01, February 2018

Floating island to come up on Neknampur Lake:

  • A floating island of 2,500 sq.ft with about 3,500 wetland plants will be introduced on the Neknampur Lake in Hyderabad on the eve of World Wetland Day on February 2nd. It will be introduced by Dhruvansh, a voluntary organisation working for protection of water bodies.
  • The ‘island platform’ has been designed using styrofoam, bamboo, gunny bags, coir and so on and could bear the weight of four persons, according to Madhulika Choudhary of the body.

  1. Medaram Jatara

Source: The Hindu

The four-day ‘Sammakka – Saralamma Jatara’ at Medaram in Telangana has begun. Considered the biggest tribal festival across South Asia, the Jatara witnesses a huge number of devotees thronging the village to take the blessings of Goddess Sammaka-Saralamma.

Medaram’s Sammakka-Sarakka/Saralamma Jatara:

  • Sammakka-Sarakka Jatara held by forest dwelling Koya tribe of Telangana and surrounding States, is the biggest Tribal festival in Asia which is attended by one crore people on an average.
  • The event is held bi-annually to honour the twin goddesses Sammakka and her daughter Sarakka. Several communities in Telangana society support Jatara as it is also a mythical narrative of two tribal women leaders who fought against the Kakatiya rulers who tried to annex their land and forests. According to the myth it was Sammakka’s curse which caused gradual decline and death of Kakatiya rule
  • Medaram is a remote place in the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Dandakaranya, the largest surviving forest belt in the Deccan.

  1. Democracy Index

Source: The Hindu

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released 2017 Democracy Index report. The report shows that democracy is in decline across the world. It is the worst performance since 2010-’11 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

The index ranks 165 independent states and two territories on the basis of five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The list has been divided into four broad categories — full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

Performance of various countries:

  • Norway, Iceland and Sweden are the top three on the list while Chad, Syria and North Korea bring up the bottom.

 

  • The total score of 89 countries fell when compared to their ranking in 2016. India was one of the countries whose score declined the most. It fell ten places in the rankings from 32 to 42 as its score deteriorated by 0.58 points to 7.23 (on a scale of 0 to 10). In the ‘media freedom ranking’, India ranked 49 out of 167 countries that the index covered.
  • Asia recorded the biggest decline compared to other regions of the world. According to the index, Asia (5.63) lagged behind North America (8.56), Western Europe (8.38) and Latin America (6.26). Indonesia was the worst-performing nation, falling to 68th position from 48th rank.
  • Only top-19 countries have been classified as ‘full democracies’, while the hybrid regimes include Pakistan (110th), Bangladesh (92nd), Nepal (94th) and Bhutan (99th). Those named as ‘authoritarian regimes’ include China (139th), Myanmar (120th), Russia (135th) and Vietnam (140th). North Korea is ranked the lowest at 167th, while Syria is a notch better at 166th place.

What lies behind India’s poor performance?

  • The report has classified India as a flawed democracy and attributed the dip in India’s rankings to lack of freedom of speech and free media. The report notes that the rise of conservative religious ideologies has mainly affected India. The strengthening of right-wing Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country led to a rise of vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims, as well as other dissenting voices.
  • In some states in India, the authorities there have restricted freedom of the press, closed down several newspapers and heavily controlled mobile internet services. Several journalists were murdered in India in 2017, as in the previous year.

Way ahead:

  • A Human Rights Watch report published on January 22 had also alleged that Indian failed to protect its minorities in 2017. This report should serve as a warning sign for the country. Urgent steps are needed to protect democratic values of the country, without which our fundamental credentials as a democracy will be seriously undermined.

  1. ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’

Source: The Hindu

Large parts of the globe experienced a rare ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ on January 31st, 2018.

A supermoon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse took place at the same time.

what is a ‘Super Blue Blood Moon?’

  • A ‘Super Moon’ is simply a moon that is closer to the Earth than normal. As a result, it appears bigger and brighter in the sky.
  • A ‘Blue Moon’ is also simple and means the second full moon in a calendar month.
  • A ‘Blood Moon’ happens when sunlight passes through the atmosphere above the Earth, casting a dark colour across the surface of the moon.

  1. Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP)

Source: PIB

Post-graduates and doctorates from premier institutes are going to teach undergraduates in engineering colleges in backward regions of 11 districts as part of an HRD Ministry initiative. This is being done under the third phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP).

  • The initiative is aimed to improve quality of education and help secure NBA accreditation of the engineering programme.
  • Under the initiative there will be focus on seven districts which have been called aspirational. They include Gaya and Muzaffarpur in Bihar, Kalahandi in Orissa and Dumka in Jharkhand.

Significance of this move:

  • There are a lot of vacancies for teachers in engineering colleges in backward states and quality teachers are not willing to go there to teach. Therefore, this initiative aims to address the problem of dearth of well qualified faculty in the country.

TEQIP:

  • TEQIP or Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme is an initiative of the National Project Implementation Unit (NPIU) which implements World Bank Assisted Projects in Technical Education. The initiative is aimed at improving the quality of engineering graduates.
  • Under this project, all the Government engineering colleges are selected for direct intervention, and all private engineering colleges are selected for indirect intervention. The focus is on the most-backward states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, North-East, Rajasthan, MP etc.

The measures include:

  • Accreditation of the courses through NBA, governance reforms, improving the processes, digital initiatives, securing autonomy for the colleges.
  • Improving the quality of teaching, teacher training, equipping the class rooms, revision of syllabus, industry interaction, compulsory internships for students, training the students in industry-relevant skills, preparing them for the GATE exam etc.

Way forward:

  • Technical education of our country is in the threshold of having to undergo major reforms for building a credible professional workforce which has to build the nation for the welfare of our future generations.



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