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Current Affairs 04 November 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Worker Productivity
  2. UPSC Issues Amended Guidelines for State DGP Appointments
  3. Indian Railways Capital Expenditure and Operating Ratio
  4. Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2023
  5. Lucy Mission
  6. Kawah Ijen
  7. Elephanta Caves

Worker Productivity


Context

Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy has stirred debate by encouraging young Indians to work 70 hours per week, drawing comparisons with Japan and Germany’s post-World War II efforts to rebuild. Murthy expressed concern over India’s low worker productivity levels, emphasizing the need for increased work hours to boost the nation’s growth prospects.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Worker Productivity and Labour Productivity
  2. Relationship Between Worker Productivity and Economic Growth
  3. India’s Worker Productivity and Global Comparisons

Worker Productivity and Labour Productivity

  • Productivity measures the output value per unit of labor cost at a micro level.
  • At the macro level, it’s assessed as the labor-output ratio or change in Net Domestic Product (NDP) per worker, assuming 8 hours of work per day.
  • Worker productivity focuses on mental activities, while labor productivity relates mainly to manual tasks.
Challenges in Measuring Output Value:
  • Intellectual labor services make it difficult to independently measure output value.
  • Worker income is often used as a proxy for productivity.
  • Mr. Murthy’s assertion that additional work with no corresponding pay leads to increased profits at the expense of workers is debated.
Role of Skill, Technology, and Innovation:
  • Productivity is not tied to time but skill, encompassing education, training, nutrition, and health.
  • Reducing working hours can enhance leisure and quality of life without compromising output value.
  • Technological advancements and innovations can increase productivity without extended work hours.

Relationship Between Worker Productivity and Economic Growth

Overall Impact on Economy:
  • Increased productivity in any sector can contribute to economic growth by raising the value added and overall accumulation in the economy.
Complex Relationship:
  • The link between worker productivity and economic growth is intricate, as it’s influenced by various factors.
Challenges in Measuring Productivity:
  • Issues related to measuring nominal output, output prices, labor input, capital stock, and capital stock prices can impact the accuracy of productivity measurements.
Prosperity of Workers:
  • The connection between productivity and prosperity, especially for workers, is not straightforward.
  • Worker prosperity may not solely depend on hard work or productivity.
  • Super-rich individuals’ prosperity can be attributed to factors like inherited wealth (patrimonial capitalism) or high salaries determined by a select group, regardless of actual contributions.
  • This disconnect between effort and earnings raises concerns about the fairness of the capitalist system.

India’s Worker Productivity and Global Comparisons

Challenging Productivity Inference:

  • Using income as a proxy for productivity can lead to a misleading inference about India’s worker productivity being low.

Income and Productivity Trends:

  • Trends in India show decreasing wages and salaries alongside increasing profits since the 1980s.
  • Factors contributing to this trend include the rise of informal jobs, changes in labor laws, and rules that may not favor workers.

Hardworking Indian Employees:

  • India has a reputation for having some of the hardest working employees globally.

Low Average Wages:

  • Despite being hardworking, India ranks among the lowest in terms of average monthly wages on a global scale.
Comparing India to Japan and Germany:
  • Drawing comparisons between India’s economy and those of countries like Japan and Germany may not be particularly insightful.
  • These countries differ significantly in terms of their workforce, technology, culture, and political systems.
  • India’s uniqueness requires avoiding random comparisons that could lead to incorrect conclusions and ineffective policies.
  • Instead, the focus should be on investing in society, boosting domestic spending, and prioritizing development that places people’s welfare at the forefront, leading to more favorable and sustainable outcomes.

-Source: The Hindu


UPSC Issues Amended Guidelines for State DGP Appointments


Context:

Recently, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has issued amended guidelines emphasizing specific criteria for the appointment of State Directors General of Police (DGPs).

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Amendments in UPSC Guidelines for DGP Selection
  2. Supreme Court’s Directives on Police Reforms

Amendments in UPSC Guidelines for DGP Selection

  • Transparent Selection Criteria:
    • The amendments aim to bring transparency to the selection process.
    • Prevent favoritism and unfair appointments.
  • Service Tenure Requirement:
    • Officers with at least six months of service left before retirement can be considered for the DGP position.
    • Discouraging the extension of tenures for officers on the verge of retirement.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • Officers with 25 years of experience can now qualify for the DGP position, reduced from the previous requirement of 30 years.
  • Limited Shortlisting:
    • The guidelines limit the shortlisted candidates to a maximum of three, with exceptions only in specific cases.
    • Emphasizes voluntary participation, requiring officers to express their willingness.
  • Relevant Experience:
    • The guidelines outline essential areas of experience, including a minimum of ten years in domains such as law and order, crime branch, economic offenses wing, or intelligence wing.
    • Emphasizes deputation to central bodies like the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, or Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • Central Deputation Exception:
    • The Empanelment Committee will not assess IPS officers on central deputation for the DGP position if the Union Ministry of Home Affairs informs the State government that releasing the officers is not feasible.

Supreme Court’s Directives on Police Reforms

In the Prakash Singh Case of 2006, the Supreme Court of India issued a set of directives to address various issues affecting police performance and reform the police system in the country. These directives are as follows:

Establish a State Security Commission (SSC):

  • The SSC aims to prevent undue government influence on the police.
  • It outlines policy guidelines for the police and assesses state police performance.

Transparent Appointment of DGP:

  • The appointment of the Director General of Police (DGP) should follow a transparent, merit-based process.
  • The DGP must have a minimum tenure of two years.

Committee for Appointing State DGP:

  • The committee to appoint the State DGP is headed by the UPSC Chairman.
  • It includes the Union Home Secretary, the State’s Chief Secretary, DGP, and one of the heads of the Central Armed Police Forces nominated by the Ministry of Home Affairs from a different State cadre.
  • The selection process involves the State governments sending UPSC the names of potential DGPs three months before the incumbent DGPs retire.
  • The UPSC prepares a panel of three officers fit for the DGP role.
  • The State appoints one of the shortlisted individuals.

Minimum Tenure for Operational Police Officers:

  • Ensure a minimum two-year tenure for other operational police officers, including District Superintendents and Station House Officers.

Segregation of Duties:

  • Implement the separation of investigative and law enforcement duties within the police force.

Police Establishment Board (PEB):

  • Create a PEB to handle transfers, postings, promotions, and other service-related matters for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  • The PEB also makes recommendations for higher-ranking transfers.

State-level and District-level Police Complaints Authorities (PCA):

  • Establish a State-level PCA to investigate public complaints against senior police officers for serious misconduct.
  • Create district-level PCAs to address complaints against lower-ranking officers involved in significant misconduct.

National Security Commission (NSC):

  • Form a NSC at the union level to select and place Chiefs of Central Police Organizations (CPO).
  • Ensure a minimum tenure of two years for CPO Chiefs.

-Source: The Hindu


Indian Railways Capital Expenditure and Operating Ratio


Context:

The Indian Railways has witnessed a substantial increase in capital expenditure after integrating its rail budget with the main budget. However, the operating ratio, which evaluates expenses against revenue, has not shown improvement.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Current Challenges Faced by Indian Railways
  2. Long-Term Issues in the Indian Railway System
  3. Ways to Ease and Improve the Transport of Cargo by Indian Railways

Current Challenges Faced by Indian Railways

Indian Railways confronts several pressing issues as outlined below:

Mounting Debt and Financial Sustainability:
  • Indian Railways is increasingly relying on Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) and Extra Budgetary Resources (EBS) due to a lack of surplus funds.
  • The cost of servicing the debt, including principal and interest, now accounts for 17% of revenue receipts, up from less than 10% before 2015-16.
  • Avoiding the financial instability experienced by entities like Air India is crucial.
Declining Share in Transporting Key Commodities:
  • The railways’ share in transporting critical goods has been diminishing.
  • For example, coal transportation, which was 70% in 2011 for 602 million tonnes, dropped to 60% in 2020 for 978 million tonnes.
  • The share of Exim (Export-Import) containers to and from ports has fluctuated between 10% and 18% since 2009-10, with a 13% share in 2021-22.
Reduced Network Tonne Kilometers (NTKM):
  • A significant drop in Network Tonne Kilometers (NTKM) was observed in 2015-16 and 2016-17 by 4% and 5% respectively.
  • Over the seven-year period ending in 2021-22, NTKM showed an annual growth rate of 3.5%, considerably lower than the growth rate in road transport.

Long-Term Issues in the Indian Railway System

The Indian Railway system faces several long-term challenges:

Financial Discrepancy Between Passenger and Freight Services:
  • The railway system grapples with a significant disparity between the profit-generating freight segment and the loss-incurring passenger segment.
  • A 2023 report from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) highlighted a substantial loss of Rs. 68,269 crore in passenger services, which needed to be covered by freight traffic profits.
Sluggish Growth in Freight Segment:
  • From April to July 2023, the annual growth in freight volume and revenue has been just 1% and 3%, respectively, while the Indian economy is growing at 7%.
  • The modal share of the Indian Railways in the country’s freight business has drastically decreased to approximately 27%, a significant decline from its over 80% share at the time of India’s independence.
Artificial Cargo Division Hindering Efficiency:
  • The artificial division of cargo into goods and parcels is impeding operational efficiency.
  • These divisions, influenced by tariff rules, handling procedures, and monitoring practices, do not align with the concerns of shippers.
  • A more efficient approach would be to categorize cargo based on its characteristics as either bulk or non-bulk, termed as value-added.
Competition and Decline in Freight Share:
  • The Indian Railways faces stiff competition from road transport, which has been growing at a faster rate than rail transport.
  • This competition, combined with fluctuating Net Tonne Kilometres (NTKM), challenges the IR in maintaining and expanding its share in freight transportation, necessitating an overhaul of the railway transportation system.
Underperformance in Containerized Domestic Cargo:
  • Despite 15 years of privatization, containerized domestic cargo represents only 1% of IR’s loading and 0.3% of the country’s total freight.
  • Factors such as high haulage rates and the perceived risk of market development with potential losses contribute to this underperformance.

Ways to Ease and Improve the Transport of Cargo by Indian Railways

The Indian Railways can take several steps to enhance the transport of cargo and address its current challenges:

  • Review Tariff Structure: Examine the tariff structure for general cargo, which is often higher than truck rates, and make it more competitive.
  • Efficient Cargo Trains: Replace counterproductive VPH parcel trains with covered wagons to carry cargo more efficiently.
  • Flexible Cargo Options: Provide flexible options that cater to varying cargo sizes, ensuring that shippers can transport cargo efficiently without volume restrictions.
  • Common-User Facilities: Establish common-user facilities at cargo aggregation and dispersal points, particularly in mining clusters, industrial areas, and large cities.
  • Consistent Environmental Regulations: Enforce consistent environmental regulations for rail and road loading/unloading facilities, ensuring a level playing field for both modes of transportation.
  • Volume-Based Tariffs: Introduce tariff structures that are based on the quantity loaded, incentivizing volumetric loading and promoting efficiency.
  • Cargo Aggregators and Optimization: Encourage cargo aggregators and optimize payload and speed for improved operational efficiency.
  • Infrastructure Modernization: Invest in infrastructure modernization, including high-speed rail, station redevelopment, track doubling, coach refurbishing, GPS tracking, and digitalization. These upgrades will enhance safety, efficiency, and cost reduction.

-Source: The Hindu


Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2023


Context:

The Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2023, published by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a non-profit institution, highlights the challenges and constraints faced by the Local Governments in Indian Cities.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the ASICS Report
  2. Ways to Enhance Local Governance in Indian Cities

Key Highlights of the ASICS Report

The ASICS Report on the state of urban governance in Indian cities reveals several key findings:

Better Urban Legislations in Eastern and Southern States:

  • Eastern states and southern states have relatively better urban legislations compared to other regions.

Limited Accessibility of Urban Legislations:

  • Urban legislations are not readily available to the public, with only 49% of states/Union Territories (UTs) publishing municipal legislations on their respective websites.

Deficiency in Master Plans:

  • Approximately 39% of India’s capital cities lack an active master plan, which is vital for urban development.

Financial Dependence of Local Governments:

  • Most local governments in Indian cities rely on state governments for financial support, limiting their financial autonomy.
  • Local governments have limited control over financial matters such as taxation, borrowing, and budget approval, requiring state government approval in most cases.
  • Only Assam empowers city governments to collect all key taxes, while others need state approval for borrowing.

Disparities in Financial Control:

  • Disparities exist in financial control across different city categories, including megacities, large cities, medium cities, and small cities.
  • Mayors in megacities are not directly elected and have shorter tenures, while mayors in smaller cities are directly elected but have limited authority over city finances.

Challenges in Staff Appointments:

  • Mayors and city councils have limited authority in appointing and promoting staff, including senior management teams, leading to accountability and administrative challenges.

Lack of Financial Transparency:

  • Indian cities face challenges in financial transparency, with limited dissemination of quarterly and annual financial audited statements, particularly in larger cities.
  • Only 28% of cities disseminate their annual audited financial statements, dropping to 17% for megacities.
  • Budget information is not adequately published, with smaller cities lagging behind in information dissemination.

Vacant Municipal Posts:

  • A significant number of posts in municipal corporations, municipalities, and town panchayats remain vacant, with the vacancy rate increasing in smaller town panchayats.

Global Disparities:

  • When compared to global metropolises like New York, London, and Johannesburg, Indian cities have far fewer city workers per one lakh population and fewer administrative powers.
  • These global cities have greater authority to impose taxes, approve budgets, invest, and borrow without external approval, unlike Indian cities.

Ways to Enhance Local Governance in Indian Cities:

To improve local governance in Indian cities, several steps can be taken:

  • Empower Local Governments: Empower local governments to collect a broader range of taxes independently, reducing their financial dependence on state governments.
  • Streamline Borrowing Approval: Reduce the need for state government approval for borrowing, especially for well-managed municipalities, to enable more efficient financial management.
  • Administrative Autonomy: Devolve administrative powers to local governments, allowing them to make key staff appointments and promotions, including municipal commissioners and senior management teams. This fosters stronger, more accountable organizations.
  • Uniform Public Disclosure Law: Enforce the Public Disclosure Law consistently across all states and union territories. This ensures the regular publication of civic information, such as internal audit reports, annual reports, minutes of meetings, and decision-making processes. Establish online platforms for easy citizen access to this information.
  • Benchmarking with Global Metropolises: Establish a mechanism for benchmarking Indian cities against global metropolises. Identify best practices in urban governance, staffing levels, and financial management. Encourage the adoption of successful strategies from global peers.
  • Citizen Engagement: Promote citizen engagement through public consultations, feedback mechanisms, and participatory budgeting. Create platforms for citizens to voice their concerns and suggestions, ensuring a more responsive government.
  • Digital Governance Tools: Embrace digital governance tools and platforms to streamline administrative processes, improve transparency, and provide online services to citizens. Implement e-governance initiatives to reduce bureaucratic hurdles.

-Source: The Hindu


Lucy Mission


Context:

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft successfully completed its first flyby of an asteroid named Dinkinesh.

Relevance:

GS III- Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology, Pharma Sector & Health Science

Dimensions of the article:

  1. About Lucy Mission
  2. Asteroids

About Lucy Mission

  • It is named after an ancient fossil 3.2 million-year-old ancestor who belonged to a species of hominins.
  • It is a 12-year journey of eight different asteroids including one in the Main Belt between Mars & Jupiter and seven Trojans. 
  • It is NASA’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids.
  • Lucy will run on solar power out to 850 million km away from the Sun.
  • This makes it the farthest-flung solar-powered spacecraft ever, according to NASA.

Aim & Objective:

  • To get insights into the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
  • Investigating the group of rocky bodies that are circling the Sun in two swarms- one preceding Jupiter and the other trailing behind it.

Donald Johnson Asteroid:

  • The spacecraft’s first encounter will be with an asteroid that lies in the main belt that can be found between Mars and Jupiter. 
  • This asteroid is named ‘Donald Johnson’ after the paleoanthropologist who discovered the fossilised remains of “Lucy”.

Asteroids:

Rocky objects revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. 

Classification based on their orbits:

  • Main asteroid belt b/w Mars and Jupiter.
  • Trojan asteroids orbit a larger planet in two special places, known as Lagrange points, where the gravitational pull of the sun and the planet are balanced.
    • NASA reports the presence of Jupiter, Neptune and Mars trojans. In 2011, they reported an Earth trojan as well.
  • Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA), circle closer to Earth than the sun.
Lagrange points
  • Lagrange points are the locations in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balance each other.
  • Any small mass placed at that location will remains at constant distances relative to the large masses.
  • There are five such points in Sun-Earth system and they are denoted as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5.

-Source: Indian Express


Kawah Ijen


Context:

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, which provides optical images of Earth’s surface, recently captured stunning images of Kawah Ijen Crater Lake.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Kawah Ijen
  2. Copernicus Sentinel-2 Mission

Kawah Ijen:

  • Location: Kawah Ijen is a volcanic crater lake located in East Java, Indonesia. It is situated within the larger Ijen volcano complex, which includes several other craters.
  • Main Attraction: The primary attraction of Kawah Ijen is its stunning turquoise-colored crater lake. This vibrant color is a result of the high concentration of dissolved sulfuric acid and other minerals.
  • Unique Features: Notably, the lake is the largest highly acidic crater lake globally and has been included in UNESCO’s World Biosphere Reserves.
  • Volcanic Activity: The Ijen volcano complex, including Kawah Ijen, is still an active volcanic area. It periodically releases sulfur gases, which can be ignited, producing impressive blue flames, often referred to as “blue fire,” especially visible at night.
  • Sulfur Mining: The region surrounding Kawah Ijen is known for traditional sulfur mining, where laborers extract sulfur from the volcano’s surface.

Copernicus Sentinel-2 Mission:

  • The mention of the Copernicus Sentinel-2 Mission is not directly related to Kawah Ijen but provides additional information.
  • This mission is a European wide-swath, high-resolution, multi-spectral imaging initiative aimed at monitoring changes in Earth’s land surface conditions.
  • It consists of two polar-orbiting satellites in the same sun-synchronous orbit, contributing to the monitoring of Earth’s surface changes.

-Source: The Hindu


Elephanta Caves


Context:

A team of researchers recently discovered two rock-cut Shaivite temple caves older than Elephanta near Rajapur, Ratnagiri.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Elephanta Caves:

  • Historical Significance: The Elephanta Caves are a remarkable example of rock-cut art and architecture, originating from medieval India. They hold historical and cultural significance.
  • Location: Situated in Western India, the Elephanta Caves are located on Elephanta Island, also known as the Island of Gharapuri. This island is located approximately 7 kilometers from the mainland shore of Mumbai.
  • Construction Period: The rock-cut Elephanta Caves were crafted during the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD. The majority of the cave structures are dedicated to Lord Shiva, highlighting their religious importance.
  • Two Groups of Caves: The Elephanta Caves comprise two groups of caves. The first group consists of five large Hindu caves, each with its unique artwork and sculptures. The second group consists of two smaller Buddhist caves.
  • Solid Basalt Rock: These caves are meticulously carved out of solid basalt rock, showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship of the artisans.
  • Artistic Representations: The caves serve as an artistic expression with several significant sculpted images. These include the ‘Trimurti,’ a depiction of the three-headed Shiva, ‘Gangadhar,’ representing the descent of the river Ganga to Earth, and ‘Ardhnareshwar,’ symbolizing Shiva and Parvati in a single body.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Elephanta Caves have earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, further emphasizing their cultural and historical importance.

-Source: Times of India


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