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Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th March 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Holistic Progress Card

Context: The National Council for Educational and Research Training (NCERT) has recently introduced the 'Holistic Progress Card' (HPC), aiming to evaluate not only academic performance but also a child's development in interpersonal skills, self-reflection, creativity, and emotional application in classrooms.

Overview of Holistic Progress Card (HPC)

Definition: The HPC represents a departure from traditional assessment methods, moving beyond mere marks or grades to encompass a holistic evaluation of students' overall development and learning experience.

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive Evaluation: The HPC adopts a 360-degree assessment approach, considering various dimensions of students' growth and learning.
  • Active Participation: Students are actively engaged in classroom activities, where they demonstrate their skills and understanding of concepts, with consideration given to the difficulty level of tasks.
  • Teacher's Role: Teachers play a pivotal role in assessing students across different dimensions, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas requiring further support or guidance.
  • Student Involvement: Students are encouraged to self-assess and evaluate their peers, providing valuable insights into their learning experiences and environments.
  • Parental Involvement: Parents are integrated into the assessment process, offering input on various aspects of their child's learning, such as homework completion and extracurricular activities.

Purpose and Need:

  • Shift from Memorization: The HPC prioritizes higher-order skills like critical thinking and conceptual clarity over rote memorization, aligning with the objectives of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
  • Alignment with NEP and NCF-SE: The introduction of the HPC reflects the directives of the NEP and the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE), emphasizing evidence-based assessment methods and student empowerment through peer and self-assessment.
  • Diverse Assessment Methods: The HPC encourages diverse assessment methods, including projects, debates, presentations, experiments, and role plays, to provide a comprehensive understanding of students' core competencies.

What is PARAKH?

About:

  • PARAKH has been launched as part of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 that envisaged a standard-setting body to advise school boards regarding new assessment patterns and latest research, and promote collaborations between them.
  • It will act as a constituent unit of the NCERT.
  • It will also be tasked with holding periodic learning outcome tests like the National Achievement Survey (NAS) and State Achievement Surveys.
  • It will work on three major assessment areas: large-scale assessments, school-based assessment, and examination reforms.

Objective:

  • Uniform Norms & Guidelines: Setting norms, standards and guidelines for student assessment and evaluation for all recognised school boards of India.
  • Enhance Assessment Pattern: It will encourage and help school boards to shift their assessment patterns towards meeting the skill requirements of the 21st century.
  • Reduce Disparity in Evaluation: It will bring uniformity across the state and central boards which currently follow different standards of evaluation, leading to wide disparities in scores.
  • Benchmark Assessment: The benchmark assessment framework will seek to put an end to the emphasis on rote learning, as envisaged by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

What are the Legal and Constitutional Provisions Related to Education in India?

Legal Provisions:

  • The government has implemented the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) as part of the Right to Education (RTE) Act for the primary level (6-14 years).
  • Moving to the secondary level (age group 14-18), the government has extended the SSA to secondary education through the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.
    • Higher education, encompassing undergraduate (UG), postgraduate (PG), and MPhil/PhD levels, is addressed by the government through the Rashtriya Uchhattar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) to meet the requirements of higher education.
    • All these schemes have been subsumed under the umbrella scheme of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) initially stipulated that the government should ensure free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 within 10 years of the Constitution's commencement.
  • Furthermore, an amendment to Article 45 broadened its purview to include early childhood care and education for children under six years old.
  • Due to the non-fulfillment of this goal, the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 introduced Article 21A, elevating elementary education to the status of a fundamental right instead of a directive principle.

Carbon Footprint of Artificial Intelligence

Context: The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technology brings with it significant environmental concerns due to its energy-intensive operations. However, recent advancements in technologies like Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) and Lifelong Learning offer promising solutions to mitigate AI's carbon footprint while harnessing its potential to address climate change.

Understanding Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) and Lifelong Learning

Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs):

  • SNNs are a type of artificial neural network (ANNs) inspired by the neural structure of the human brain.
  • Unlike traditional ANNs, which process data using continuous numerical values, SNNs operate based on discrete spikes or pulses of activity.
  • Similar to Morse code's use of specific sequences to convey messages, SNNs use patterns or timings of spikes for information processing, mirroring how neurons in the brain communicate through electrical impulses.
  • The binary nature of spikes allows SNNs to be highly energy-efficient, as they consume energy only when spikes occur, unlike constantly active artificial neurons in ANNs.
  • Due to their sparsity in activity and event-driven processing, SNNs have shown potential energy efficiency up to 280 times greater than ANNs, making them suitable for applications with limited energy resources.
  • Ongoing research focuses on optimizing SNNs further and developing learning algorithms to utilize their energy efficiency across various practical applications.

Lifelong Learning (L2):

  • Lifelong Learning (L2) or Lifelong Machine Learning (LML) is a machine learning paradigm involving continuous learning and knowledge accumulation from past tasks.
  • L2 serves as a strategy to reduce the overall energy demands of ANNs by minimizing the need for extensive retraining.
  • Sequential training of ANNs on new tasks often leads to forgetting previous knowledge, requiring retraining from scratch with changes in the operating environment, thus increasing AI-related emissions.
  • L2 encompasses algorithms enabling AI models to undergo sequential training on multiple tasks while retaining previous knowledge, facilitating continual learning and adaptation to new challenges with minimal retraining.

Why is the Carbon Footprint of Artificial Intelligence High?

Growing Energy Consumption:

  • The carbon footprint of artificial intelligence is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated by the creation, training, and use of AI systems.
  • The proliferation of data centres, driven by the increasing demand for AI, is significantly contributing to the world's energy consumption.
  • By 2025, it's estimated that the IT industry, fueled by AI advancements, could consume up to 20% of all electricity produced globally and emit approximately 5.5% of the world's carbon emissions.

AI Training Emissions:

  • Training large AI models, such as GPT-3 and GPT-4, consumes substantial energy and emits considerable carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Research indicates that training a single AI model can emit CO2 equivalent to several cars over their lifetimes.
  • GPT-3 emits 8.4 tonnes of CO₂ annually. Since the AI boom started in the early 2010s, the energy requirements of AI systems known as large language models (the type of technology that’s behind ChatGPT) have gone up by a factor of 300,000.

Hardware Consumption:

  • AI's computational demands rely heavily on specialised processors, like GPUs provided by companies such as Nvidia, which consume substantial power.
  • Despite advancements in energy efficiency, these processors remain formidable consumers of energy.

Cloud Computing Efficiency:

  • Major cloud companies, essential for AI deployment, pledge commitments to carbon neutrality and energy efficiency.
  • Efforts to improve energy efficiency in data centres have shown promising results, with only a modest increase in energy consumption despite a significant rise in computing workloads.

Environmental Concerns:

  • Despite AI's promising future, concerns persist regarding its environmental impact, with experts urging greater consideration of the carbon footprint in AI deployment.
  • The rush for AI advancement may overshadow immediate environmental concerns, highlighting the need for a balanced approach towards sustainability in AI development and deployment.

How AI Can Contribute to Addressing Climate Change:

  • Improved Climate Modelling: AI's capacity to analyze vast climate datasets enhances climate models, leading to more accurate predictions and better adaptation strategies for climate-related disruptions.
  • Advancements in Material Science: AI-driven research can develop lighter and stronger materials for applications such as wind turbines and aircraft, thereby reducing energy consumption. Additionally, AI aids in designing materials with improved battery storage and enhanced carbon capture capabilities, promoting sustainability efforts.
  • Efficient Energy Management: AI systems optimize electricity usage from renewable sources and identify energy-saving opportunities in smart grids, power plants, and manufacturing processes, leading to more efficient energy consumption.
  • Environmental Monitoring: High-end AI systems can detect and predict environmental changes in real-time, such as floods, deforestation, and illegal fishing. This aids in sustainable agriculture by identifying crop nutrition, pest, or disease issues through image analysis.
  • Remote Data Collection: AI-powered robots can gather data in challenging environments like the Arctic and oceans, facilitating research and monitoring in otherwise inaccessible areas.
  • Energy Efficiency in Data Centers: AI-driven solutions optimize data center operations to reduce energy consumption while maintaining safety standards. For instance, Google's AI research company, DeepMind, developed machine learning algorithms that significantly reduced the energy used for cooling data centers.

Making AI Sustainable:

  • Transparency in Energy Usage: Standardizing measurements of AI carbon footprints allows developers to accurately assess electricity consumption and carbon emissions. Initiatives like Stanford's energy tracker and Microsoft's Emissions Impact Dashboard aid in monitoring and comparing AI's environmental impact.
  • Model Selection and Algorithmic Optimization: Choosing smaller, more focused AI models conserves energy and computational resources. Utilizing efficient algorithms and prioritizing energy efficiency over computational accuracy further minimizes electricity usage.
  • Advancements in Quantum Computing: Quantum computing holds promise in accelerating training and inference tasks for AI models. Its exceptional computing power could lead to the discovery of energy-efficient solutions for AI on a larger scale.
  • Renewable Energy Adoption: Cloud providers should commit to operating data centers with 100% renewable energy to reduce AI's carbon footprint.
  • Advancements in Hardware Design: Specialized hardware like Google's Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) enhances the speed and energy efficiency of AI systems. Developing more energy-efficient hardware tailored for AI applications supports sustainability efforts.
  • Innovative Cooling Technologies: Liquid immersion cooling and underwater data centers offer energy-efficient alternatives to traditional cooling methods, harnessing renewable energy sources and minimizing environmental impact.
  • Government Support and Regulation: Establishing regulations for transparent reporting of AI's carbon emissions and providing tax incentives for adopting renewable energy and sustainable practices in AI infrastructure development support sustainability efforts.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th March 2024) Part - 1
Try yourself:
What is the purpose of the Holistic Progress Card (HPC)?
View Solution


Reforming India's Undertrial Bail System

Context: The acknowledgment by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Satender Kumar Antil vs Central Bureau Of Investigation, 2022, shines a light on the shortcomings of India's bail system and its role in exacerbating the crisis of undertrial incarceration. This recognition underscores the urgent need for reforming bail laws to address systemic challenges within the criminal justice system.

What are the Concerns Regarding India's Bail System?

Elevated Undertrial Population:

  • More than 75% of India’s prison population consists of undertrials, indicating a significant issue with the bail system.
  • Undertrial prisoners, individuals accused of a crime but not convicted, are held in judicial custody while awaiting trial.
  • The overcrowding rate in Indian prisons stands at 118%, reflecting systemic flaws within the criminal justice system.

Bail Adjudication:

  • The granting of bail heavily relies on court discretion, taking into account the specifics of each case.
  • While the Supreme Court provides guidelines for this discretion, stressing the importance of granting bail, courts often lean towards denying bail or imposing stringent conditions.
  • Courts frequently fail to provide reasons for bail denials, leaving the rationale behind decisions ambiguous.
  • Marginalized individuals are disproportionately affected by these broad exceptions, facing either bail denials or strict conditions.

Challenges in Bail Compliance:

  • Many undertrials remain incarcerated even after receiving bail due to challenges in meeting bail conditions.
  • Difficulties in arranging money or property and finding local sureties are major barriers to compliance.
  • Additional obstacles, such as lacking residence and identity proof, familial abandonment, and navigating the court system, further impede compliance.
  • Supporting undertrials in meeting bail conditions and ensuring court appearances is crucial, particularly for those facing structural disadvantages.
  • Existing bail laws inadequately address these challenges.
  • Data from the Fair Trial Programme (FTP) in Yerwada and Nagpur reveals that:
  • In 14% of cases, undertrials couldn't comply with bail conditions, resulting in prolonged imprisonment.
  • In almost 35% of cases, it took over a month after bail was granted for undertrials to meet bail conditions and secure release.

Lack of Safeguards:

  • The Supreme Court underscores the necessity of safeguards against arbitrary arrest to reduce the need for bail.
  • Arbitrary arrest and detention involve apprehending individuals without evidence of a crime or proper due process.
  • However, these safeguards often exclude many individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, who constitute the majority of undertrial prisoners.

Data from the FTP underscores this issue:

  • Out of the undertrials represented by the FTP (2,313), 18.50% were migrants, 93.48% did not own any assets, 62.22% had no contact with family, and 10% had a history of previous incarceration.
  • This data indicates a significant portion unjustifiably excluded from arrest protections, contributing to the high number of undertrials in prisons.

Flawed Assumptions:

  • The current bail system assumes all arrested individuals can afford bail or possess influential social connections.
  • It presupposes that financial risk is necessary to ensure the accused appears in court.
  • This contradicts the principle of "bail not jail," which aims to release individuals awaiting trial.
  • Therefore, there is a critical need for bail system reform, grounded in empirical evidence to understand the problem comprehensively.

Way Forward

  • Revise bail laws to ensure they are fair and equitable for all individuals, regardless of socio-economic status. Consider amendments to address systemic issues contributing to the high undertrial population.
  • The Supreme Court recommends the enactment of special bail legislation akin to the Bail Act of the UK.
  • This legislation would establish a general right to bail and define clear criteria for bail decisions. It aims to reduce reliance on monetary bonds and sureties.
  • Legal aid and support should be provided to undertrial prisoners for bail compliance and court appearances.
  • Ensure safeguards against arbitrary arrest are inclusive and accessible to all individuals, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Establish support programs to assist undertrials in meeting bail conditions, including access to legal aid, financial assistance, and social support services.
  • Foster collaboration among government agencies, legal institutions, civil society organisations, and community groups to develop holistic approaches to bail reform.
  • Establish mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of bail reform initiatives to assess their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

Dispute over the Shanan Hydropower Project

Context: The recent directive from the central government to maintain the status quo on the Shanan hydropower project, amidst competing claims by Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, has sparked legal action and drawn attention to the longstanding dispute over ownership and control of the project.

What is the Shanan Project and the Claims of Different Parties over it?

Historical Context:

  • Dating back to the British era in 1925, Punjab was granted a lease for the 110-MW hydropower project located in Jogindernagar, Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, along the Uhl River, a tributary of the Beas River.

Lease Agreement:

  • The lease agreement was formalized between Raja Joginder Bahadur, the ruler of Mandi at the time, and Col BC Batty, who represented the British government and served as the Chief Engineer of Punjab.

Project Utility:

  • Initially serving the energy needs of undivided Punjab and Delhi, the project's transmission line was later terminated at Verka village in Amritsar after partition, halting the supply to Lahore.

Legal Control under Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966:

  • Upon the reorganization of states in 1966, the project was transferred to Punjab, following Himachal Pradesh's designation as a Union Territory.
  • A central notification issued on May 1, 1967, by the Union Ministry of Irrigation and Power officially allocated the project to Punjab, with its legal control governed by the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.

Himachal Pradesh's Claim:

Pre-lease Ownership and Operational Rights:

  • Himachal Pradesh asserts that prior to the 1925 lease to Punjab, it held both ownership and operational rights over the project.
  • The 1925 lease granted operational, not ownership rights, to Punjab for a specific period.

Recent Assertions and Concerns:

  • In recent years, Himachal Pradesh has contended that upon the lease expiration, the project should revert to its control.
  • Concerns have been raised regarding the project's deteriorating condition due to alleged neglect and lack of maintenance by Punjab.

Punjab's Claims:

Ownership and Possession:

  • Punjab maintains that it is the lawful owner and in possession of the Shanan Power House Project under the 1967 central notification.
  • The Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) currently exercises control over all project assets on behalf of the state government.

Legal Action:

  • Punjab has initiated legal proceedings in the Supreme Court, seeking a "permanent Prohibitory Injunction" under Article 131 to prevent Himachal Pradesh from interfering with the project's lawful possession and functioning.

Interim Measure by the Centre:

  • Ahead of the lease agreement's conclusion, the Central government intervened by ordering the maintenance of the status quo on the project.
  • This directive, issued by the Ministry of Power, invoked relevant provisions of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, to ensure uninterrupted project operations.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th March 2024) Part - 1
Try yourself:
What is one of the concerns regarding India's bail system?
View Solution


Enhancing Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

Context: The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has recently placed a strong emphasis on enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities (PwDs) in public buildings. This initiative comes in response to persisting challenges despite the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act in 2016, prompting the CPWD to take proactive measures to ensure compliance with accessibility standards.

Understanding the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwDs) Act, 2016

Overview:

  • The RPwDs Act, 2016, is the legislative implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007.
  • Replacing the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, it reflects an evolving understanding of disability rights.
  • In India, approximately 26.8 million persons are living with disabilities, accounting for 2.21% of the total population according to the 2011 Census.

Expanded Definition of Disability:

  • The RPwDs Act significantly broadened the definition of disability, recognizing 21 types of disabilities, with provisions for the Central Government to include more.

Rights and Entitlements:

  • The Act mandates the appropriate governments to ensure equal rights for persons with disabilities.
  • Additional benefits include reservations in higher education (minimum 5%), government jobs (minimum 4%), and land allocation (minimum 5%) for individuals with benchmark disabilities and those requiring substantial support.
  • Children with benchmark disabilities aged 6 to 18 are entitled to free education, with government-funded educational institutions obligated to provide inclusive education.
  • The Act places strong emphasis on making public infrastructure and facilities accessible to persons with disabilities, promoting their participation and inclusion in society.

Mandates for Public Buildings:

  • Rule 15 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017, requires the central government to establish guidelines and standards for ensuring accessibility in public buildings.
  • These standards encompass physical environments, transportation, and information and communication technology for persons with disabilities.
  • All establishments, including public buildings, are obligated to comply with these standards based on the 2016 harmonized guidelines.
  • Recent amendments to Rule 15 mandate compliance with the 2021 harmonized guidelines, further enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • The guidelines cover planning, tendering, and specifications for various accessibility features such as ramps, grab rails, lifts, and disabled-friendly toilets.
  • All building plans must adhere to these guidelines to ensure equal access for persons with disabilities, with existing buildings required to undergo retrofitting within five years to meet accessibility standards.

What are the Concerns Regarding Accessibility in Public Buildings?

  • PwDs and activists report that the guidelines established in 2016 have not been effectively implemented. Furthermore, the newer 2021 guidelines are facing similar neglect from state governments.
  • Analysts state that no state has yet incorporated the harmonized guidelines into their building by-laws, indicating a widespread failure to address accessibility issues.
  • Experts highlight a lack of awareness and accountability among engineers of public works departments responsible for implementing accessibility guidelines.
  • Funds for retrofitting projects are available, but many states and cities have not submitted applications for them, indicating a failure to prioritise accessibility initiatives.
  • The Central Public Works Department's memo lacks clarity and may lead to unnecessary resource wastage, further hindering the effective implementation of accessibility measures.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th March 2024) Part - 1
Try yourself:
What is the main purpose of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwDs) Act, 2016?
View Solution


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FAQs on Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th March 2024) Part - 1 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the concept of a holistic progress card?
Ans. A holistic progress card is a comprehensive report that tracks an individual's development in various areas such as academics, extracurricular activities, character development, and social skills.
2. How can a holistic progress card benefit students?
Ans. A holistic progress card provides a well-rounded view of a student's strengths and areas for improvement, helping them set goals, track progress, and develop a more holistic approach to their education.
3. How can schools implement a holistic progress card system effectively?
Ans. Schools can implement a holistic progress card system by involving teachers, parents, and students in the process, setting clear criteria for assessment, and regularly reviewing and updating the progress cards.
4. What are some examples of components included in a holistic progress card?
Ans. Components of a holistic progress card may include academic grades, attendance records, participation in extracurricular activities, social and emotional development, behavior and attitude assessments, and feedback from teachers and peers.
5. How can a holistic progress card help in fostering a well-rounded education system?
Ans. A holistic progress card encourages a more comprehensive evaluation of a student's abilities and achievements beyond traditional academic measures, promoting a well-rounded education system that values all aspects of a student's development.
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