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Current Affairs – 13 November 2021

Preserving landraces

Indian Express

GS 3: Agriculture

Context:

  • RahibaiPopere, popularly known as Seedmother, from Akoletaluka of Ahmednagar, Maharashtrareceived Padma awards.
  • Her Padma Shri is a recognition of her work that has helped save hundreds of landraces (wild varieties of commonly grown crops) at the village level.

What it means?

  • Landraces refer to naturally occurring variants of commonly cultivated crops.
  • These are as opposed to commercially grown crops, which are developed by selective breeding (hybrids) or through genetic engineering to express a certain trait over others.
  • With hybrid rice and wheat, for example, selective breeding over a period of time has allowed scientists to develop varieties that have higher yield or other desirable traits.
  • Over the years, farmers have adopted these varieties.
  • Crop improvement through selection and breeding over several decades has narrowed the genetic base of most crops.
  • Biodiversity allows a natural mechanism for crops to develop traits to face challenging situations. However, given the large-scale human interference in crop selection, that ability is now lost in most commercially crops.
  • Amid the threat of climate change, a challenge before scientists and policymakers is to develop varieties that can withstand both abiotic and biotic stresses.
  • Naturally occurring landraces have a large pool of still untapped genetic material, which can provide solutions.

Community-led conservation

  • Since 2008, BAIF has initiated a community-led programme to preserve landraces. Today, landraces survive in only a few rural and tribal pockets, but they too are depleting for want of proper conservation.
  • Traditional knowledge about the way these need to be grown, or how seeds are to be saved, is also vanishing.
  • BAIF’s programme involves the community in saving this rich biodiversity in their own backyard.
  • In 2008, the project was started and at present, it is implemented in 94 villages in Maharashtra and also in Uttarakhand and Gujarat.
  • It aims to identify germplasm available and, through community participation, create seed banks.

Way forward:

  • It is necessary to understand how these landraces can contribute to climate-resilient agriculture; nutritional profiling too can hold the key to fighting deficiencies, as many landraces are richer in nutrients than commercially grown variants.

 

Remote Education

The Hindu

GS 3: Education

Context:

  • Only 20% of school-age children in India had access to remote education during the pandemic, of whom only half participated in live online lessons, according to a new national sample survey by ICRIER and LIRNEAsia, a think tank focused on digital policy.

About:

  • In fact, 38% of households said at least one child had dropped out of school due to COVID-19.
  • The survey found that although digital connectivity shot up 40% during the pandemic, low access to devices, poor signal and high costs prevented most children from reaping the benefits.
  • Among children aged 5-18, it found that 80% of those who were enrolled in schools prior to the pandemic did not receive any educational services at all during school closure.
  • The situation was significantly worse among those from lower socio-economic classes, where the head of the household had lower education levels, and among rural households.
  • Among the 20% who received education, only 55% had access to live online classes, while 68% had access to recorded audio or video lessons.
  • Three-fourths of the students had work sent to them over a smartphone, usually via WhatsApp, and 61% via text messages.
  • Almost 70% had contact with their teachers via phone calls.

Initiatives of the RBI

Indian Express

GS 3: Economy

Context:

  • Prime Minister launched two customer-centric initiatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) — the RBI Retail Direct Scheme and the Integrated Ombudsman Scheme.

About:

  • RBI has been leveraging technology & innovation for enhancing the efficiency of its services.
  • RBI’s developmental role is focused on further deepening of financial inclusion and undertaking people centric initiatives.
  • The scheme allows retail investors to buy and sell government securities (G-Sec) online, both in the primary and secondary markets.
  • These small investors can now invest in G-Secs by opening a gilt securities account with the RBI.
  • The account opened will be called Retail Direct Gilt (RDG) Account.
  • A retail investor can open the RDG account if they have following:
  • A Rupee savings bank account maintained in India,
  • PAN card,
  • Any official valid document such as Aadhaar, Voter ID for KYC purpose,
  • A valid email ID and
  • A registered mobile number.
  • Participation and allotment of securities will be as per the non-competitive scheme.
  • Only one bid per security is permitted. On submission of the bid, the total amount payable will be displayed.
  • Payment to the aggregator/receiving office can be made through using the net-banking or UPI facility from the linked bank account, whereby funds will be debited at the time of submission of bids on the portal.
  • Registered investors can access the secondary market transaction link on the online portal to buy or sell government securities through NDS-OM.

RBI Integrated Ombudsman Scheme

  • This will help in improving the grievance redress mechanism for resolving customer complaints against RBI’s regulated entities.
  • The scheme is based on “One Nation-One Ombudsman” with one portal, one email, and one address for the customers to lodge their complaints.
  • Customers will be able to file complaints, submit documents, track status, and give feedback through a single email address.
  • There will also be a multilingual toll-free number that will provide all relevant information on grievance redress.
  • Now, there will be a single point of reference for customers to file their complaints, submit the documents, track status, and provide feedback.
  • Under this scheme, there will be a multilingual toll-free number that will provide all relevant information on grievance redress and assistance for filing complaints.
  • The redressal will continue to be cost-free for customers of banks and members of the public.

Significance:

  • The move comes at a time when rising inflation adds pressure on the RBI to lift rates. Tighter monetary policy is likely to weaken the demand for bonds, making it challenging for the government to execute its near-record borrowing program.
  • Other emerging-market nations in Asia, like the Philippines, have also sought to raise funds from citizens to battle the pandemic.
  • Yields on India’s benchmark 10-year government bonds have risen in the past five months amid surging crude oil prices.
  • With this, India has opened up the government bond market for retail investors.

 

Privilege motion

The Hindu

GS 2: Polity

Context:

  • An opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha has moved a privilege motion against the serving Culture Minister over the appointment of the Chairperson of the National Monuments Authority.

About:

  • The privilege motion argues that the person appointed to the post was not qualified to hold the post as the person does not meet the requirements for the post as specified by Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 passed by Parliament.
  • The privilege motion against the Union Minister of Culture is for willfully disregarding the provisions of a law passed by the Parliament.

What is a privilege motion?

  • When any of the rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  • A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.