- CURRENT AFFAIRS – 01/11/2023
- Putting Infosys founder Narayana Murthy’s ‘70-hour work week’ idea into perspective
- Akhaura-Agartala rail link to be inaugurated virtually
- Stocktaking climate finance — a case of circles in red ink
- Safety first: Lessons from the train accident in Vizianagaram
- The stance of the Maldives President-elect on India
- Afghans head to Pakistan border as deportation deadline loom
CURRENT AFFAIRS – 01/11/2023
Putting Infosys founder Narayana Murthy’s ‘70-hour work week’ idea into perspective
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy has suggested that young Indians should work longer hours, up to 70 hours a week.
- According to the Time Use Survey in 2019, people aged 15-29 in India spend an average of around 7.2 hours a day on work and related activities in rural areas, and 8.5 hours in urban areas.
In urban areas, the average working hours vary significantly among Indian states, with Uttarakhand having the highest average of 9.6 hours a day, still far below Murthy’s suggested 11.5 hours.
- Narayana Murthy highlights India’s low work productivity as a significant concern.
- He suggests that increasing work productivity is essential for India to compete with countries like Germany and Japan.
- Historical Comparisons
- Murthy cites examples of Germany and Japan, where post-World War II efforts included encouraging citizens to work extra hours to drive economic progress and growth.
- A comparison between India, Germany, and Japan in terms of annual working hours per worker and labor productivity reveals significant insights.
- Working Hours in Germany and Japan
- Germany and Japan had relatively high average annual working hours, reaching 2,200 to 2,400 hours per year (approximately 8.3 to 9 hours per day during a five-day work week without holidays) after World War II.
- As labor productivity increased in Germany and Japan, these two countries experienced a drastic reduction in working hours, with averages dropping to 1,400-1,600 hours per year by 2020 (around 5.3 to 6 hours per day).
- India’s Working Hours
- In contrast, India maintained average annual working hours above 2,000 from 1970 to 2020.
- However, labor productivity only marginally increased from $2 per hour to $9 in the same period.
- Productivity vs. Longer Working Hours
- The question arises: Is it more effective to increase working hours or enhance productivity through technology?
- Prolonged working hours can lead to reduced leisure time and participation in sports and other activities.
- Comparative data shows that Indians spend less time on sports and leisure activities when compared to Germany and Japan.
- Additionally, Indians allocate more time to sleeping and housework.
- Measurement Challenges
- With a vast majority (89%) of the Indian workforce engaged in informal employment, compared to only 4.2% in Germany and around 8% in Japan, measuring labor productivity accurately poses challenges.
- The substantial difference in the nature of the labor force across these nations raises questions about the validity of such comparisons.
Akhaura-Agartala rail link to be inaugurated virtually
(General Studies- Paper II and III)
Source : TH
In a significant historic development, Bangladesh and northeast India are set to re-establish rail connectivity through Tripura, marking the end of a nearly seven and a half decades-long hiatus.
- The Akhaura-Agartala rail connection will be inaugurated virtually by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, symbolizing improved regional connectivity and trade relations.
- Project Details:
- Grant Assistance:
- The Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link project received grant assistance of ₹392.52 crore from the Indian government.
- Rail Line Length:
- The rail link spans 12.24 km, with 6.78 km in dual gauge rail line in Bangladesh and 5.46 km in Tripura.
- Trial Run: To prepare for the inauguration, a goods train from Bangladesh conducted a successful trial run between the two stations.
- Grant Assistance:
- Historical Significance:
- Akhaura junction, located in Bangladesh’s Brahmanbaria district, has a rich history of commercial and cultural ties with India’s northeastern region dating back to the colonial era.
- It was originally constructed in the late 19th century to meet the demand from Assam’s tea industry for a connection to the Chittagong port.
- During the 1950s and 1960s, Akhaura junction was used by people from the northeast to access the East Pakistan market and for transit to Kolkata.
- However, these practices declined, particularly after the 1971 war.
- This reconnection marks a historic revival of the connection between Akhaura and a train station in Agartala itself.
- The Akhaura-Agartala project was revitalized in 2010 when then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed an agreement during her visit to Delhi.
- Enhanced Connectivity:
- Presently, Akhaura is linked by rail, river, and road connections to various industrial areas in Bangladesh, including Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet.
- The Akhaura-Agartala rail link is considered the first step in connecting Tripura to Kolkata through Bangladesh, reducing travel time and distance to reach Tripura, southern Assam, and Mizoram from Kolkata and the rest of India.
- Trade and Economic Implications:
- The rail link is expected to boost India-Bangladesh trade in agriculture products, tea, sugar, construction items, iron and steel, consumer goods, and promote people-to-people relationships.
- The Akhaura-Agartala rail route is seen as a significant initiative that will also enhance India’s connectivity with the Southeast Asian region.
- Additional Projects:
- Apart from the rail link, the two leaders will also inaugurate the Khulna-Mongla Port rail line and the second unit of the Maitree super thermal power plant, further strengthening economic and infrastructural ties between the two countries.
- The Khulna-Mongla Port line is supported by a line of credit from India with a total project cost of $388.92 million.
About Maitree super thermal power plant
- It is a 1,320MW coal-fired power station in Rampal, Bangladesh.
- It’s situated on a 1,834-acre site along the Passur River, approximately 14km away from the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- The project is developed by the Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL), a 50:50 joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB).
- Construction of the project began in April 2017.
- It’s set to become one of the largest coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, alongside the Payra Power Plant in Pataukhali, which initiated test production in January 2020.
- The project is financed through a £1.3bn ($1.6bn) loan from the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of India.
- BIFPCL and EXIM Bank of India entered into a loan agreement in March 2017.
- BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited) was awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract worth £1.15bn ($1.5bn) for the plant in July 2016.
Stocktaking climate finance — a case of circles in red ink
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
Climate finance plays a pivotal role in maintaining the trust of developing countries in future climate change negotiations.
- As the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) approaches (scheduled for November 30 to December 12) in Dubai, the focus on climate finance issues is expected to be prominent.
- The discussion is set in the context of the Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report, which provides essential scientific input for the global stocktake at COP.
- Climate Finance and COP 28:
- The issues surrounding climate finance are likely to be a central theme at COP 28, especially in the context of the Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report’s assertion that the current 1.1°C temperature increase is leading to more frequent hazardous weather events.
- The report’s findings will influence the global stocktake process, where developed and climate-vulnerable countries are expected to engage in discussions on the need for increased mitigation actions by developing countries.
- Developed countries may demand stronger commitments from developing nations, while developing countries are likely to argue that developed nations have failed to meet their commitment of mobilizing $100 billion in climate finance.
- Inadequacy of Current Climate Finance:
- The $100 billion pledged by developed countries under the Copenhagen Change Conference in 2009 is seen as inadequate given the challenges faced by developing nations in transitioning to low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathways.
- The provision of climate finance to developing countries aligns with the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities.
- At the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow in 2021, developed countries expressed regret for being able to mobilize only $79.6 billion, falling short of the $100 billion goal.
- Mandatory Financial Support:
- Under Article 9 of the Paris Agreement, developed countries are obligated to provide financial resources to developing country parties.
- Developed nations must report financial resources provided and projected levels of public financial resources in their Biennial Update Reports (BUR).
- A commitment was made to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020, and according to the Paris Agreement, developed countries must collectively mobilize $100 billion by 2025, with potential for a new collective quantified goal (NCQG) after 2024.
- Developing Countries’ Financial Needs:
- The nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of countries suggest that the collective financial needs until 2030 could be close to $6 trillion.
- India, for example, outlines substantial financial requirements in its NDCs, with $206 billion needed for adaptation and $834 billion for mitigation efforts from 2015-2030.
- The majority of these needs are related to transitioning to cleaner, low-carbon energy systems, which are not adequately funded by existing financial mechanisms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- Just Transition Demands:
- India has advocated for a “just transition” at COP27, emphasizing the need to support individuals and communities currently engaged in fossil fuel-related jobs, particularly in coal mining and the power sector.
- Economic opportunities and livelihood support are required to facilitate the transition from fossil fuel-based employment to more sustainable alternatives.
- Lack of Clarity in Burden Sharing:
- Developed countries are obliged to provide financial resources to developing countries in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
- However, there is no consensus among developed nations on how to distribute this burden fairly.
- One analysis indicates that the United States provided only 5% of its fair share in 2020, underscoring the lack of a unified approach.
- Unclear Mobilization Formula:
- The absence of a mandatory formula for collecting climate finance makes it challenging to predict how the required funds, including those for the NCQG, will be mobilized.
- Neither the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) nor the Paris Agreement specifies the criteria for mobilization; instead, a replenishment process is used.
- Replenishment Process and Funding Agencies:
- The Global Environment Facility (GEF), a UNFCCC-designated funding agency, provides grant and concessional loans to developing countries.
- It undergoes replenishment every four years.
- A similar approach is adopted in the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was established to administer a portion of the $100 billion for developing countries to transition to low-emissions and climate-resilient development paths.
- The GCF’s second replenishment occurred on October 5, 2023, with 25 out of 37 developed countries participating and pledging $9.3 billion in new contributions.
- Notably, the GCF also accepts voluntary contributions from nine developing countries, aiding the counting of international public climate finance.
- Lack of Urgency and Political Will:
- A contrast is drawn with the situation in 2009-10 when the global financial crisis led to swift, massive responses from the G-20 governments to save the global financial system.
- They mobilized $1.1 trillion within weeks to support the International Monetary Fund and multilateral development banks.
- Unfortunately, the same level of strong political will, perceived urgency, and enlightened self-interest is absent when it comes to climate finance transfers from developed to developing countries.
- This shortfall threatens to hinder progress in addressing the global common good of safeguarding the atmosphere.
About Global Environment Facility (GEF)
- The GEF operates as a partnership involving 184 member countries, which include developed and developing nations.
- It was established on the eve of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to address pressing environmental issues on a global scale.
- It is accountable to the United Nations and serves as a financial mechanism for five major international environmental conventions, as follows:
- Minamata Convention on Mercury:
- The GEF plays a role in supporting projects and initiatives aimed at addressing issues related to mercury pollution and the implementation of the Minamata Convention.
- This convention seeks to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.
- Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs):
- GEF serves as a financial mechanism to assist countries in the reduction and elimination of persistent organic pollutants, hazardous chemicals that have long-lasting and harmful effects on human health and the environment.
- United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD):
- GEF provides financial support for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of biological resources.
- It assists countries in implementing projects and strategies to protect and manage biodiversity.
- United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD):
- GEF contributes to projects addressing land degradation and desertification.
- It helps countries implement measures to combat soil erosion and restore degraded lands.
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):
- GEF is a key financial mechanism for climate change-related projects and initiatives.
- It supports actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate impacts.
- Funding and Resources:
- GEF provides grants, concessional loans, and financial support for technical assistance, capacity building, and policy reforms.
- The funding comes from contributions by donor countries.
- The GEF raises funds in replenishment cycles, typically every four years, where donor countries pledge financial support.
- Minamata Convention on Mercury:
About Green Climate Fund (GCF)
- It was created as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to assist countries in implementing climate-related projects and initiatives.
- The GCF was established in 2010 at the 16th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) in Cancun, Mexico.
- Its primary purpose is to channel climate finance to developing countries to help them address climate change challenges.
- It operates under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.
- The GCF raises financial resources from a variety of sources, including contributions from developed countries, public and private sector investments, and international financial institutions.
- Developed countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion per year for climate finance by 2020.
Safety first: Lessons from the train accident in Vizianagaram
(General Studies- Paper II and III)
Source : TH
A train accident in Vizianagaram district, Andhra Pradesh, resulting in 13 fatalities and 38 injuries, has brought attention to the inadequacies in India’s railway safety system.
- This incident, involving the collision of two passenger trains, comes shortly after a catastrophic three-train collision in Odisha’s Balasore district, where over 275 lives were lost.
- These accidents raise concerns about human error and the absence of critical safety systems.
- Factors in Recent Accidents:
- In the Odisha accident, “signalling interference” was suspected to be a factor, while “signal jump” is considered the cause of the Vizianagaram incident.
- In both cases, the indigenous train collision avoidance system, Kavach, was not available on the trains.
- Inadequate Signalling and Telecommunications:
- There has been insufficient attention has been given to upgrading the signalling and telecommunications network, which plays a crucial role in railway safety.
- Human Resources Shortage:
- Despite recruiting nearly 1.12 lakh candidates for operational safety-related positions between April 2022 and June 2023, there were still around 53,180 vacant posts as of July 1, 2023.
- Safety Measures Taken:
- Several safety measures have been implemented, including the interlocking of level crossing gates, mechanisation of track-laying, installation of electrical or electronic interlocking systems, and the creation of the Rashtriya Rail SanrakshaKosh to upgrade critical safety assets.
- However, these efforts have not prevented tragic accidents.
- Accountability and Holistic Revamp:
- There is a need for accountability at the senior railway management level, especially at the divisional level, when accidents occur.
- The members of the Railway Board should be drawn from outside the railway system, particularly professionals and technocrats, to bring fresh perspectives and expertise.
- A holistic revamp of the railway system may be necessary in the near future to address systemic safety concerns.
The stance of the Maldives President-elect on India
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
Since his significant victory in the Maldivian presidential election in September 2023, President-elect Mohamed Muizzu has made it clear that he intends to remove Indian troops from the Maldives while emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the country’s independence and sovereignty.
- His stance is rooted in the opposition’s ‘India Out’ campaign, which criticized outgoing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s foreign policy of prioritizing relations with India.
- Indian Military Presence:
- The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) reports that there are 75 Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives.
- Their role is to maintain and operate the Dornier aircraft and two helicopters that were gifted to the Maldives by the Indian government.
- These helicopters have been in the Maldives for over a decade, predating the term of outgoing President Solih, who assumed the presidency in 2018, defeating President Abdulla Yameen.
- The Dornier aircraft was presented to the Maldives in 2020, following a request from Male.
- These aircraft and helicopters serve various functions, including medical evacuation, search and rescue operations, training, surveillance, and patrol.
- Changing Priorities:
- President-elect Muizzu’s commitment to the return of Indian troops, particularly the military personnel operating the gifted aircraft and helicopters, underscores a shift in the Maldives’ foreign policy.
- The ‘India Out’ campaign and the desire to prioritize the country’s sovereignty signal a reevaluation of the Maldives’ international relationships.
- The impending withdrawal of Indian troops from the Maldives raises questions about the impact on bilateral relations and the broader geopolitical landscape in the Indian Ocean region.
- President-elect Muizzu’s position may have implications for regional security cooperation and the nature of the Maldives’ foreign policy in the future.
- Muizzu’s Opposition:
- President-elect Mohamed Muizzu, aligned with former President Yameen and their political camp, has expressed opposition to Indian military presence in the Maldives.
- During Yameen’s presidency (2013-2018), Maldives-India relations were strained, partly due to Yameen’s insistence that India take back helicopters gifted to the Maldives.
- Muizzu asserts that he is “pro-Maldives” first and emphasizes that he won’t permit the military presence of India, China, or any other country in the Maldives.
- However, he has touted the benefits of Chinese assistance to the Maldives while avoiding discussions on debt obligations.
- Rationale for Mr. Muizzu’s Stance:
- Muizzu’s repeated pledges to remove Indian military presence may be driven by two key factors.
- First, international media framed the Maldives elections as a referendum on India and China, resulting in questions about his stance on geopolitical rivalry.
- Second, he aims to maintain consistency with his pre-election pledge to supporters.
- Concrete foreign policy decisions will only be known after he assumes office in November.
- Challenges Facing Muizzu’s Government:
- Muizzu faces not only the challenge of handling the Indian military presence but also significant economic issues.
- The Maldives is set to pay approximately $570 million annually in 2024 and 2025 to service external debt, with a record $1.07 billion in 2026, according to the World Bank.
- Addressing the looming debt crisis may prove difficult without cooperation from India and China, the Maldives’ primary lenders and development partners.
- India’s Interests:
- Over the past four years, India has become the Maldives’ principal security and economic partner, committing $1.4 billion to address the socio-economic needs of Maldivians.
- India’s strategic interests are closely tied to the Maldives, given concerns about growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region.
- The Maldives is a member of the ‘Colombo Security Conclave,’ a regional initiative involving India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and the Maldives, focused on maritime cooperation and regional security.
- National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval emphasized India’s deep interest in collective security in the Indian Ocean region during the Conclave’s talks held in the Maldives.
About India-Maldives Relations
- India and the Maldives have strong and enduring relations based on shared ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious, and commercial ties.
- India was among the first countries to recognize the Maldives’ independence in 1965 and established diplomatic relations with the newly independent nation.
- India’s diplomatic presence in the Maldives began with a mission at the level of Charge d’Affaires (CDA) in 1972, which was later upgraded to a resident High Commissioner in 1980.
- In November 2004, the Maldives took a significant step by opening a full-fledged High Commission in New Delhi, becoming one of its only four diplomatic missions worldwide at that time.
- Economic Cooperation:
- Tourism: Tourism plays a crucial role in the Maldivian economy, with India serving as a major source of tourists and job opportunities.
- Infrastructure Development: In August 2021, Indian company Afcons signed a contract for the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), the largest-ever infrastructure project in the Maldives.
- Trade Partner: India became the Maldives’ third-largest trade partner in 2021.
- Currency Swap Agreement: A bilateral USD Currency Swap Agreement was signed between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Maldives Monetary Authority in July 2019.
- Security Partnership:
- Joint Exercises: India and the Maldives conduct joint military exercises, including “Ekuverin,” “Dosti,” “Ekatha,” and “Operation Shield” (initiated in 2021), strengthening defense cooperation.
- Training Support: India provides the majority of training opportunities for the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), addressing approximately 70% of their defense training requirements.
- The Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka and India.
- The Maldives is an archipelago consisting of 26 coral atolls and over 1,000 coral islands, grouped in a double chain of 20 atolls.
- It is the smallest Asian country in terms of land area and the smallest Muslim-majority country in the world.
- The capital of the Maldives is Malé, located on one of the islands.
- Dhivehi is the official language, and English is widely spoken, especially in the tourism and business sectors.
- Tourism is the mainstay of the Maldivian economy, contributing significantly to the country’s GDP.
- The Maldives faces challenges related to climate change, as it is one of the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels.
- Sustainability and environmental conservation are critical concerns for the nation.
Afghans head to Pakistan border as deportation deadline loom
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : The Indian Express
More than 20,000 Afghans living in Pakistan have rushed to the borders ahead of a government deadline for 1.7 million undocumented individuals to leave or face arrest and deportation.
- Decades of Afghan Migration:
- Millions of Afghans have sought refuge in Pakistan over several decades, fleeing successive conflicts in their homeland.
- An estimated 600,000 Afghans arrived in Pakistan after the Taliban took power in August 2021.
- The Pakistan government has set a deadline for the deportation of undocumented Afghans, and it has warned of arrests for those who refuse to leave.1st Nov and transfer them to new holding centers for processing and subsequent deportation to Afghanistan.
- Afghans will be allowed to leave voluntarily until the November 1 deadline.
- After the deadline, staggered deportations will begin from Thursday, according to Pakistan’s Interior Minister SarfrazBugti.
- Interior Minister Bugti stated that only “completely illegal” individuals would be deported from Pakistan.
- Overcrowding at Borders:
- Over 18,000 people gathered in a long queue stretching over seven kilometers at the Torkham border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
- An additional 5,000 people arrived at the southern Chaman crossing in Balochistan.
- Many Afghan refugees are waiting in vehicles, lorries, and trucks to cross the border.
- Reluctance to Return Home:
- Some Afghans, particularly those without legal papers, are determined to stay in Pakistan despite the deportation orders.
- Government’s Intent and Crackdown:
- The Pakistani government has asserted that the deportations are necessary to protect the country’s welfare and security, citing a rise in attacks it attributes to militants operating from Afghanistan.
- In a significant move, authorities in Peshawar oversaw the demolition of hundreds of illegally constructed mud houses where Afghan refugees lived in poverty.
- This deportation policy has garnered widespread support from the Pakistani public, as the prolonged presence of refugees has strained the country’s infrastructure.
- Mass Departures and Border Crossing:
- More than 100,000 Afghan migrants have left Pakistan since the government’s announcement of a one-month deadline for undocumented Afghans to leave the country.
- Over 80% of these departures have occurred through the northern Torkham border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where a significant number of Afghan migrants reside.
- Harassment and Coercion:
- While authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have not initiated arrests due to voluntary departures, Afghan refugees in Karachi and Islamabad have reported arrests, harassment, and extortion.
- Human Rights Watch has raised concerns about the Pakistani government’s use of threats, abuse, and detention to pressure Afghan asylum seekers without legal status to return to Afghanistan or face deportation.
- The organization warns that returning Afghans may face significant security risks, including threats to their lives and well-being, given the ongoing instability in Afghanistan.
- Reasons for Deporting Afghans:
- Pakistan’s government has initiated the deportation of Afghans they consider to be residing illegally in the country due to escalating security concerns.
- There has been a notable increase in attacks in Pakistan’s border regions, prompting this response.
- Caretaker Interior Minister SarfrazBugti cited the occurrence of 24 suicide attacks since January, with 14 of these attacks attributed to Afghan nationals, as a primary reason for the deportation order.
- Pakistan accuses the Taliban government in Afghanistan of providing sanctuary to militant groups believed to be responsible for these attacks, such as the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), which shares a similar ideology with the Afghan Taliban.
- Despite Pakistan’s requests to the Taliban government to contain the TTP’s presence on its soil, the Taliban has been unable or unwilling to do so, according to political analyst Hasan Askari.
- Historical Afghan Refugee Presence in Pakistan:
- Pakistan has been a major host for refugees, including millions of Afghans who sought refuge over several decades due to the impact of successive wars and conflicts in Afghanistan.
- A significant number of Afghan refugees reside in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which shares an ethnic and cultural connection with Afghanistan, particularly among the Pashtun community.
- The UN refugee agency reported that at least 600,000 Afghans arrived in Pakistan following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
- Refugee Status and Legal Framework:
- Pakistan lacks a domestic legal framework for addressing refugee issues, and the country is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.
- This situation leaves Afghan migrants and refugees in Pakistan in a vulnerable position as they are subject to changing policies and regulations without established legal protections.