuguese ships, the favours he gave those who fought against the Portuguese, and his efforts to strengthen the fort at Kottakkal.
- When he took charge in 1595, relations between the Zamorin and the Marakkars were deteriorating.
- The Zamorin was feeling threatened by Kunjali Marakkar IV’s popularity, and by reports (said to be spread by the Portuguese) that he was planning to create a Muslim empire.
- In 1597, the Zamorin signed a peace treaty with the Portuguese and attacked Kottakkal fort. For months, the Marakkars resisted the attack by the Zamorin’s Nair soldiers and the Portuguese fleet.
- Eventually, as Portugal sent more forces and the Zamorin mounted his effort, Marakkar surrendered to the Zamorin on the assurance that their lives would be spared. But the Portuguese violated the terms, arrested him, took him to Goa and beheaded him.