QUESTION : Discuss. What steps have been taken by the government to tackle the problem of stubble burning? Also suggest some measures to solve the issue of stubble burning.
LESS POLLUTION, MORE SOIL FERTILITY
Stubble Burning In North Indian States
STUBBLE BURNING ?
- Stubble burning is the act of setting fire to crop residue to remove them from the field to sow the next crop
- It is a traditional practice in Punjab and Haryana to clean off the rice chaff to prepare the fields for winter sowing
- It begins around October and peaks in November, coinciding with the withdrawal of southwest monsoon.
- On December 10, 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned crop residue burning in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
ENVIRONMENTAL RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH STUBBLE BURNING :
- Air Pollution: A study estimates that crop residue burning released 149.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), over 9 million tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 0.25 million tonnes of oxides of sulphur (SOX), 1.28 million tonnes of particulate matter and 0.07 million tonnes of black carbon.
- Responsible for the haze in Delhi: Crop burning contributed nearly 40% of the near-surface PM 2.5 in Delhi in 2016, which saw one of Delhi’s severest pollution episode
- Soil Fertility: The heat from burning paddy straw penetrates 1 centimetre into the soil, elevating the temperature to 33.8 to 42.2 degree Celsius. This kills the bacterial and fungal populations critical for a fertile soil. The solubility capacity of the upper layers of soil has also been reduced.
- Pests in atmosphere: Burning of crop residue causes damage to other micro-organisms present in the upper layer of the soil as well as its organic quality. Due to the loss of ‘friendly’ pests, the wrath of ‘enemy’ pests has increased and as a result, crops are more prone to disease.
- Stubble burning during a pandemic could worsen the situation by making lungs weaker and people more susceptible to disease
GREEN REVOLUTION AND STUBBLE BURNING :
- The origin of stubble burning can be traced to the advent of the Green revolution.
- Mechanised harvesting, a feature of the Green Revolution, utilised the combined harvesting technique which left behind substantial plant debris after harvest. The combined harvesting technique left behind one-foot-tall stalks. This prompted stubble burning as a low-cost and speedy solution to get rid of the plant debris just in time for the next crop sowing.
- The Green Revolution increased greatly rice and wheat production, which simultaneously increased stubble post-harvest.
WHY FARMERS OPT FOR THIS PRACTICE ?
- They do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.
- The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
- With less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.
ADVANTAGES OF STUBBLE BURNING :
- It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
- Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
- Kills slugs and other pests.
- Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.
How have governments tried to solve the issue?
Union Government: Under a 100% centrally-funded scheme, machines that help farmers in in-situ management—by tilling the stubble back into the soil—were to be provided to individual farmers at 50% subsidy and to custom hiring centres (CHCs) at 80% subsidy.
- While Haryana has set up 2,879 CHCs so far and has provided nearly 16,000 straw-management machines, it has to set up 1,500 more and has to cover nearly as many panchayats it has reached so far.
- Similarly, Punjab, which has provided 50,815 machines so far, will need to set up 5,000 more CHCs—against 7,378 set up already—and reach 41% of its panchayats by October 2020.
- There is also an awareness programme by the government.
WAY FORWARD :
- Short term Solution: Giving farmers easy and affordable access to the machines which allow them to do smart straw management is the short term solution to the problem
- Dual Strategy: Both in-situ (in the field) and ex-situ (elsewhere) solutions need to be considered, apart from tackling the fundamental factors prompting the practice.
- Affordability of Government Measures: A key factor will be ensuring affordability of service for those hiring the machines; Haryana has reserved 70% of the machines at panchayat-run CHCs for small and marginal farmers, while Punjab has prioritised service to them.
- Utilizing Crop Stubble: Instead of burning of the stubble, it can be used in different ways like cattle feed, compost manure, roofing in rural areas, biomass energy, mushroom cultivation, packing materials, fuel, paper, bio-ethanol and industrial production, etc.
- The long-term solution has to be crop diversification, away from paddy
Thus, stubble burning is not a new and surprising phenomenon and has been occurring since decades now. Considering the predictability of occurrence of problem and available initiatives in place, tackling the issue is the urgent need of the day given its severe consequences and associated problems. Proactive government intervention, aggressive media campaign and private industries should come together to the rescue of the farmer and the environment and solve the stubble burning issue in a time bound manner.
QUESTION : Discuss the ASER survey 2020 key findings in the area of education and how Covid 19 Pandemic has affected rural education?
GAP IN LEARNING
Annual Status Of Education Report(ASER)
WHY IN NEWS ?
In a year of severe disruption for schools caused by the COVID¬19 pandemic, students in rural areas have received only marginal assistance in the form of structured learning materials from teachers, and have had to rely more on parents and siblings to study at home.
ABOUT ASER SURVEY :
- This is an annual survey (published by education non-profit Pratham ) that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
- ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
- It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 REPORT :
- The survey shows a small shift in enrollment from private to government schools, across all grades and among both girls and boys.
- The proportion of boys enrolled in government schools rose from 62.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2020.
- The survey shows that while the proportion of children not currently enrolled for the 2020-21 school years is higher than the equivalent figures for 2018, for most age groups these differences are small.
- Among enrolled children, more than 60% live in families with at least one smartphone. This proportion has increased enormously in the last two years, from 36.5% to 61.8% among enrolled children.
- Whether acquired before or after school closures in March 2020, more than 80% children have textbooks for their current grade.
- Data showed that at 50.6%, teachers who taught between Grades III to V were the best trained. Most teachers were in possession of phone numbers of at least 50% of their students
KEY FINDINGS- IMPACT OF COVID-19 :
- About 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home. In Andhra Pradesh, less than 35% of children had textbooks. More than 98% had textbooks in West Bengal, Nagaland and Assam.
- In the week of the survey, about one in three rural children had done no learning activity at all.
- About two in three had no learning material or activity given by their school that week, and only one in 10 had access to live online classes.
- 3% of rural children aged 6-10 years had not yet enrolled in school this year, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
IMPORTANT CONCLUSION FROM THE ABOVE REPORT :
- Evidence based policy making: The data collected could facilitate intervention by the education system in some respects, even if, going forward, schools opt for a hybrid solution of partial reopening and online learning.
- Expanding availability of textbooks to all, including those who dropped out or are waiting to be formally admitted, will help parents and siblings aid learning.
- Bridging the divide on educational aids, now including smartphones, will enable transmission of learning materials, and personal tutorial sessions.
- Opportunity for Observational Learning: The education system could creatively use opportunities during the current year to broaden learning. Students could use the safety of the open countryside to learn, under guidance from teachers, a host of topics by doing things themselves which helps create strong foundations.
- Need for Monitoring: When schools re-open, it will be important to continue to monitor who goes back to school, and very importantly to understand whether there is learning loss as compared to previous years,
- Leveraging Home Support to improve learning: Schools should find ways to build on the home support going forward, given that families provided learning support to children during pandemic, either from parents or elder siblings.
WAY FORWARD :
Covid-19 has left the nation with deep economic distress and uncertainty over school-reopenings and thrown open new challenges in every sector.
The nationally representative sample highlighted the role played by the families where everyone in the family supported children regardless of their education levels.
This strength needs to be leveraged by reaching out to more students and reducing the distance between schools and homes.