City Buzz: CBSE Term I exam announcement | Post-festival COVID upsurge…and more

Important news updates of the week: CBSE examination announcements; uptick in COVID in Kolkata and elsewhere; Government's response to Whatsapp and more

CBSE announces Term 1 examination schedule for Classes 10 and 12 

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) this week released the date sheet or timetable for students of Classes 10 and 12 who will be writing the Term 1 papers of the Board examination 2021-22. The first term board exams for class 10 will begin on November 30th, while the exams for class 12 are scheduled to commence on December 1st. This date sheet is only for the major subjects, while the schedule for minor subjects has been communicated to the schools separately. Practical exams or internal assessment will be completed in schools before the first-term exams are over.

The Term 1 papers, of 90-minute duration each, will be conducted in offline mode in the respective schools of the candidates. In view of the pandemic situation, CBSE has issued a notice saying that students who are currently not living in the same city as their school may request the Board for a change in their examination centre. 

In July this year, CBSE had announced a major overhaul of its final examinations, as part of which it said that the Board exams would be held in two parts starting from the academic session 2021-22. There would be no overlap of syllabus, but while the papers in Term 1 would have a multiple choice format, Term 2 papers (tentatively scheduled for March-April 2022) would be subjective. 

Read more: Opinion: The new CBSE Class 12 evaluation system is at best a make-shift arrangement

Results for the Term 1 examinations will be declared only in terms of the marks scored, while the final results (pass categories, percentages etc) would be announced only after assessments for both terms have been concluded.

Source: Livemint | DNA | The Times of India

Kolkata hospitals fill up in post-festival COVID surge 

As had been feared by medical experts and professionals, West Bengal has seen a sharp uptick in the number of COVID cases following Durga Puja, which saw large crowds and public gatherings over the week of festivities.  The daily case count in Bengal has consistently been over 800 over the past five days, with Saturday, October 23rd, reporting 974 cases of the virus, the highest since July 10th. In the last seven days leading upto Saturday, the state detected 5,560 fresh cases, a 28.4% rise over the previous seven days.

Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata
File photo of a crowded Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata. Image for representational purpose only. Pic: Biswarup Ganguly/CC BY 3.0

Private hospitals in Kolkata are seeing a steady rise in the number of COVID admissions; some have already expanded their COVID wards while others are reportedly planning an extension for the first time since the second wave. Leading COVID care hospitals such as Belle Vue, CMRI, Peerless, Medica and others were either already full or very near full capacity. 

West Bengal as a whole detected 5,560 fresh cases over the past week, a 28.4% rise over the previous seven days. Meanwhile, Assam has seen a 50.4% spike in fresh cases in the last seven days, with 2,187 new infections as compared to 1454 in the preceding week. Himachal Pradesh is another state where the seven-day case count has seen a spurt of 38.4%. As on October 23rd, however, Kerala continued to account for a major chunk of the total cases in the country, reporting 8,909 new infections over the week.

Source: The Times of India

Hope rises in Delhi as winter 2021 begins on cleaner note

On October 22nd, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the Delhi-based non profit research and advocacy organisation, released its latest analysis of air quality data for the National Capital Region. The analysis is based on the real time data available from the current working air quality monitoring stations in Delhi-NCR and the larger Indo Gangetic Plain. The analysis indicated that 2021 winter was starting with a cleaner threshold compared to the previous years, largely due to the intense and prolonged effect of the monsoons. 

However, as Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy at CSE has pointed out, this cannot be used to predict with certainty how pollution is going to bounce back in the winter. A cleaner pre-winter period does not necessarily assure a cleaner winter.

The period from October 15 to February 15 is considered as the winter season, based on dates referred in Delhi’s Graded Response Action Plan, and the analysis captures three successive winter seasons, pre-winter trends and pre and pandemic era including stages of lockdown in Delhi and NCR.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government has signed an MoU with IIT Kanpur for a source apportionment and forecasting study on air pollutants, which is expected to help identify sources of pollution in the capital and also help assess the impact of different sources like vehicular emissions, industries, dust, and biomass burning. The government has also directed the SDMs (sub-divisional magistrates) of 33 zones to hold meetings on air pollution with RWAs, market associations and NGOs and hold anti-firecracker campaigns. They have also been empowered to crack down on illegal sale of firecrackers.

Source: Down to Earth | The Indian Express

WhatsApp cannot challenge Indian laws: Indian government

In an affidavit to the Delhi High Court, the union government has argued that “the constitutionality of a provision of law cannot be challenged by a foreign commercial entity on the ground of it being violative of Article 19 rights”. The said rights, the government said, were only available to citizens, said the government while the global messaging platform was an out and out foreign commercial entity.

Read more: Dos and don’ts for WhatsApp users and admins during the COVID-19 pandemic

The affidavit was in reply to WhatsApp’s challenge of the new IT rules which were notified in early 2021. WhatsApp, which claims that it cannot read messages being sent on the app and that the messages can only be read by the sender and receiver, had argued that the clause relating to traceability (identifying the sender) is violative of the right to privacy. Defending this proviso in the new IT Rules, the government said that it was intended to enable law enforcement and prevention of offences.

In a related development, the Supreme Court issued a notice to former Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari, currently based in San Francisco, over a complaint by a person claiming he was a victim of hate crime in a video posted on the app.

Source: The Times of India

Controversial move to open up mining of beach sand

In a surprise announcement that has raised strong protests from environmentalists, the union government announced that it was considering allowing private companies to mine offshore beach sand. This proposal effectively reverses the centre’s own 2019 decision banning such mining. An expert panel is to be set up to examine this proposal.

Currently only the department of atomic energy can mine beach sand. But a recent meeting of secretaries with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw arguments to revoke that ban.

Beach sand is mined for relatively rare earth minerals like ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, garnet, monazite, zircon and sillimanite, which find use in electronics and batteries, including those used to power electric vehicles, which the centre and states are pushing in a big way. India’s beaches reportedly have the world’s fifth largest deposits of rare earth elements.

Environmental activists say mining of beach sand could destroy coastal ecology, cause erosion and lead to sea water intrusion into inland fresh water systems affecting livelihoods of fisherfolk. This could have significant ramifications for coastal cities like Mumbai and Chennai.

Source: The Times of India

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