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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs 13th Oct, 2017

  • IASbaba
  • October 13, 2017
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 13th Oct 2017

Archives

NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

  • Separation of powers between various organs , dispute redressal mechanisms and institution
  • Structure, organization and functioning of Executive and Judiciary.

General Studies 3:

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

Ban on sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR

In news:

The Supreme Court has banned the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) till November 1 to assess the impact on air quality and curb pollution. This means that firecrackers won’t be legally sold in Delhi and its surrounding areas during and after Diwali. The period of the ban—till 31 October—covers the festival of Diwali, which is celebrated with elaborate fireworks.

Reason behind ban:

The bursting of firecrackers releases a heavy dose of carcinogens in the atmosphere, presenting a public health challenge for the entire city.
This is similar to smoking at public places—a regulated activity—but different from consumption of liquor, which harms the individual.
A regulation is thus required as it is clear that bursting of firecrackers by one person presents a health challenge to another.

Concerns raised:

  • The decision behind ban requires weighing trade-offs, which would depend on numerous inputs from scientific organizations, regulatory institutions, public policy experts and civil society.
    Since a court of law does not have in-house expertise in these domains, it should leave such matters to the executive.
  • The Supreme Court delivered its arguments in the broader framework of the “right to breathe clean air” and the “right to health.” It would hurt the right to livelihoods of thousands who depend heavily on the sale of firecrackers during Diwali.
  • Bans are rarely effective. It is difficult to imagine that no firecracker sale will happen in the entire territory of Delhi and NCR as a result of the Supreme Court order. A Supreme Court ban which cannot be implemented in spirit would have the unfortunate effect of undermining the authority of the apex court in the eyes of the people.
  • Given that it came just about 10 days before the festival, it will be tough to impose the ban on an industry that has already produced stocks to order.
  • It offers too piecemeal a solution, akin to the even-odd licence number scheme of the Delhi government in 2015.
  • Besides, while the court has admitted that other factors like stubble burning contribute to the disastrous air quality of Delhi, the focus on fireworks makes its response seem unequal.

Way ahead:

  • North India needs a more holistic solution to the toxic air that residents breathe at the onset of winter.
    The major sources of pollution in the NCR have been clear enough to drive policy changes. While their relative contributions are still indeterminate, these include construction dust, vehicular pollution, waste burning, generators and crop residue burning in the Indo-Gangetic plains.
    To tackle each of these will take decisive and persistent policy actions, not panic-driven and ill-considered bans.
  • The elected government is in the best position to elicit scientific and economic inputs and take a call, even if it involves expending political capital. The governments at the Centre and the states should involve different agencies like the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation and the pollution control boards and invest in setting regulatory standards for the medium to long term.

Conclusion:

In the absence of more feasible solutions, it is unlikely a firecracker sale ban will avert the kind of health emergency that struck Delhi last year. Matters of policy and implementation are ideally left to the legislature and executive. The court has a moral obligation to step in if they are in complete dereliction of their duty to the people.
Instead, the Supreme Court could have urged government to intensify its efforts to influence the public will, and the process could have played out under its cautionary eye. That would have been a better solution than to impose a ban which may be observed more in the breach.

Connecting the dots:

  • The ban on fire-cracker sale by Supreme Court in the month of November is a welcome step but falls short of providing a holistic solution to environmental problem of the capital Discuss.

NATIONAL

TOPIC: General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc

Indian Railways- Analyzing Debroy committee’s recommendations

Introduction:

Derailments on the tracks of Indian Railways have always been a big technical and management challenge. In recent years, there have been a spate of “derailments”.
On August 19, there was an unusually bad case of the derailment of Uttaranchal Express at Khatauli. In the absence of a permitted block by the traffic department, the track repairing staff took the unacceptable risk of going ahead with the track repair instead of putting a restriction on the movement of trains in the interest of safety of passengers. The responsibility was rightly fixed on the civil engineering department staff and officials.

Background:

Over 90,000 km of railway track in India is, perhaps, the most sensitive asset of the railway network. Hundreds of trains hurtle across, carrying millions of passengers.
The “braking distance” is no more than about two-thirds of a kilometre (against only about 200 ft on the highways). Every inch of this track is to be watched meticulously.
The traffic load on the Indian Railways is ever increasing and the saturation level on its important routes is unduly high, leaving little cushion for maintenance.
Furthermore, the track is under greater pressure after the increase, in 2005, of the permissible loading capacity of each wagon based on wagon axle loads.
Large projects to relieve the pressure, like the construction of dedicated freight corridors, will take time. The question, at this stage is: In which direction should safety measures head?

Recommendations of Debroy committee:

In 2014, the government set up the Debroy Committee, whose primary terms of reference appeared to be to suggest measures to reduce the alleged phenomenon in the Indian Railway management system of “thinking in silos”. In its report of 2015, wholesale structural changes were suggested, introducing what may be called “management generalism”.

Issues:

  • The recommendations, if accepted, will remove “professionalism” from the top management level of the Indian Railways.
    On the other hand, this is their unique strength as this enables the views of the railway ministry to be articulated effectively by the chairman and railway board members based on their specialised experience.
    Incidentally, fixing of accountability, as in the case of the Khatauli accident, would not have been possible in the new system, as in that there may not be any chief civil engineer, chief operating manager or even a member civil engineering or member traffic etc available for fixing accountability and responsibility. They would be replaced by “generalists” or “quasi generalists”.
  • Specialists versus generalists: The present “professional oriented” system for the Indian Railways was adopted from the very outset because of the size of its operations and its unique role in the economy of the country. Sometimes, there have been problems. But the question is whether these have been because of the system or despite it.
    A theory often propounded is that professionals are likely to have less vision. This is repudiated by various examples in science and technology management structures.
    The theory that specialist organisations like the Indian Railways lead to “managerial inbreeding” is also fallacious. As is well known, inbreeding — biological or managerial — takes place in small groups of similar people. The Indian Railways are a huge group of dissimilar persons in nearly 20 disciplines interacting with each other.

Reducing departmentalism:

The answer to the issue of departmentalism does not lie in merger of services and de-professionalisation of the Ministry of Railways. Departments must not be gagged or demolished.
They must be allowed to flourish and have their say for they may be giving expression to a genuinely valid factor, which may clash with equally valid points of view of other departments.
It is for the DRM, GM or the Railway Board to arrive at what may be called the “Balance of Advantage Position” (BAP), which will be in the best overall interest of the organisation.
What is required is that major efforts be made towards improving the machinery for arriving at a BAP, including the use of new techniques for assessing aptitudes, capabilities etc.

Connecting the dots:

  • One of the recommendations of Debroy committee has been to remove departmentalism and introduce generalism. The idea is to solve the problem of ‘thinking in silos’ in Indian railways. Discuss the issue with the recommendation and why we need to encourage professionalism instead.

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