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Opinion

Post COVID19 Online Examination: Possibilities and Challenges

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Dr Syed Zahoor Ahmad Geelani    

University is a multifaceted institution of advanced learning usually meant for disseminating and creating new knowledge, deliver quality education, work for national interests, further international cooperation and produce skilled human resource. In our country we have as many as 907 Universities as of 31-12-2019, out which 399 are state Universities, 334 are Private Universities, 126 Deemed to be Universities and 48 Central Universities. Besides there are other more than 40,000 colleges and 10752 Stand Alone Institutions providing higher education in different disciplines. In its last tenure of UPAS –II the government of India has established 14 New Central Universities; the main aim behind the establishment of these institutions was to make some change in the existing higher education system of India. These universities were assigned the pace setting role in progress of academic education and skill development and at the same time were expected to bring reforms and transformations into academic sectors through creating of skilful human powers. These CFI must be attached and collaborated for promotion to institute and must be supportive for regional level development of colleges and institutes and as such have leadership role in the higher education sector of our country.

The Central University of Kashmir is working hard in realising its objective of being a pace setting institution in the country in general and in J and K in particular. We have been successful in developing a robust online pedagogical strategy wherein the students on rolls were supported by compete SLM package along with supportive zoom classes, whattapp voice messages, Google classes, and periodic guidance and counselling sessions. Along with the online e – transmission of teaching learning materials and guidance a large number of webinars and e-conferences were organised by the different departments of the varsity. When we have almost completely shifted to online pedagogy we need to explore the possibilities of Online evaluation process, although there are a number on impediments which restricts our progress towards online examination system but owing to the grim situation created by the global pandemic we are almost left with no option other than to shift to the online examination.

The School of Education, Central University of Kashmir organized a National e- Conference on “Challenges and Opportunities of Online Examination amid Covid-19” on July 3rd 2020. Two key speakers deliberated threadbare on the subject The speaker Prof. S. K. Yadav, Former Head, Department of Teacher Education, NCERT in his presentation stressed that online examination needs to be emphasized as its importance has been highlighted by number of commissions & committees from time to time. He stressed that the examinations now should be based on self-assessment and need to be more innovative.  Prof Sanjev Sonawane, Dean, Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies, Savitribai Phule Pune University described various e- Assessment tools which can be employed especially during Covid-19. He deliberated that 21st century demands using the internet and digital platform tools to plan, share and curate learning. He made the participants aware about the different online tools which can employed and also elaborated the context and procedure to use for their implementation. Here I want to share his detailed deliberations for the Teachers of our state so that we all may get benefited by the online assessment tools available for us, if at all we may someday switch over to online examination. These latest online e-assessment tools are

  1. Topgrade Quiz Maker

Topgrade is one of the best e-assessment tools used by more than 250,000 students use to improve their exam results. We can create quizzes, courses and flashcards in it.  It can be had from https://www.topgradeapp.com/   Its main features are

  1. we can create an unlimited number of resources to help us learn.
  2. We can choose from several question types including multiplechoice, fill-in-the-blank and matching.
  • We are also able to add images and time limits to our questions.
  1. Best of all we can create resources anywhere and anytime, online or offline, via our Android and Apple apps.

 

  1. Class Maker

It is very secure, professional web-based Quiz maker, easy-to-use, customizable online testing solution for business, training & educational assessment with Tests & Quizzes graded instantly saving you hours of paperwork, It can be downloaded from https://www.classmarker.com/. The main features of this e-assessment tool are

  1. Secure & private, easy to define test settings, no software installations required and can create assistants to help manage your account.
  2. Custom certificates & exam branding, exams can be conducted with public & private options
  • Results automatically graded & viewable in realtime PCs, Macs, iPad, iPhone, Android, Chrome book & more.
  1. ProProfs (Quiz Maker)

This tool can be used to make delightful quizzes and tests using ProProfs Online Quiz Maker Software, can Create a quiz from scratch or pick from 100,000+ customizable quizzes that come bundled free of cost with online quiz software.

It can also help to get access to a library of 100,000+ ready-to-use questions and 10+ question types including fill in the blanks, multiple choice, hotspot and more with our quiz builder tool.  This tool can create scored quizzes, personality quizzes or surveys with ease, add images, presentations, and videos to make your quiz interactive. The tool can be had from https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/. Its important features are

  1. World’s simplest way to create online quizzes, delightful reports & analytics
  2. Customize quizzes your way with quiz creator software
  • Quiz anytime & anywhere with quiz generator with 100+ settings & Configurations.
  1. Online Quiz Creator

This is a very user-friendly e-assessment tool used to create online quizzes and can be downloaded from the link  https://www.onlinequizcreator.com/. Its main features are

  1. It helps in Challenging the users on any platform. Lots of question types to choose from (Text questions, Multiple choice questions, image questions, multiple right answers)
  2. Advanced game statistics and rankings, rich tools and sharing.
  1. Moodle

Moodle is the world’s most popular learning management system. The focus of the Moodle project is always on giving educators the best tools to manage and promote learning, but there are many ways to use Moodle. It can have online from https://moodle.org/  with the following features

  1. Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
  2. It has become very popular among educators around the world as a tool for creating online dynamic web sites for their students.
  3. Quiz Pedia

Quiz Pedia is a digital tool for quizzes in the classroom. It can easily  add text, pictures and sound. It can be downloaded from http://www.quizpedia.com/ with following features

  1. Use quizzes to assess student’s level of understanding or make the students co-creators of the own learning and allows them make quizzes themselves and then share them with their peers.
  2. Free, but access to statistics, feedback function and customizing requires a fee.
  3. Interact: Create a Quiz

Interact is a tool for creating online quizzes that generate leads, segment our audience, and drive traffic to our website. It can be had from the link https://www.tryinteract.com/ with the features such as personalized quiz, scored quiz and assessment quiz.

  1. Quest Base | Freely create on-line and printed

Quest Base gives us the freedom to ask, Millions of questions (and counting) published and printed with QuestBase free of charge. The online source for this tool is https://www.questbase.com/ with the features such as to create quizzes, tests, assessments, exams or get feedback from surveys and polls, within minimum possible time.

  1. Socrative | Student Response System

Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational games and exercises via smartphones and tablets.

These apps are super simple and take seconds to load and run. Teachers control the questions and games on their laptop, while students respond and interact through their smartphones/laptops. Users can run it as an app or on any web browser. This e-assesment tool can be had online from the link https://www.socrative.com/  with the following featues

  1. Quiz and Grade at the speed of learning with activities like Quizzes, Quick Question, Class count.
  2. Helps to get instant feedback and can create personalized activities.
  • It has option for more time for teaching; it is available on all platforms and is free for students.
  1. Hot Potatoes
It is high time to explore the options of alternate channels for assessment and evaluation at all levels of schooling, we can no longer resist the concepts of Open Book Examination, Blended evaluation and on spot Evaluation and integration of pedagogy with evaluation.

 

The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling us to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web. Hot Potatoes is freeware, and we may use it for any purpose or project we like. It can be integrated with Moodle. It can be retrieved online from  http://hotpot.uvic.ca/.

Besides there are so many more e-assessment tools available online which can be used by the functionaries to initiate the process of online assessment of the students at different levels, no doubt the process of online examination does not fully suit to the educational scenario of our country but there is an age-old proverb that necessity is the mother of invention and in the present Global pandemic which is by every passing day becoming uglier especially in our own country now we have no option other than to turn digital.

In our own social-political scenario we are between the devil and the deep sea like situation, neither we have basic digital infrastructure in place nor we are having the normal internet speed available here and one more serious impediment is that the end-users are also neither well trained to use digital platforms nor the necessary ICT gadgets are easily available with them. Keeping in view such a grim situation we cannot afford to completely rely on online platforms but at the same we have to switch over to it sooner or later. In my opinion the best solution for the functionaries is to develop a blended approach just like we are now using blended pedagogy for the teaching-learning process and that is the only way forward and a win-win situation can be generated. I suggest that we must start an online examination supported by individualized interaction either face to face or with the help of other ICT Channels.

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AgriBiz

Chemical Pesticides and Environment Sustainability

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Chemical Pesticides and Environment Sustainability

Need for alternative pest control methods, organic farming

Raheeba Tun Nisa

Naveed Hamid

Chemical pesticides are frequently used to protect plants, animals, livestock, and crops from pests and diseases. In India, estimated annual production losses due to pests are as high as US$ 36 billion. The use of pesticides has significantly increased and improved global food production.

Pesticides are used by farmers, consumers, and businesses to stop the spread of disease and crop destruction. In order to safeguard the world’s food supply, pesticides assist the agricultural community in managing exotic weeds, diseases, and insects.

All types of pesticides used in the country, including those imported from other nations, are governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States. When seeking to market their products, pesticide manufacturers must comply with extremely strict regulations set forth by the EPA. The amount of pesticide residue reported on food products ingested by humans or animals, such as livestock feed, is regulated by the EPA.

However, there is still a flaw in the system that causes environmental chaos, and we are unable to stop the devastation of our ecosystem.

Impact of pesticides on environment and SDG goals

Pesticides however might have a negative effect on both aquatic and terrestrial species. Their extended and repeated use causes bioaccumulation. It is possible for pesticides to spread from the application site to distant surroundings and non-target creatures. Even at low concentrations, water contaminated with pesticides poses a major threat to the environment. Pesticide residues can reach humans through contaminated food and water, non-target drift, or application.

Exposure to pesticides can have a variety of negative neurological health impacts, including impaired coordination, memory, and vision. The immune system is also harmed by prolonged pesticide exposure. An increase in neurological conditions, including brain tumours, has been attributed to excessive pesticide use in Kashmir.

Different soil microorganisms are necessary for various plant functions yet using pesticides may limit the soil microflora. We know a lot of beneficial microorganisms are present on the plant surface (Phyllosphere) as well as in the root zone (rhizosphere), indiscriminate use of pesticide drastically decrease their population.

Numerous herbicides have been shown to be harmful to mycorrhizal fungi, increase plant susceptibility to diseases, impair seed quality, and have indirect effects on bird populations. SDG target by 2020 is to minimize the negative effects on human health and the environment by achieving the environmentally sound management of chemicals and their wastes throughout their life cycles, in compliance with accepted international frameworks, and greatly reducing their release to air, water, and soil.

Pesticides must be used in accordance with the standards established by national and international law, with better safety precautions and less harmful formulations. Farmers should be made aware of the need to avoid using harmful pesticides.

Strategies to minimize the usage of chemicals

In the future, it will be possible to combine the use of chemical pesticides with natural remedies to eradicate pests and insects in a more long-lasting manner. The best alternatives to pesticides are agronomical approaches, biological control, organic farming, integrated pest management, and the use of resistant varieties.

Current disease management approaches rely primarily on synthetic pesticides, but growing awareness of these chemicals’ detrimental effects on the environment and human health has prompted us to seek out more effective, less or non-toxic alternatives.

One such alternative is biological control of plant diseases that could be a viable alternative to expensive chemical fungitoxicants, which not only harm the environment but also allow for the development of resistant pathogenic strains. The biocontrol agents either soil-derived or epiphytes or endophytes (bioagents acquired from phyllosphere) are having the innate potential of suppressing the diseases.

It may be effective to use endophytes and epiphytes that are strongly antagonistic to this pathogen to tackle the disease. In the future, biological control on aerial plant surfaces will be successful not only because of its efficiency but also because of its low cost compared to traditional pesticides and the absence of harmful side effects from the organisms used, such as mammalian toxicity.

Other advantages of biological control over chemical control might include the less long-term environmental impact from the use of persistent pesticides and the lack of chemical residues on edible components of the crop. Several commercial microorganism-based products have been created and are beginning to gain popularity in the market. However, due to biocontrol action’s diversity and inconsistency, large-scale usage is still limited. In some circumstances, this might be due to the biocontrol agents’ susceptibility to environmental impacts.

There are several ways to overcome biocontrol limitations and increase its performance. One such way is a combination of biocontrol agents with fungicides. Compatibility of any bioagent with fungicides is a key to developing an efficient disease management module vis-à-vis disease control, resistance management, environmental safety and economy.

Need to boost and promote natural farming startups

From 2010-2011, the organic market in India witnessed considerable growth. According to a TechSci Research report, ‘India Organic Food Market By Product Type, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 – 2021’, India’s organic food market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 25% during 2016-2021. With the rising environmental and health problems, more and more people are becoming cautious of the harmful effects of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other artificial chemicals used for food production. There is growing consensus among people about the benefits of using Organic products. This unique rise in demand has resulted in creating an opportunity for many to come up with great and novel ideas in the shape of startups with unique business models, aimed at solving this modern-day crisis.

The authors are associated with SKUAST-K, Shalimar 

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Opinion

Let’s Revive the Organic way of Healing 

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Let’s Revive the Organic way of Healing 

FALAK JAN 

NAVEED HAMID

Let’s Revive the Organic way of Healing Let’s Revive the Organic way of Healing 

The Himalayas are identified as one of the global biodiversity hotspots, with high species richness due to ecological, phytogeographic, and evolutionary factors. There are around 18,440 plant species (25.3 % of which are indigenous), 1748 medicinal plant species, and 675 wild edible species. For populations living in mountainous locations, collecting and, more lately, marketing MAPs has offered a significant source of income. The long-term viability of such plants is inextricably linked to future Himalayan potential. Plants are still used for primary healthcare in many cultures around the world, and medicinal herbs have long been used in traditional healthcare systems. With recent developments in plant sciences, the usage of plant-based health products has increased dramatically in both developing and industrialized countries. Around the world, 70–80% of people use medicinal plants as their primary health care. The demand for medical plant-based raw materials is increasing at a pace of 15 to 25% per year and is expected to exceed $5 trillion by 2050. The medicinal plant trade in India is estimated to be worth around $1 billion per year. The World Health Organization tried to identify all medical plants used worldwide and identified over 20,000 species. Kashmir Himalayas has a diverse range of medicinal plants due to topographical diversity.

JAMMU & KASHMIR AS HERBAL DRUG STORE

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), an Indian Himalayan state, is rich in biodiversity with a rich medicinal flora. The Kashmir valley referred to as Terrestrial Paradise has abundant biodiversity that adorns Kashmir’s beauty. The region is endowed with a rich diversity of medicinal plants due to its phyto-geographical location within the North-Western Himalayas. The scientific documentation of medicinal flora diversity, distribution, and traditional usage could be crucial in the conservation and long-term utilization of these valuable plant resources in this Himalayan state. Some of the medicinal plants that are widely found in Jammu and Kashmir include Aconitum heterophyllum, Berberis aristata, Artemesia absinthium, Atropa acuminata, Trillium govanianum, Saussurea costus, Picrorhiza kurroa,  Withania somnifera, Acorus calamus; among the most significant aromatic herbs are Levandula officinalis, Rosmarinus officinalis, Organium vulgare, Podophyllum hexandrum, Hippophae rhamnoides, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, and Arnebia benthamii. Medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP) conservation and production are becoming increasingly important. In India, MAPs are collected/cultivated in a variety of climate and soil conditions, ranging from the seacoast to the high Himalayas. The preservation and development of medicinal and aromatic plants is a top priority in Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, which represent temperate, alpine, and cold dry region zones.The medicinal plant market is still developing and is largely unregulated. Local residents in the region collect and trade medicinal herbs in order to meet their basic requirements for livelihood. According to local medicinal plant collectors and traders, demand for particular species such as Aconitum heterophyllum, Angelica glauca, Podophyllum hexandrum, Ephedra gerardiana, and Saussurea costus is quite high, but supply is low due to rare populations and lack of cultivation.

MEDICINAL & AROMATIC PLANTS SIGNIFICANCE: NATURE’S MEDICINE

Medicinal plants are rapidly becoming valuable bio-resource. Without a doubt, their effectiveness in managing human ailments while causing no negative effects has earned a widespread reputation for these useful species.  Given the high cost and side effects of modern medicine, traditional knowledge and practices of medicinal plants against various diseases, such as asthma, diarrhoea, throat infections, rheumatism, ulcer, poliomyelitis, abdominal pain, body swellings, cough, burns, wounds, allergies, general weakness, etc., are extremely important. Some of the medicinal plants, including Rheum species, Artemisia species, Ephedra species, and Salvia species, have been demonstrated in recent scientific studies to be useful in treating COVID-19.

DEVELOPMENTAL STRATEGIES FOR THE HERBAL MEDICINE INDUSTRY

The growth of sustainable medicinal herbs offers a great chance to capitalize on the growing market while guaranteeing a consistent supply for local communities. Industry growth strategy for herbal medicine over 100 million hectares of wastelands are currently idle, depriving the income generating options while also posing a major threat to the ecosystem and environment. These kinds of lands can be used to grow medicinal herbs, which are in high demand. Establishing contact with bulk consumers can help to boost commercial medical herb cultivation. The following actions are recommended for a successful promotion of the herbal medicine business in Jammu & Kashmir.

  • Plant species with therapeutic characteristics need to be identified and herbariums should be established.
  • Assessment of demand & supply status relating to medicinal plants.
  • Standardization of propagation and cultivation procedures in order to produce superior grade herbal materials.
  • Validation for the use of numerous medicinal herbs in the treatment of various ailments, as well as standardization of protocols and documentation.
  • Assisting collectors and growers to store, transport and market their herbal products.
  • Research to develop effective herbal medications to treat diverse ailments, particularly newly emerging diseases, should be strengthened.
  • Herbal medicine should be taught as a core subject in medical schools that deal with various systems.
  • Popularization of diverse herbal medications through workshops, training, social marketing, and public awareness.
  • Establishing primary processing, grading, marketing, and other facilities in coordination with local stakeholders and organizations.
  • Traditional healers and Ayurveda practitioners should be supported through knowledge sharing, networking, the provision of superior quality germplasm, and connections with farmers for raw material supply.

The demand for medicinal herbs has risen dramatically in recent years on both national and international markets. Traditional medicines have seen a return in popularity in recent decades, both as alternative cures and in the pharmaceutical industry. There seems to be a lack of attention in current research to maintain the sustainable use of these valuable plant species. Plant species that only grow in the wild and are not cultivated, need to be conserved. The long-term protection and sustainable use of their source species must be prioritized if plant elements to promote human health are to be made available in the future.

 

Writers are research scholars from SKUAST Kashmir

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Industry

J&K’s Dwindling Corrugation Industry

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J&K’s Dwindling Corrugation Industry

Dhaar Mehak M

Pazeer Kataria

J&K’s Dwindling Corrugation Industry! The corrugation industry is a sub-category of the paper industry. It essentially deals with the manufacturing of customised boxes made from the amalgamation of cardboard, kraft paper, adhesives, stitching, wiring etc. Corrugation boxes are an improvisation over ordinary cardboard boxes. These boxes are stronger, durable, environment friendly, cost-effective, sustainable, recyclable and easy to customise. The corrugation industry has revolutionised the modern-day world because of its environment-friendly nature. The main output produced by this industry is (customised) packaging material for multiple purposes across various intermediate and final uses.

India’s corrugation market is estimated to be worth Rs 30,000 crore. Over time, this sector has grown steadily and sustainably. Given the enormous size of the Indian economy, there has always been a high demand for the goods and services supplied by this sector. It has consistently been a highly popular business among potential entrepreneurs. The Covid-19 pandemic has, however, caused this industry to experience a recent nationwide decline. The cost of all raw materials, including the fuel for running the machinery and the cost of transportation, has skyrocketed. The sector has been further restricted by the limited import of less expensive raw materials and the increased tax burden on businesses.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the corrugation industry is directly linked to the horticulture sector. Cardboard boxes have replaced traditional wooden boxes for apple packaging to a large extent. Though the corrugation industry of J&K produces boxes for beverages, bakery, medicines, yoghurt, processed foods etc. apart from horticulture the main demand comes from the latter itself. As such the corrugation industry has been a very popular venture amongst the potential entrepreneurs in J&K. However, the post-pandemic world hasn’t been the same for the corrugators of J&K. The corrugation industry in the region has been running in losses since the beginning of the pandemic.

All of a sudden it was decided that the GST on the corrugated boxes would be increased by 6 percentage points. Initially, the purchase sale tax was 12% and so was the sales tax. After this decision, while the purchase tax is the same, the sales tax has increased to 18%. There is a direct 6% dead weight loss created, the brunt of which is born by the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the rates of the boxes have tended to remain constant declining the profit of the manufacturers by a big slash.

The first blow came with the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic right in China. Kraft paper, one of the essential raw materials, is imported into India from China. As soon as the pandemic was declared the imports were halted and the basic raw material shortage was felt. Steadily this had to be substituted with the indigenous craft paper which increased the cost of production. Other imported substitutes coming from the rest of the world also got expensive and the production cost of the industry rose immediately. This sudden nature of the shock gave the least time to the corrugators of J&K to come to terms with the outcomes.

Another major shock came with the updated taxation decision from the ministry of finance. All of a sudden it was decided that the GST on the corrugated boxes would be increased by 6 percentage points. Initially, the purchase sale tax was 12% and so was the sales tax. After this decision, while the purchase tax is the same, the sales tax has increased to 18%. There is a direct 6% dead weight loss created, the brunt of which is born by the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the rates of the boxes have tended to remain constant declining the profit of the manufacturers by a big slash.

The most important source of demand for corrugated boxes however comes from the horticulture sector in the region. And here the major concern is the competition given to the locally manufactured corrugation boxes by the imported ones coming from the neighbouring states. There are two main reasons behind this competition. One of the reasons quoted by the local manufacturers is that the business houses outside J&K are multi-project ventures, keeping the cost of production very low for the producers. As such, in the local market, these boxes are sold at a cheaper rate than those coming from our local producers. The second reason comes from the consumers who claim that the boxes coming from outside are not only superior in quality but are affordable too. The joint impact of both these reasons is a decline faced by this otherwise brimming and quoted ‘high potential’ industry in the region.

Another important local source of demand for the corrugation industry of J&K is the beverage industry located across the region. Corrugation boxes have been a preferred choice for these units. However, the growing prices of these boxes have forced this industry to look for alternatives and substitutes. After a brief research, it turns out that the beverage industry is substituting corrugation boxes with plastic and polythene packaging. At the same time posing a long-run threat to the fragile environment of the region!

 In Kashmir, the corrugation business has a direct and indirect impact on about 20,000 households. These people in a majority of the cases are not affiliated with any other economic activity. A loss to this industry will impact the members across all these households. In light of these events and factual realities, there arise some critical policy implications. For starters, the local government must restrain the unquestionable import of corrugation boxes from the rest of the country. Given that the horticulture sector is at the back of this industry, it is important that the two grow mutually and with an interdependence that is conjointly and positively reinforcing the overall growth. Immediate intervention and curtailment of the taxes is the most pressing pre-requisite for the sustenance and then eventual growth of this sector. From a longer-run perspective, the use of corrugation products instead of plastic and polythene is J&K is the basic need to keep up with the fragile ecosystem that the region is bestowed with.

The authors work with the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science & Technology & can be reached at [email protected] 

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