Gati Shakti: Transforming India’s Logistics
GS Paper III
Context: The PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan’s budget was raised from 5,000 crore to 10,000 crore in the Union Budget 2023, while the Indian Railways received a 2.4 lakh crore allocation. By raising the railroads’ share of freight transit from 27% to 45% and resolving infrastructure issues, this strategy seeks to increase India’s logistics competitiveness. To meet these goals, however, a number of concerns, including connection and operational problems, infrastructure issues, and a lack of integration, must be resolved.
What is PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan?
- Comprehensive infrastructure development: The Indian government unveiled a comprehensive infrastructure development plan in November 2021.
- Goal: By putting a heavy emphasis on infrastructure including roads, trains, airports, ports, public transit, waterways, and logistics, the plan seeks to boost economic growth and sustainable development.
- Budget Increase: The PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan budget has been enhanced in the Union Budget 2023.
- The proposal calls for the construction of five major corridors:
- The East-West Corridor would run from Silchar in Assam to Porbandar in Gujarat, connecting India’s east and west coastlines.
- It would connect India’s northern and southern regions, running from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The North-East Corridor, which stretches from Kohima in Nagaland to Imphal in Manipur, would link the northeastern states to the rest of India.
- The South-West Corridor, which stretches from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, will link the southwestern states to the rest of India.
- The East Coast Corridor, which stretches from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Kolkata in West Bengal, will link the east coast states to the rest of India.
- The railroads are an integral part of the strategy since they have a pan-Indian network and provide an effective and affordable method of logistical transportation.
The Freight Movement at Present:
- Effect of freight movement: Today, 65% of freight is moved by road, which increases congestion, pollution, and logistical costs.
- Convenience over cost: Although rail transit is less expensive than road transportation, convenience has surpassed affordability, and the railways have lost ground to more adaptable means of freight transportation.
- For instance: Of the 1.2 billion tonnes of freight moved in 2020–21, 44% of it was coal, followed by 13% iron ore, 10% cement, 5% food grains, 4% fertiliser, 4% iron and steel, etc.
- Commodities other than bulk: The transfer of non-bulk goods makes up a relatively modest portion of rail freight.
- Traffic in containers has increased as a result of how convenient it is to transport non-bulk goods in containers. To carry containers quickly and affordably, railway systems throughout the world are making significant investments in cutting-edge rail infrastructure.
Infrastructural, Operational, and Connectivity Challenges:
The national transporter is facing a number of difficulties, which is causing a shift in freight business to highways.
Infrastructure: Some of the issues customers experience with regard to infrastructure include longer train transit times, delays in pre- and post-movement procedures, a lack of terminal infrastructure, the upkeep of suitable sheds and warehouses, and an unreliable supply of waggons.
Connectivity: The cost of keeping merchandise on hand goes up when there isn’t integrated first- and last-mile rail connectivity, which also raises the risk of damage from repeated handling.
Strategies to Improve Efficiency in Rail Cargo Movement in India:
- To effectively deploy resources, the Indian Railways must upgrade the infrastructure and promote private involvement in the administration and operation of terminals, containers, and warehouses.
- The first and last mile problem encountered by the railroads might be resolved by creating a distinct company within the railways to manage intermodal logistics in collaboration with the private sector.
- To make rail transportation competitive with roadways and to make it easier to export goods by train to nearby nations like Bangladesh and Nepal, there has to be an integrated logistics infrastructure with first- and last-mile connections.
- One of the two cargo waggons may use an Uber-like concept where customers could reserve the waggon using an online application, which would assist to increase the use of these waggons.
- The use of railroads for freight transportation is essential to raising India’s logistical competitiveness.
- With the help of PM Gati Shakti, the Indian Railways are modernising its infrastructure, but in order to meet the goals for rail freight transportation, ongoing project monitoring and the identification of new priority areas are necessary.
The PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan has the power to improve India’s logistics system and raise the proportion of freight that is moved by rail. However, there are a number of obstacles that must be resolved, including connection and operational problems, infrastructure issues, and a lack of integration. These issues may be solved by multimodal logistics parks, dedicated freight corridors, and the creation of a new entity under the railways.
Source: The Hindu
Digital India Act, 2023
GS Paper II
Context: The Information Technology Act, 2000, which has been in effect for many years, is being thoroughly updated by the Union government’s Digital India Act, 2023.
Reconsideration of Safe Harbour:
- The administration is reevaluating “safe harbour,” a crucial component of cyberspace.
- The safe harbour concept states that online “intermediaries” are not liable for anything that third parties publish on their websites.
- This idea enables social media sites to escape responsibility for user content.
- Regulations like the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which compel platforms to remove postings when directed to do so by the government or as required by law, have curbed safe harbour in recent years.
What is the Digital India Act, 2023?
- The new law, known as the act, intends to update the outdated Information Technology Act, 2000.
- The Act addresses a variety of challenges, including artificial intelligence (AI), cybercrime, data security, deepfakes, competition between internet platforms, and online safety.
- The Act also seeks to address “new sophisticated types of user harms” like trolling, catfishing, and phishing that have evolved in the years after the IT Act’s passage.
Why was this act enacted?
Data protection: The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, which is primarily concerned with processing personal data in India, would be put into effect in tandem with the Digital India Act.
Data processing that is legitimate: It aims to handle the processing of digital personal data in a way that acknowledges both the necessity to process personal data for lawful reasons and the right of persons to have their personal data protected.
The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill and this Act will cooperate to provide comprehensive regulation.
Key features of the Digital India Act:
- Developing new rules for the use of cutting-edge technology, such as 5G, IoT, cloud computing, metaverse, blockchain, and cryptocurrency.
- Reclassifying internet intermediaries into several groups with their own sets of rules rather than assigning them a single, generic intermediate title.
- Taking away web intermediaries’ “safe harbour” defences against third-party content infringement or willful misrepresentation.
- Establishing digital norms and regulations for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) systems.
- Criminalising identity theft, spreading of personal information without permission, and cyberbullying.
- A legislative foundation for fostering the expansion of India’s digital economy is provided by the Digital India Act.
- It attempts to build an environment that is favourable for the implementation of digital technology across many industries.
- The Act also tackles a number of issues relating to data privacy and cybersecurity, which are crucial concerns in the digital era.
- All residents should have easier access to digital services thanks to the Digital India Act’s promotion of digital literacy.
- It will contribute to the development of an open, trustworthy, and safe digital infrastructure.
- The Act would promote the use of digital technology across a range of industries, including healthcare, education, and agriculture, which will boost production and efficiency.
Source: The Hindu
Boosting India’s Tourism Sector
GS Paper III
Context: One of the world’s most rapidly growing tourist destinations is India, and in the next years, it is expected to be the main axis of growth. Budget 2023 lays out the strategy for advancing tourism in mission mode as it ushers in Amrit Kaal, the time of intensive and robust growth.
Vision to develop 50 destinations:
G20 offered an economic boost: The tourism industry has benefited greatly from India’s G20 chairmanship and the Prime Minister’s initiative to build 50 tourist attractions around the nation.
Worldwide ranking: This project is anticipated to raise India’s position on the Travel & Tourism Development Index published by the World Economic Forum.
Employment: The development of these locations will increase job possibilities and support the nation’s total GDP growth.
The central government’s push on tourism:
a number of projects and policies By putting in place numerous policies and programmes, the central government is dedicated to assisting the travel and tourist industry.
There will be six themes for the Union budget to develop: Six topics for the sector’s growth have been specified in the Union budget, including convergence, public-private partnership, creativity, innovation, digitalization, and destination development.
Power of collaboration:
Cooperation is crucial: For the growth and promotion of tourism in India, cooperation between the public and commercial sectors is crucial. This teamwork-based strategy fosters innovation, heightens competition, and yields imaginative outcomes.
To show how a coordinated strategy may increase tourism in an area, the Prime Minister gave examples of successful partnerships including Kashi, Kedarnath, the Statue of Unity, and Pavagadh.
Role of Technology in Tourism:
Technology and tourism are becoming more and more intertwined, and a coordinated strategy that uses technology can improve the Indian tourist industry.
Using virtual and augmented reality: Virtual and augmented reality (AR and VR) technologies may give tourists virtual tours of iconic sites and simulations of cultural events.
Artificial intelligence: Chatbots and digital assistants powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can help travellers plan their excursions and offer real-time assistance while they’re on the road.
“6P” approach to unlocking India’s tourism potential:
Planning, Place, People, Policy, Process, and Promotion (abbreviated as 6P)
The six major pillars (6Ps) must be addressed as part of a comprehensive plan to fully realise India’s tourism potential.
The government’s budget session effectively addressed each of these 6Ps by addressing destination planning and management, infrastructure development, sustainability and safety, human capital development, policy and process interventions to align the Center and states, as well as promoting the story of Indian tourism.
Tourism: A state subject
As tourism is a state topic according to the constitution, the central tourist agency has pushed to have it added to the concurrent list so that both the federal government and the states may make decisions on its policies.
Granting tourist infrastructure status would add extra fuel to the expansion of the sector.
The creation of a National Tourism Board is another idea under consideration by the administration.
It’s the perfect time for India to step up efforts to rank among the top three travel and tourism economies globally with the appropriate legislation and strategies in place.
Source: Indian Express
Gender Gap in STEM Field
GS Paper III
Context: In order to close the gender gap in the disciplines of STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the United Nations has emphasised the need of inclusive technology and digital education.
- STEM areas, which stand for science, technology, engineering, and math, continue to be dominated by men.
- Women’s underrepresentation in STEM disciplines presents a significant concern given their ubiquitous influence in contemporary society.
- Recently, International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD) was marked with the subject “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.
Gender Gap in STEM Field:
In higher education throughout the world, 18% of females are pursuing STEM degrees compared to 35% of guys.
There is a gender gap even within the STEM areas, with about equal percentages of boys and girls choosing to pursue the natural sciences while much more males choose to pursue engineering, manufacturing, and construction.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 20 percent of males and 41 percent of women in developing nations are illiterate.
When compared to their male counterparts, ladies enrol in engineering programmes in India at a much lower rate.
According to statistics from the All India Survey of Higher Education for 2020–2021, there were 36,86,291 students enrolled in UG, PG, MPhil, and PhD engineering programmes overall, with 71 percent of them being male and 29 percent female.
Women dominated males in the STEM fields, with a 53 percent female enrollment rate, and there have been recent rises in this proportion. Nevertheless, due to a number of reasons, these increases may not guarantee that employment will rise as well.
Reasons for Gender Gap:
- Social views: Despite the availability of resources like mentors and programmes granting scholarships, cultural attitudes towards women’s education generally discourage families from making the same investments in it as they do for boys. For instance: Typical gender roles for women include becoming housewives.
- Gender bias in the classroom: For instance, in India, basic math and science textbook images include more than 50% of boys and only 6% of girls.
- More than a quarter of girls in the UK feel that the industry’s male dominance has discouraged them from pursuing a career in technology, and only 22% of them can identify a notable woman who works in it.
- Discrimination in the workplace: Women still experience the same kind of prejudice in the workplace as they do in society.
- When a scientist should start: When women often get married or have children is also when scientists are at the height of their careers. This imposes a lag on their career. Even a six-month delay in scientific research, especially experimental work, suggests that your work is neglected and that your career will suffer.
- Absence of STEM Institutions: There are no established STEM institutions or universities in the neighbourhood.
- Absence of female role models in STEM fields has a cascading effect on females.
The government has put in place a variety of policies to support women in science. Some are:
The Department of Science and Technology’s Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI) pilot initiative promotes gender parity in science and technology. 30 academic and research institutions have been chosen by DST for the first phase of GATI, with an emphasis on the representation of women in leadership positions, faculty, and the number of female students and researchers.
Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) is a Department of Science and Technology initiative designed to support female researchers and keep them from abandoning their work for personal or familial reasons.
Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research, or SERB-POWER, is a programme that offers organised assistance in research to guarantee that Indian women scientists involved in R&D activities have equal access to opportunities and weighted opportunities.
University Research Consolidation via Innovation and Excellence in Women’s Universities (CURIE) Program: To increase women’s engagement in science and technology, only female universities are receiving funding for the construction of cutting-edge research labs and research infrastructure.
Plan Vigyan Jyoti: It inspires female students in grades 9 through 12 to seek careers and studies in science and technology, especially in fields where women are underrepresented.
National Award for Woman Scientist: The Ministry of Earth Sciences has established a special award called “National Award for Woman Scientist” that is given to one woman scientist each year on Foundation Day in order to recognise the contributions of women scientists in the field of Earth System Sciences.
Creches are being made up by several institutions so that the moms of scientists may continue their scientific job undisturbed.
Social transformation is necessary because biological asymmetry, institutional structures, and childhood experiences have given rise to an attitude in kids, particularly in girls, that they aren’t good enough.
Flexibility on the side of the worker: Situations should be made simpler to work for a woman in the STEM area specifically and the rest of the field generally. A decent first step in this direction would be to provide menstrual pads and childcare facilities.
Additional improvements include implementing well-planned role models for STEM programmes, reducing the pay gap, and creating return-to-work programmes for women.
Source: Indian Express
Modern and Smart Power Transmission System
GS Paper II
Context: A Task Force report to update India’s transmission infrastructure was recently accepted by the government.
Under the leadership of CMD, POWERGRID, a taskforce was established by the Electricity Ministry to make recommendations on methods to modernise the Transmission Sector and make it smart and future-ready.
The Task Force Report has suggested the following ideas to help the government realise its goal of giving the people access to dependable, cheap power around-the-clock:
With centralised remote monitoring, operate the grid
Use of SCADA and flexible AC transmission devices in the operation of substations (FACTs)
PMU-based wide-area measurement, data analytics, and AI/ML-based predictive maintenance
deployment of a GIS/Hybrid Substation based on Process Bus for Protection Automation and Control.
Need for a Modern transmission system:
- The transmissions system should be able to handle a rise in the proportion of renewable capacity in the power mix since India is focusing on renewable energy, which is inherently variable.
- In an era of rising cybercrime, the transmission system requires strong cyber security protection.
- Self-correcting systems and data-driven decision-making are required features to guarantee 24-7 availability, which is crucial for business.
- India experiences severe aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, which contribute to a consumer-level power scarcity.
- The average cost of supply (ACS) per unit is significantly higher than the average revenue realised due to cross-subsidization and low tariffs (ARR).
Initiatives by government for improving Access:
- KUSUM scheme: The scheme intends to promote the use of solar pumps for agriculture and provides a suitable alternative to the power subsidy model in agriculture.
- Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya scheme):It aims to provide last-mile connectivity and power connections to all the unelectrified households in India
- Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY): The rural electrification scheme provides for (a) separation of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders; (b) strengthening and augmentation of sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas
India should make advantage of technological breakthroughs like smart metres and predictive maintenance to guarantee a continuous supply of energy to every home.
Source: Indian Express
Facts for Prelims
Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX):
- IBEX is a tiny NASA spacecraft created to map the region where the Sun’s winds collide with those from other stars.
- The spacecraft is roughly the size of a bus tyre, and while it is on its nine-day orbit around our planet, its instruments are pointed in the direction of the intergalactic border.
- It was put into orbit in 2008 and has been there for about 15 years.
- IBEX is designed to map the solar system’s edge and investigate how the solar wind and interstellar medium interact.
- IBEX employs two neutral atom imaging cameras to find energetic neutral atoms produced near the heliosphere’s edge.
- While the spacecraft spins, the cameras may scan the sky and create a map of the border.
- IBEX has produced a number of significant discoveries since its start, including:
- the first accurate observations of the solar system-entering interstellar wind, which comes from the direction of the constellation Scorpius.
- The identification of an energetic “ribbon” of neutral atoms that spans the sky and may result from the interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium.
- The interstellar barrier is still being studied by IBEX, which is still in use.
- Its mandate has been repeatedly extended; the most recent extension extends it through 2023.
- Our knowledge of how the solar wind and interstellar medium interact has improved because to IBEX’s results.
- Models of the heliosphere and the location of the solar system in the galaxy have benefited from it.
Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP):
- In November 2008, it was introduced by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India.
- As of the end of the year in 2023, there were 9082 shops.
- Of of the 764 districts in the nation, 743 have been covered by the PMBJP.
- This programme guarantees that everyone in the nation may easily get inexpensive medicine.
- By the end of December 2023, the Government hopes to have 10,000 Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs) in operation.
- The PMBJP’s product line includes 280 surgical equipment and 1,759 medicines.
Moreover, new medications and nutraceuticals items have been introduced, including protein powder, malt-based dietary supplements, protein bars, immunity bars, sanitizer, masks, glucometers, and oximeters.
First IAF woman officer to command frontline Unit:
- Shaliza Dhami will lead a missile squadron in the Western region as the first female officer in the Indian Air Force to take command of a front-line combat unit.
- The missile squadron is outfitted with equipment that can counter threats that are airborne, such as fighter planes, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are flying at low to high altitudes.
- Unlike the traditional armed forces and services, where Colonels command officers and troops and lead them from the front, women are mostly appointed in administrative roles. Because a Commanding Officer (CO) is a highly sought-after job in the Army, its opening to women is significant.
- The most recent milestone also occurs two months after the army sent Captain Shiva Chouhan, a female officer, for the first time on the Siachen glacier, and weeks after the Indian Army chose 108 female officers for advancement to the rank of colonel from lieutenant colonel.
- In comparison to the two decades before, more doors have been opened for women in the military in the last seven to eight years. In all three services, gender barriers have been removed.
- When the IAF made the decision to induct women into the fighter stream for the first time in 2015, it marked one of the turning points for women in the military.
- Women are not only piloting fighter jets; they are also piloting the newest transport aircraft, such as the C-17 and C-130J, being trained at the National Defense Academy, assuming command positions, serving in extremely high-altitude environments, and being enlisted in the personnel below officer cadre (PBOR).
- Soon, it’s anticipated that women will operate submarines. Tanks and infantry combat roles, meanwhile, are still off-limits to women.