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Daily Current Affairs

30-October-2023

1. 8 feared dead, 32 injured in train accident in A.P.

Topic: GS3 – Indian railway safety.

Context:

  • A passenger train collision occurred at Kantakapalli station in Andhra Pradesh, resulting in casualties.

Issue of train safety in India:

Introduction

 Despite being one of the safest modes of transportation in India, train accidents still occur, resulting in significant casualties and property damage. In 2021-22, there were 146 train accidents in India, resulting in 1,535 deaths and 3,459 injuries.

Factors Contributing to Train Safety Issues in India

  • Human error:Human error is the leading cause of train accidents in India, accounting for over 70% of cases. This can include errors by drivers, signalmen, and other railway staff.
  • Aging infrastructure:India’s railway infrastructure is aging and in need of repair. This can include tracks, bridges, and rolling stock.
  • Lack of safety measures:Some safety measures, such as trackside fencing and interlocking systems, are not always in place or well-maintained.
  • Encroachment on railway land:Encroachment on railway land by people and businesses is a major problem in India. This can lead to accidents, such as train derailments.

Consequences of Train Safety Issues

  • Loss of life and injuries:Train accidents can result in significant casualties, including deaths and serious injuries.
  • Economic losses:Train accidents can also cause significant economic losses, such as damage to railway infrastructure and goods being transported.
  • Disruption to transportation:Train accidents can disrupt transportation services, causing inconvenience and delays for passengers.

Measures to Improve Train Safety in India

  • Improve human error management:This can be done through better training and supervision of railway staff, as well as the use of technology to reduce the risk of human error.
  • Upgrade railway infrastructure:The Indian government has invested heavily in upgrading railway infrastructure in recent years. However, more needs to be done to ensure that all tracks, bridges, and rolling stock are in good condition.
  • Implement and enforce safety measures:All safety measures, such as trackside fencing and interlocking systems, must be in place and well-maintained.
  • Evict encroachers from railway land:The government must take steps to evict encroachers from railway land. This can be done through a combination of education, awareness-raising, and enforcement.

Conclusion

         Improving train safety in India is a complex challenge that will require a sustained effort from the government, railway staff, and the public. By taking the necessary steps, India can reduce the number of train accidents and make its railways safer for everyone.

Question: What are the major factors contributing to train safety issues in India? Suggest effective measures to improve train safety in the country.

2. The Indian Railways’ revenue problem

Topic: GS3 – Indian railway.

Rising Capital Expenditure and Debt Trap

  • Indian Railways (IR) has increased capital expenditure (capex) but without improving its operating ratio.
  • A lower operating ratio signifies better profitability and more surplus for investment.
  • The IR has been relying on Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) and Extra Budgetary Resources (EBS) due to a lack of surplus.
  • Rising debt liabilities, especially in principal and interest payments, have impacted IR’s revenue receipts.

Productive Investments and Economic Growth

  • Despite the rising capex, IR’s financial performance is linked to its role in stimulating the country’s economic growth.
  • Investment in railways can boost manufacturing, services, tax revenue, and job opportunities.
  • However, investments must be productive to enhance IR’s revenues and sustainability.

Challenges in Freight Business

  • IR’s freight segment is profitable, while the passenger segment incurs substantial losses.
  • A Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report highlights a significant loss in passenger services, offset by profits from freight traffic.
  • The IR faces challenges in increasing freight volumes and revenue.

Sluggish Freight Performance

  • In April-July 2023, IR’s freight volume and revenue grew at 1% and 3%, respectively, while the economy grew at 7%.
  • IR’s modal share in India’s freight business has declined to around 27% from over 80% during independence.

Improving the Freight Business

  • A paradigm shift is needed to categorize cargo based on bulk and non-bulk characteristics rather than goods and parcels.
  • Key commodities like coal, iron ore, and cement, which account for the majority of tonnage and revenue, have seen a decline in IR’s share in their transport.
  • The Net Tonne Kilometres (NTKM) index has experienced fluctuations, with occasional falls, affecting rail transport’s growth rate.

Conclusion:

         Indian Railways faces challenges in balancing its capex, managing debt, and improving the performance of its freight business. To ensure sustainable growth, investments must be productive, and a shift in cargo categorization is needed.

Question: How does the increasing capital expenditure and rising debt liability impact the financial performance of Indian Railways, and what measures can be taken to ensure productive investments in the rail sector?

 

3. ‘Penny drop’ verification is mandatory for NPS fund exit.

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Context:

  • The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has introduced “penny drop” verification as a mandatory step for National Pension System (NPS) fund withdrawals.
  • Central Recordkeeping Agencies (CRAs) are responsible for the verification process.

What is “penny drop” verification :

  • “Penny drop” verification is a security measure used to validate the authenticity of a financial transaction, especially in the context of bank accounts and fund withdrawals.
  • The term “penny drop” refers to the practice of depositing a very small amount of money, often just one cent or a fraction of the currency unit (hence the term “penny”), into a bank account to verify its accuracy and ownership.

4. Developed countries to overshoot carbon emissions goal, says study

Topic: GS3 – carbon emissions

Key findings of the study:

  • Developed countries are responsible for three-fourths of existing carbon emissions, but they are projected to emit 38% more carbon in 2030 than their commitments.
  • A study by the Council for Energy Environment and Water (CEEW) reveals that 83% of this emissions overshoot will be attributed to the U.S., Russia, and the European Union.
  • The study precedes the 28th Conference of Parties (COP-28) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, where countries are expected to report on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for emission reductions.
  • Developed countries’ NDCs fall short of the global average reduction needed to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, with only a 36% reduction commitment instead of the required 43%.
  • Developed nations, which were obligated to lead global emissions reduction efforts with legally binding targets, are not on track to meet their 2030 goals.
  • Based on current emissions trajectories, their projected cuts are estimated to reach only 11% by 2030.
  • Most developed countries are not on track to meet their 2030 targets, with only Belarus and Norway appearing to make progress, while Japan and Kazakhstan are expected to miss their goals by a single percentage point.

5. Ahead of Deepavali, Modi urges citizens to buy local products

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Context:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to support the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign and purchase indigenous products ahead of Deepavali.
  • The ‘Vocal for Local’ spirit should extend beyond festival shopping to include everyday necessities.
  • India is becoming a significant manufacturing hub, with many global brands producing products in the country.
  • Supporting Indian-made products contributes to the ‘Make In India’ initiative and fosters national pride.

Importance of promoting local economy:

  • Promoting the local economy helps boost domestic industries, leading to increased production and job opportunities.
  • It reduces dependence on imports, making the nation more self-reliant and resilient against global economic fluctuations.
  • Supporting local businesses and products often leads to improved quality and innovation as competition increases.
  • A thriving local economy can contribute to community development and overall prosperity.
  • It reduces carbon emissions and environmental impact associated with long-distance transportation of goods.
  • Local economic growth can enhance the government’s tax revenue, enabling investments in infrastructure and public services.
  • Promoting local businesses and products can preserve cultural heritage and traditions.
  • It fosters a sense of community and pride in locally-made goods.
  • During crises, a strong local economy can provide stability and resources to withstand challenges.
  • It can lead to stronger relationships between consumers and local businesses, promoting trust and accountability.

Question: Discuss the significance of promoting the local economy for sustainable development and self-reliance in the context of a nation’s economic growth. Provide relevant examples and strategies for achieving this objective.

6. What you need to know about passive funds

Topic: GS3 – economy.

What are passive funds?

  • Passive funds are investment funds that aim to replicate the performance of a specific benchmark index or asset class.
  • Unlike active funds, which are actively managed by fund managers making investment decisions, passive funds follow a predetermined set of rules to mimic the index’s performance.
  • Passive funds are designed to provide investors with broad market exposure and typically have lower expense ratios compared to active funds.
  • They are sometimes referred to as index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and are popular for their simplicity and cost-effectiveness.
  • Passive funds do not seek to outperform the benchmark but rather aim to match its returns, making them a suitable choice for investors who prefer a hands-off, low-cost approach to investing.

 

7. Economic Consequences of the Military Conflicts

Topic: GS3- Economy

Context:

  • There are worries that the prolonged armed conflict in the Middle East could have an impact on the regional and international economies.
  • The Middle East crisis has the potential to further upset the delicate economic balance at a time when the world is already dealing with the conflict in Ukraine and the inflationary effects of pandemic stimulus.

Challenges for Central banks

  • Global central banks are already battling with ways to lower inflation.
  • Calculations pertaining to growth-inflation dynamics may be affected by an abrupt increase in oil prices brought on by the conflict.
  • This makes it difficult for central banks to manage growing inflationary pressures and stabilize economies at the same time.

Comparisons to Past Conflicts

  • Historical conflicts like the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the ensuing oil embargo are compared.
  • Given the Arab world’s division, the US’s influence over important actors, and the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, the current situation might not be as dire, but it is still important to think about what would happen if the conflict continued and the Palestinian humanitarian crisis got worse.

Worst-Case Scenario and Global Consequences

  • The least likely scenario, a full-scale conflict between Iran and Israel, two regional giants, could have disastrous effects on the world economy.
  • A blockade of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route for the world’s oil supply, may result from such a confrontation.
  • This would push the price of a barrel of crude oil above $150, which would raise world inflation to almost 6.7% and possibly slow down global growth by almost two percentage points.

Impact on Key Elections and Worldwide Recession

  • A global recession brought on by this kind of economic shock would be especially worrisome for nations like the US and India, which have significant elections coming up.
  • The situation makes maintaining global economic stability much more difficult since central banks have to walk a tightrope between combating inflation and avoiding a severe slowdown in economic growth.
  • Other factors that aggravate this difficulty are the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and China’s slowing economy.
  • The development of the Middle East armed conflict will continue to have an impact on the future economic environment, which is yet unpredictable.

8. Lewis Model for Industrialization

Topic: GS3- Economy

What is Lewis Model?

  • The famous economist Sir William Arthur Lewis presented a model in 1954 that showed how developing nations with large labor forces prepared to work for subsistence wages may become industrialized.

  • Lewis claimed that workers in industries with low or negative marginal productivity, such as agriculture, could shift to the growing manufacturing sector if salaries in factories were just high enough to draw in workers.
  • This strategy was thought to be especially applicable to nations like India that have an excess of laborers.

India’s Deviation from Lewis’s Model

  • Lewis’s vision, however, is not in line with the reality in India.
  • About two thirds of Indian workers were employed in agriculture until the early 1990s, and during this time, manufacturing’s percentage of employment expanded just slightly.
  • Before rising to 45.6% and 46.5% in the two years that followed the COVID-19 epidemic, the labor force participation rate in the farm sector had been declining steadily to 42.5% in 2018–19.
  • The percentage stayed above pre-pandemic levels in 2022–2023, at 45.8%.
  • The percentage of manufacturing has decreased, from 12.6% in 2011–12 to 11.4% in 2022–2023.
  • Compared to the construction and trade, hotel, and restaurant industries, this reduction occurred even before the epidemic and currently employs fewer people.
  • It has not turned out as envisaged that the surplus labor from subsistence to capitalist sectors will cause a structural transition. Labor has been moving more within subsistence industries than into manufacturing and high-productivity services.
  • High-productivity services and manufacturing have not been the main areas of job creation outside of agriculture.

State-Level Disparities

  • State-level employment figures for manufacturing are sometimes lower than those for construction and services, particularly in those where a sizable portion of the workforce is employed in agriculture.
  • Gujarat is the one state where this trend does not apply, with around 24 percent of the labor force working in manufacturing. Nonetheless, a sizable share of Gujarat’s labor force is still employed in agriculture.

Challenges to Replicating Lewis’s Model

  • Although the Lewis model proved useful in the 1950s, a lot has changed in the industrial world.
  • Robotics and artificial intelligence are two examples of labor-saving and labor-displacing technologies that are making manufacturing more capital-intensive.
  • India’s policy think tank, NITI Aayog, is investigating ways to create jobs in and around agriculture as part of its work on a new model for economic development.
  • These positions could involve handling tasks including gathering, sorting, packing, shipping, processing, storing, and selling products, or giving farmers inputs and services.
  • Outside of traditional agriculture, job and growth potential are presented by the utilization of agricultural leftovers and bio-based goods.

Conclusion

  • Even though it was popular at the time, the Lewis model does not accurately reflect the current state of Indian economy.
  • India must find new ways to create jobs in the face of a changing economy, where manufacturing is becoming less labor-intensive and a focus on agriculture and related fields.

9. Jehovah’s Witnesses

Topic: Prelims

Context:

  • Two people were killed and scores injured after a series of blasts at a Sunday prayer convention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect near Kochi.
  • The incident took place at the Zamra International Convention and Exhibition Centre at Kalamassery, where around 2,500 faithfuls from across the state had gathered for a prayer session.
  • Dominic Martin, an estranged member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who is now in police custody, posted a video on social media taking responsibility for the act.

Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses is a Christian denomination that does not believe in the Holy Trinity (the doctrine that God exists in three equal persons of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit).
  • They worship Jehovah as “the one true and Almighty God, the Creator”.
  • They base their beliefs only on the text of the Bible.
  • They don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter festivals to be inspired by Pagan traditions.

Origins of the Group

  • The origins of the group lie in a Bible Student movement started in the 1870s by American pastor Charles Taze Russell.
  • Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is located in Warwick, New York.
  • The main body to disseminate their doctrines is called the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in India

  • Since 1905, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in India.
  • They established an office in 1926, and were officially registered in 1978.
  • Because of their evangelistic activities, members in India have occasionally been charged with attempting to convert others.

Landmark Case: Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors vs State of Kerala & Ors. (1986)

  • The law around alleged disrespect to the National Anthem was laid down by the Supreme Court (SC) in this case.
  • The SC granted protection to 3 children belonging a Christian sect, iterating that forcing them to sing the national anthem was violative of their fundamental right to freedom of religion (Article 25).
  • Their parents pleaded before Kerala HC that the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect of Christianity permitted worship of only Jehovah (Hebrew name for God). Since the anthem is a prayer, they could stand up in respect, but could not sing.
  • The SC held that standing up respectfully but not singing oneself neither prevents the singing of the National Anthem nor causes disturbance to people assembled to sing.
  • Hence, it does not constitute an offence under PINH Act 1971 (Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971)

10.Worsening Air Quality in Delhi Despite Fewer Farm Fires

Topic: GS3- Environment

Context:

  • The number of field fires in Punjab has decreased this year, but Delhi’s air quality has gotten worse, hitting its worst levels since 2020.
  • The average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi from October 1 to October 29 was 210, second only to the 257 recorded in October 2020, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • Thus, why is the air more polluted in Delhi even if less pollutants are entering the city this year?

Role of Rain in Air Quality

  • Rainfall is the main factor influencing Delhi’s air quality.
  • Six rainy days fell on the city in October 2022, when the average AQI was 198.
  • On the other hand, Delhi experienced seven rainy days in 2021, the month with the best air quality in October, with an average AQI of 166.
  • Rainfall is crucial for reducing urban air pollution, which is mostly brought on by particle matter (PM2.5 and PM10).
  • Rain can remove these particles from the air, improving its quality.

Impact of Weather on Air Pollution

  • The weather has a significant impact on Delhi’s air quality, but other elements such as farm fires, dust, vehicle emissions, and terrain also have an impact.
  • Strong winds and further rain help disperse pollutants after monsoon rains. The city saw more than 120 mm of rain in October of 2021 and 2022, which improved the quality of the air.
  • In contrast, hardly much rain fell in 2020.
  • October 17 of this year saw 5.4 mm of rain in Delhi; however, there hasn’t been any rain since.
  • Falling temperatures also limit the way pollutants disperse.

Challenges Ahead and Potential for Worsening Air Quality

  • Since there hasn’t been much rain or wind in the past few weeks, the weather hasn’t been ideal for dispersing pollutants, so they have accumulated in the atmosphere.
  • Rain is not predicted for the next few days, which could cause the concentration of pollutants in the air to increase even more.
  • Furthermore, as the wheat sowing season draws near and the paddy harvest continues, there can be additional agricultural fires in Punjab in the days to come.

Ban on Polluting Buses Entering Delhi

  • Only buses that are electric, CNG-powered, and BS-VI compliant will be permitted to enter Delhi from other states as of November 1.
  • The goal of the action is to lessen the amount of pollution that comes from cars because the area’s air is polluted by older diesel buses, notably BS-III and BS-IV.
  • Following an inspection, Gopal Rai, the Environment Minister of Delhi, demanded that all buses operating in the regions of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana that make up the National Capital Region (NCR) be completely banned.
  • At entry points, the Transport Department will launch a campaign to inspect buses and take enforcement action against those that break the laws.

11. India’s first district-level study on hypertension flags disparities in care

Topic: GS2- Health

Context:

  • A comprehensive study into differences in hypertension treatment at the district level in India was carried out by AIIMS Delhi in cooperation with scientists from other countries.
  • This groundbreaking study emphasizes the need for a more focused strategy to address hypertension, which is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.”
  • Just 37% of India’s 188.3 million hypertensive patients acquire a diagnosis, 30% undergo therapy, and only 15% are able to maintain normal blood pressure.
  • The study, which was published in JAMA Network, examined information from 707 districts’ worth of those who participated in the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5).

District-Level Variations in Hypertension Care

  • Significant differences in the treatment of hypertension between districts were found by the study.
  • The range of diagnosis to treatment rates was 6.3% to 77.5%, control to 2.7% to 76.6%, and therapy to 8.7% to 97.1%.
  • The researchers’ advocacy for a specific and decentralized public health strategy at the district level resulted from their assessment that these variances were significant.
  • The study found that the heterogeneity within states is frequently missed by state-level analysis.
  • Chief Medical Officers and other local authorities can identify specific areas of concern and create customized solutions for the management of hypertension with the aid of this district-level analysis.

Importance of Local Healthcare Workers

  • The research emphasized the need of community-based hypertension and diabetes screening conducted by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA workers) and other local healthcare professionals.
  • Improving and raising detection rates is the aim.
  • Healthcare professionals can improve access to care and lessen the strain on tertiary healthcare facilities by using door-to-door surveys to screen for hypertension and treating patients at the closest medical facilities.

Dashboard for Tracking Progress

  • A dashboard that offers district- and state-level statistics on India’s hypertension caseload was developed by the researchers as part of the study.
  • Academicians and administrators are among the stakeholders who can obtain data based on gender and sociodemographic gaps using this dashboard.
  • It offers vital information that local government officials and medical professionals need to make educated decisions and take focused action to enhance the treatment of hypertension.

Way Forward:

  • The results of the study highlight the need for a more complex, district-level strategy to manage hypertension in India, considering the significant differences in rates of diagnosis, treatment, and control between districts.

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