15th February 2021

Lateral Entry Into the Administrative Services

Recently, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has issued an advertisement to recruit 30 persons at the Joint Secretary and Director level in the Central administration through Lateral Entry.

    • The term lateral entry relates to the appointment of specialists, mainly those from the private sector, in government organisations.
    • Government is looking for outstanding individuals, with expertise in revenue, financial services, economic affairs, agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare, road transport and highway, shipping, environment, forests and climate change, and new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce.
  • Advantages of Lateral Entry:
    • Addresses Complexity:
      • People with expertise and specialist domain knowledge are required to navigate the complex needs of present day administrative challenges.
    • Meets Personnel Requirement:
      • Lateral entry will help in addressing the problem of shortage of IAS officers at the Centre.
    • Organisation Culture:
      • It will help in bringing the values of economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the Government sector.
      • It will help in building a culture of performance within the Government sector.
    • Participatory Governance:
      • In the present times, governance is becoming more participatory and a multi actor endeavour, thus lateral entry provides stakeholders such as the private sector and non-profits an opportunity to participate in the governance process.
  • Issues Involved:
    • Need for Transparent Process:
      • The key to the success of this scheme would lie in selecting the right people in a manner which is manifestly transparent.
    • Difference in Organisational Values:
      • The value systems between the government and the private sector are quite different.
      • It is important to ensure that the people who come in are able to have the skills to adjust to a totally different system of functioning. This is because the government imposes its own limitations.
    • Profit Motive vs Public Service:
      • Private sector approach is profit oriented. On the other hand, the motive of Government is public service. This is also a fundamental transition that a private sector person has to make while working in government.
    • Internal Resistance:
      • Lateral entry is likely to face strong resistance from in service Civil Servants and their associations. It may also demotivate existing officials.
    • Issue of Conflict of Interest:
      • The movement from the private sector raises issues of potential conflict of interest. Thus, a stringent code of conduct for entrants is required.
    • Narrow Scope:
      • Lateral entry at only top level policy making positions may have little impact on field level implementation, given the multiple links in the chain of command from the Union Government to a rural village.
  • Lateral entry is not a panacea for the ills of governance. However, it opens a small window to get the best from the American and British system and puts pressure on the system to reform and perform.
  • For lateral entry to deliver and more importantly win the confidence of the most oppressed sections of society, it must be fair, transparent, and egalitarian. Agencies such as UPSC can play a role based on a selection process approved by Parliament.

 

Saksham Portal and Seaweed Mission: TIFAC

The Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) has launched two new initiatives – SAKSHAM(Shramik Shakti Manch) Job Portal and a Seaweed Mission.

  • TIFAC is an autonomous organization set up in 1988 under the Department of Science & Technology to look ahead in the technology domain, assess the technology trajectories, and support innovation by networked actions in select areas of national importance. It will facilitate creation of 10 lakh blue collar jobs.
  • SAKSHAM Portal It is a dynamic portal for jobs/mapping the skills of Shramiks (workers) vis-a-vis requirements of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and other industries all across the country. It is an all India Portal.
    • Features:
      • High Technology Enabled: The portal with the demand and supply data uses algorithm and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, for geo spatial information on demand and availability of Shramiks, and also provides analysis on skill training programmes of Shramiks.
      • Automatic Updation: The data/information pertaining to the Shramiks and the industries (especially MSME) are being updated automatically through various whatsapp and other links.
    • Advantages:
      • For Workers: This would empower Shramiks by projecting their candidature directly to the MSMEs & other employers and would also address aspects related to their skill proficiency levels.
        • It will minimise migration of Shramiks provide job opportunity in proximate MSMEs.
      • For Industry: This would also eliminate the dependence of industry on the middlemen/labour contractor for their manpower requirements.
    • Other Related Initiatives:
      • ShramShakti Portal (Ministry of Tribal Affairs).
      • ASEEM Portal (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship).
      • NMIS Dashboard (National Disaster Management Authority).
  • Seaweeds Mission:
    • Out of the global seaweed production of 32 million tons fresh weight valued around 12 billion US dollars, China produces 57%, Indonesia 28% followed by South Korea, whereas India is having a mere share of 0.01-0.02%.
    • Despite several advantages, commercial seaweeds cultivation has not taken place in the country at an appropriate scale, as being practiced in South-East Asian countries.
    • About the Mission:
      • It has been launched for commercial farming of seaweeds and its processing for value addition towards boosting the national economy.
      • It envisages following activities:
        • Establishing model demonstration farms over one hectare for cultivation of economically important seaweeds in nearshore and onshore along the Indian coast.
        • Establishment of seaweed nurseries for supplying seed material for large scale farming of economically important seaweeds in the country.
        • Establishment and demonstration of processing technologies/recipes for edible seaweeds in line with consumer acceptability or cultural food habits.
        • An activity on seaweed cluster development including value chain development, supply chain development, collection of data on environmental, economic and social impacts of seaweed projects in the country.
    • Advantages: By an estimate, if seaweed cultivation is done in 10 million hectares or 5% of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area of India, it can
      • Provide employment to 50 million people.
      • Set up a new seaweed industry.
      • Contribute to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
      • Enhance ocean productivity.
      • Abate algal blooms.
      • Sequester millions of tons CO2.
      • Could produce bioethanol of 6.6 billion litres.

Seaweeds

    • They are the primitive, marine non-flowering marine algae without root, stem and leaves, play a major role in marine ecosystems.
    • Large seaweeds form dense underwater forests known as kelp forests, which act as underwater nurseries for fish, snails and sea urchins.
    • Some species of seaweeds viz. Gelidiella acerosa, Gracilaria edulis, Gracilaria crassa, Gracilaria verrucosa, Sargassum spp. and Turbinaria spp.
  • Location:
    • Seaweeds, found mostly in the intertidal region, in shallow and deep waters of the sea and also in estuaries and backwaters.
    • The southern Gulf of Mannar’s rocky intertidal and lower intertidal regions have rich populations of several seaweed species.
  • Ecological Importance:
    • Bioindicator: When waste from agriculture, industries, aquaculture and households are let into the ocean, it causes nutrient imbalance leading to algal blooming, the sign of marine chemical damage. Seaweeds absorb the excess nutrients and balance out the ecosystem.
    • Iron Sequestrator: These aquatic organisms heavily rely on iron for photosynthesis. When the quantity of this mineral exceeds healthy levels and becomes dangerous to marine life, seaweeds trap it and prevent damage. Similarly, most heavy metals found in marine ecosystems are trapped and removed by seaweeds.
    • Oxygen and Nutrient Supplier: On their part, the seaweeds derive nutrition through photosynthesis of sunlight and nutrients present in seawater. They release oxygen through every part of their bodies. They also supply organic nutrients to other marine life forms.
  • Role in Climate Mitigation:
    • Seaweed has a significant role in mitigating climate change. By afforesting 9% of the ocean with seaweed, it is possible to sequester 53 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Hence, there is a proposal termed as ‘ocean afforestation’ for farming seaweed to remove carbon.
  • Other Utilities:
    • They can be used as fertilizers and to increase aquaculture production.
    • When livestock is fed with seaweed, methane emission from cattle may be reduced substantially.
    • They can be buried in beach dunes to combat beach erosion.
    • It is used as an ingredient in preparing toothpaste, cosmetics and paints.

 

National Coal Index

Recently, the Ministry of Coal has started commercial auction of coal mines on a revenue share basis using the National Coal Index (NCI).

  • NCI was rolled out in June 2020.
    • It is a price index which reflects the change of price level of coal in a particular month relative to the fixed base year.
      • The base year for the NCI is Financial Year 2017-18.
  • Compilation:
    • Prices of coal from all the sales channels of coal, including import, as existing today are taken into account for compiling the NCI.
    • The amount of revenue share per tonne of coal produced from auctioned blocks would be arrived at using the NCI by means of defined formula.
  • Sub-Indices: NCI is composed of a set of five sub-indices:
    • Three for Non Coking Coal and two for Coking Coal.
    • The three sub-indices for Non Coking Coal are combined to arrive at the Index for Non Coking Coal and the two sub-indices for Coking Coal are combined to arrive at the Index for Coking Coal.
    • Thus, indices are separate for Non Coking and Coking Coal.
      • As per the grade of coal pertaining to a mine, the appropriate sub-index is used to arrive at the revenue share.

Coal

  • Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel which holds 55% of India’s energy need.
  • Based on the uses, coal is divided into two types:
    • Coking Coal:
      • This type of coal when subjected to high temperature carbonisation i.e. heating in the absence of air to a temperature above 600 degree Celsius, forms a solid porous residue called coke.
        • Coke is fed into a blast furnace along with iron ore and limestone to produce steel in steel plants.
      • Coking coal is desired to be of low ash percentage.
      • Use:
        • Mainly used in steel making and metallurgical industries.
        • Also used for hard coke manufacturing.
    • Non Coking Coal:
      • These are coals without coking properties.
      • Use:
        • This is the coal used in thermal power plants to generate electricity, so it is also known as steam coal or thermal coal.
        • Also used for cement, fertilizer, glass, ceramic, paper, chemical and brick manufacturing, and for other heating purposes.
  • Coal is also classified into four ranks: anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. The ranking depends on the types and amounts of carbon the coal contains and on the amount of heat energy the coal can produce.

 

SC and ST applicants are half as likely to get selected for a Ph.D. programme at IITs

Recently, data collected from a series of Right to Information (RTI) applications pertaining to five older Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), has indicated that the acceptance rate is skewed against students from the Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities.

  • SC and ST applicants are half as likely to get selected for a Ph.D. programme at IITs as aspirants from the General Category (GC) are.
  • Data from the RTI Applications:
    • Acceptance Rate:
      • It refers to the number of students selected for every 100 students who applied.
        • It stood at 4% for students from General Category (GC).
        • It falls to 2.7% for OBC students and further down to just 2.16% for SCs and 2.2% for STs.
      • This finding comes against the backdrop of the Education Ministry’s data submitted to Parliament in 2020 showing the failure of the IITs to fill Ph.D. seats as per reservation.
        • The government’s reservation policy mandates allocation of 15% seats for students from the SCs, 7.5% from STs and 27% from OBCs.
    • Significance:
      • The IITs have often cited the lack of applicants from the marginalised communities for the situation. However, the RTI data reveals quite the opposite.
      • The percentage of GC students among those admitted was always higher than their percentage among those applied. However, the converse was true for SC, ST and OBC candidates.
  • Education Ministry’s Data:
    • Of the total admissions made by all IITs from 2015 to 2019, only 9.1% went to SC and 2.1% to ST.
    • Only 23.2% seats went to applicants from the OBCs. Remaining 65.6%, or roughly two-thirds of all the seats, went to General Category applicants.
  • Reasons for Falling Rate:
    • Given by IITs:
      • Eligibility Issue:
        • Some institutions could not even fill all the seats in the general category since they did not get enough eligible candidates.
      • Economic Causes:
        • Students of the required calibre tend to take up industry jobs rather than join for a PhD which has extra uncertainties and lower income levels during PhD and in some areas even post PhD.
        • It is possible that the family background and economic level may have an impact on such candidates applying for a PhD.
    • Argument of ‘Merit’:
      • There has been long-standing opposition among IIT administrators and faculty to reservations, which they see as a form of unjust government intervention in their meritocratic institutions.
      • The recent report of an Education Ministry-constituted committee recommended the abolition of reservation in faculty recruitment.
        • The committee based its recommendations primarily on arguments claiming the need for IITs to maintain their academic excellence and the lack of candidates from the reserved categories who fulfil the qualification criteria.
    • A More Systematic Problem:
      • The problem is also of practice and access to quality school education, leading to poor base.
  • Advantages of following the Reservation Policy:
    • An Example to Other Institutions:
      • The IITs are and should continue to be institutions of national importance. But they also have social functions.
      • They should set an example to other institutions by creating opportunities for and encourage the underprivileged communities to excel in research and innovation.
    • Bridging Inequalities:
      • Affirmative action and caste-based reservation can help bridge inequalities in society, enable the underprivileged to have access to quality education, promote diversity, and, more importantly, remove obstacles to equality and correct the past wrongs.
  • Policy intervention has to begin sooner, in the early school years, to attempt to equalise opportunities in education.
  • In addition, negative attitudes, perceptions and stereotypes about the ability of students belonging to the SC/ST groups are a major hurdle. Policy should recognise how such perceptions hold back individuals and groups, and seriously attempt to think of ways to alter these.
  • Diversity issues can also be addressed through outreach campaigns.
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