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The Hindu EDITORIAL

9-April-2024

1. Indian aviation, a case of air safety at a discount.

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Issues arising out of their design & implementation.

UPSC may test candidates on aviation safety governance, regulatory compliance, and balancing commercial interests with passenger safety concerns.

Context

● The article addresses concerning safety issues in Indian aviation, including the lack of implementation of safety measures at Karipur Airport and the deferral of revised Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) regulations.

It highlights the potential conflict between prioritizing passenger safety and accommodating commercial interests within the industry.

 Safety Issues at Karipur Airport:

  • Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia, highlighted safety concerns at Karipur Airport due to the absence of Runway End Safety Area, despite recommendations by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) post a 2020 air crash.
  • The Minister warned of potential runway length curtailment if the safety measures weren’t implemented by August 1, 2023.
  • As of April 2024, no action has been taken, and flights continue without restrictions, raising doubts about prioritizing safety.

Revised Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) Regulations:

  • In January 2024, Minister Scindia announced revised FDTL Regulations to address pilot fatigue, including increased rest periods and regular fatigue reports.
  • However, airline owners expressed concerns about needing additional crew to meet these regulations, leading to a deferral of the implementation deadline by DGCA in March 2024.

Safety vs. Commercial Priorities:

  • The inconsistency between emphasising safety and accommodating commercial interests prompts questions regarding the true priority of passenger safety.
  • Lack of implementation of safety measures and deferral of regulations suggest a potential bias towards commercial concerns over safety.

International Standards and Practices:

  • International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) mandates the Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) due to the recognized dangers of fatigue-related incidents.
  • Countries like Japan, Singapore, and the UK prioritize fatigue management with measures like regular rest periods and augmented rest for long-haul flights.

Human Factor and Financial Stress:

  • Neglecting the human factor in airline operations, particularly pilot well-being, poses significant risks.
  • Instances of financial stress among pilots, as seen in past accidents, highlight the need for holistic consideration of pilots’ mental and financial health.
  • Reports of pressure on pilots regarding contract changes raise concerns about their mental state during flight operations.

Proposed Solutions:

  • Adoption of ICAO Annex 1 Standard to recognize foreign licenses could address pilot shortages by attracting experienced Indian captains working abroad.
  • Utilization of retired pilots for simulator training could ease training requirements and release more pilots for active flying duties.

Need for Reform and Transparency:

  • Outdated regulations and systemic corruption hinder progress in Indian aviation.
  • Tatas, in their merger of airlines, should prioritise the human factor and transparency to ensure a trouble-free and world-class airline system.

Conclusion:

  • Indian aviation faces significant safety challenges stemming from inadequate infrastructure, regulatory issues, and commercial pressures.
  • Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that prioritizes safety, addresses pilot well-being, and fosters transparency and reform within the industry.
Issues with aviation safety in India:

Some aviation safety statistics in India:

●  Accident Rate: On average, India sees roughly eight aviation accidents every year [Source – The Business Standard – 14 July 2022].

● Type of Operators: While there are accidents involving scheduled airlines, a significant portion (around 39%) involve non-scheduled operators like chartered flights. Training flights contribute to nearly 29% of accidents [Source – The Business Standard – 14 July 2022].

Issues with Aviation Safety in India:

●  Regulatory Oversight: Inconsistent regulatory oversight and enforcement by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) leads to gaps in safety protocols.

● Infrastructure: Inadequate infrastructure, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, poses safety risks, including outdated navigation aids and inadequate runway maintenance.

● Training and Maintenance: Shortage of skilled personnel for aircraft maintenance and pilot training compromises safety standards.

●  Air Traffic Management: Congested airspace and outdated air traffic management systems contribute to the risk of mid-air collisions.

●  Safety Culture: Lack of a robust safety culture within airlines and regulatory bodies, including insufficient reporting and investigation of safety incidents.

Way Forward:

Enhanced Regulation: Strengthening regulatory oversight and enforcement to ensure compliance with international safety standards.

●  Investment in Infrastructure: Prioritise investment in modernising airport infrastructure and air traffic management systems.

● Training and Skill Development: Improve training programs for pilots, engineers, and air traffic controllers to meet international standards.

●  Promote Safety Culture: Encourage a proactive safety culture within airlines and regulatory bodies, fostering open reporting and learning from safety incidents.

International Collaboration: Collaborate with international aviation authorities and organisations to adopt best practices and standards for aviation safety.

Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges faced in ensuring aviation safety in India, considering the conflict between regulatory requirements and commercial interests. (250 Words /15 marks)

2. Marching ahead with technology absorption.

Topic: GS2 – Governance, GS3 –  Science and Technology – Developing new technology.

Understanding the integration of disruptive technologies in military strategy is crucial for defence preparedness in UPSC exams.

Context
●   The article discusses the Indian Army’s initiative to observe 2024 as the ‘Year of Technology Absorption,’ emphasizing the adoption of disruptive technologies and strategic planning to stay ahead in modern warfare.

 Introduction:

  • The Indian Army is observing 2024 as the ‘Year of Technology Absorption’ to embrace technology and stay ahead in warfare.
  • This initiative falls under the umbrella of Atmanirbharta, emphasizing self-reliance in absorbing disruptive technologies (DTs).

Focus Areas of Technology Absorption:

  • Absorption primarily focuses on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous weapon systems, sensors, robotics, space technology, and hypersonic weapons.
  • Nations like the United States and China have made significant advancements in these areas, shaping future strategic competitions.

Understanding Absorption in Military Context:

  • Absorption involves acquiring, adapting, and integrating technologies into existing structures, termed as legacy systems.
  • This encompasses nuanced aspects often unnoticed by outsiders, ensuring new technologies complement existing platforms rather than replacing them entirely.

Importance of Legacy Systems and Tactics:

  • Despite technological advancements, traditional weapon platforms and tactics remain relevant, with practical application being key.
  • Integration of new DTs with existing systems is crucial, emphasizing the importance of complementing legacy structures.

Critical Analysis of Technological Impact in Warfare:

  • Realised lethality in recent conflicts, like Russia-Ukraine and Armenia-Azerbaijan, hasn’t drastically altered from earlier wars, highlighting technology’s partial role in shaping outcomes.
  • While technological advances enhance battlefield capabilities, factors like traditional methodologies and industrial base strength also influence warfare dynamics.

Adaptation in Modern Warfare:

  • Adaptation to new conditions is essential, focusing on operational and tactical changes rather than solely relying on technological superiority.
  • Tactics must evolve to ensure survivability, with dispersed operations and enhanced leadership crucial for infantry engagements.

Strategic Planning and Implementation:

  • Future planning should integrate technology into conventional platforms rather than replacing them outright, considering vulnerabilities and sensitivities.
  • Democratisation of technology employment at unit levels is vital for effective transformation and readiness.

Macro-level Considerations for Technology Absorption:

  • Organisational restructuring, human resource management, civil-military fusion, data integrity, and procurement policies are critical aspects.
  • Decentralised specialist cultivation and policy adjustments are necessary for sustained progress.

Conclusion:

  • The Indian military’s focus on technology absorption aligns with global trends but requires nuanced understanding and sustained efforts.
  • Lessons from recent conflicts emphasise the importance of integrating technology with traditional tactics for effective military readiness.
 Significance of Technology innovations in modern warfare:

Significance of Technology Innovations in Modern Warfare:

● Enhanced Capabilities: Technology innovations provide advanced weaponry, surveillance systems, and communication tools, improving military effectiveness.

● Precision and Accuracy: Precision-guided munitions and drones enable targeted strikes with reduced collateral damage.

Force Multiplication: Automation and robotics augment human forces, increasing operational capacity and efficiency.

●  Information Dominance: Cyber warfare and electronic warfare technologies offer strategic advantages in controlling information and disrupting enemy systems.

●  Deterrence: Technological superiority serves as a deterrent against adversaries, shaping the strategic landscape.

Adoption Challenges:

Cost: High costs associated with research, development, and acquisition of advanced technologies pose financial challenges for militaries.

● Ethical Concerns: Ethical dilemmas arise regarding the use of autonomous weapons and the potential for civilian casualties.

Cyber Vulnerabilities: Cybersecurity threats pose risks of data breaches, sabotage, and information warfare.

Technological Lag: Developing countries may struggle to keep pace with technological advancements, widening the gap between nations.

Regulatory Frameworks: International agreements and regulations often lag behind technological innovations, leading to legal ambiguities.

Way Forward:

●  Investment in Research: Governments should invest in research and development to foster technological innovation in defense.

● Ethical Guidelines: Establish clear ethical guidelines and regulations for the development and deployment of advanced military technologies.

● International Cooperation: Foster international collaboration to address common challenges and promote responsible use of technology in warfare.

●  Capacity Building: Provide training and resources to enhance cybersecurity measures and mitigate vulnerabilities.

Continuous Adaptation: Remain adaptive to emerging threats and technological advancements to maintain strategic advantage.

Embracing technology innovations in modern warfare offers unprecedented opportunities but also presents complex challenges that require careful management and international cooperation.

Practice Question:  What are the strategic implications of the Indian Army’s ‘Year of Technology Absorption’ initiative for national defense preparedness? Discuss. (150 Words /10 marks)

3. A new methodology with some issues.

Topic: GS2 – Governance.

Crucial for UPSC as it pertains to poverty estimation, economic development, and social welfare policies based on household consumption data.

Context
●       The article discusses the key findings of the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) 2022-23 released by the NSS Office, focusing on methodological changes, implications, and challenges for ensuring comparability and reliability in estimating household consumption expenditure.

 Overview of the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) 2022-23:

  • The NSS Office released key results of the HCES 2022-23, providing all-India estimates of average household monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) for rural and urban areas.
  • State-level estimates include average MPCE for each State and Union Territory (UT) in rural and urban areas.

Changes and Implications:

  • Updated item coverage in the new HCES reflects recent consumption behaviour.
  • Questionnaire split into three parts for food items, consumables and services items, and durable goods, resulting in more reliable estimates.
  • Methodological change in stratification of villages and urban blocks may affect sample representation.
  • Stratification of households based on land possession in rural areas and possession of four-wheeler cars in urban areas may not ensure adequate representation of rich households.

Methodological Issues:

  • Splitting the questionnaire and multiple household visits lead to non-comparability with past estimates.
  • Suggestion to replicate the traditional approach with one-time household visits in an independent random sample to address comparability concerns.
  • Proposal to develop a frame of rich households based on administrative data for a dedicated survey to ensure their representation.

Importance and Recommendations:

  • Bridging the data gap of more than a decade provides firmer estimates for poverty estimation and policy formulation.
  • Addressing methodological challenges will ensure comparability and reliability of survey estimates.
  • Incorporating add-on modules and dedicated surveys can enhance data quality and improve representation of different socioeconomic groups.

Conclusion:

  • The HCES 2022-23 fills a significant data void and offers insights into household consumption patterns, but methodological changes pose challenges to data comparability and sample representation.
  • Addressing these issues is crucial for producing reliable estimates and informing evidence-based policymaking.
 More about the  National Sample Survey (NSS):

NSS Office:

● The National Sample Survey (NSS) Office is a government agency in India responsible for conducting large-scale sample surveys on various socio-economic aspects.

● It operates under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and conducts surveys on topics like employment, consumption patterns, health, education, and household characteristics.

●NSS surveys are conducted using scientifically designed sampling techniques to collect representative data from households across the country.

● The office compiles and analyses the data collected through these surveys to generate valuable insights into the socio-economic conditions, trends, and disparities within the Indian population.

Importance of Data Released by NSS Office:

● Provides policymakers with reliable and comprehensive data to formulate and evaluate policies related to economic development, social welfare, and poverty alleviation.

● Helps in identifying areas of concern and targeting interventions effectively to address specific socio-economic issues.

● Enables researchers, academicians, and analysts to conduct in-depth studies and analysis on various aspects of Indian society and economy.

Facilitates evidence-based decision-making at both the central and state levels by providing accurate and up-to-date information on key indicators.

● Enhances transparency and accountability in governance by making socio-economic data accessible to the public and other stakeholders.

●  Serves as a crucial tool for monitoring progress towards national development goals and assessing the impact of policy interventions over time.

PYQ: Most of the unemployment in India is structural in nature. Examine the methodology adopted to compute unemployment in the country and suggest improvements. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)
Practice Question:  How do methodological changes in the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey affect poverty estimation and policy formulation? Discuss. (150 Words /10 marks)

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