Topic 1 : UNESCO names Kozhikode ‘city of literature’
Why in news: The city of Kozhikode in Kerala was added in UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN).
- Gwalior from Madhya Pradesh was also among the 55 new cities to join the network.
- These cities have been handpicked to represent seven creative fields:
- crafts and folk arts,
- media arts, and
- Kozhikode was included in the category of literature and Gwalior in the category of music.
About the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN)
- The UCCN was created in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.
- It now includes 350 cities in over a hundred countries.
- The network is aimed at leveraging the creative, social, and economic potential of cultural industries.
- It was launched to promote UNESCO’s goals of cultural diversity and strengthen resilience to threats such as climate change, rising inequality, and rapid urbanisation.
- It encourages a culture of creativity in urban planning and solutions to urban problems.
- Objective of the UCCN
- The UNESCO Creative Cities Network allows member cities to recognise creativity as an essential component of urban development, through partnerships involving the public and private sectors and civil society.
- It envisages to develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector.
- These cities have to achieve the UN agenda of sustainable development.
- Areas of action
- The objectives of the network are implemented both at the level of the member cities and at the international level, through sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices.
- There are professional and artistic exchange programmes, research and evaluations on the experience of the creative cities.
- The annual conference of network cities
- A highlight of the network is the annual conference of mayors and other stakeholders of network cities, which offers a unique occasion to strengthen ties between creative cities from across the world.
- The main objective of the conference is to exchange practical information on policies and activities carried out by cities and stimulate inter-city collaborations.
- The last conference was held in Santos, Brazil.
- This year’s conference was in Istanbul.
- The next conference will be held in July 2024 in Braga, Portugal.
- What members have to do
- Every four years, member cities are required to submit a Membership Monitoring Report, with the aim of demonstrating their steadfast commitment towards the implementation of the UCCN Mission Statement.
- They present an action plan for the following four years, providing insights into their achievements and lessons learnt, as well as the impact of the designation.
Indian cities in the network
- Apart from Kozhikode and Gwalior, Varanasi (music), Srinagar (crafts and folk arts) and Chennai (music) are part of the network.
About Kozhikode’s literary tradition
- The North Kerala city of Kozhikode is home to many promiment personalities of the state’s literary and cultural world.
- The city, where several leading media houses are headquartered, has hundreds of publishing banners and several libraries enriching its literary tradition.
- The first Malayalam novel Kundalatha was born in Kozhikode in 1887.
- It was authored by Appu Nedungadi.
- Several illustrious writers like S K Pottekkatt, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Uroob, Thikkodiyan, NN Kakkad, P Valsala, Akbar Kakkattil, Punathil Kunjabdulla and MT Vasudevan Nair have brought laurels for Kozhikode.
- The city has also produced many film and theatre professionals in the last half a century.Topic 2 : Gentiana Kurroo
Why in news: The research wing of the Uttarakhand Forest Department has successfully saved the critically endangered plant Gentiana Kurroo from extinction.
- The plant, known for its medicinal properties, is endemic to the Western Himalayas.
- The species is threatened due to quarrying and road widening, as well as overexploitation for its root and rhizome.
- Gentiana Kurroo is commonly known as Himalayan Gentian or Trayman.
- It is a unique and revered medicinal herb.
- Medicinal qualities:
- It is known to help treat
- liver ailments,
- digestive disorders,
- bronchial asthma, and
- urinary infection.
- The root of the Himalayan Gentian is known for its therapeutic properties – particularly in treating liver ailments.
- As a result, it has always been subjected to overexploitation, taking it to the verge of extinction.
- It is known to help treat
- The remarkable feature of this plant is its distinctive vibrant, trumpet-shaped blueflowers
- It is an angiosperm and the presence of blue-colored flowers in angiosperms is relatively uncommon.
- These flowers typically bloom from mid-September to October and feature a characteristic white or yellow spot at their base.
- Conservation status:
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status:
- Critically endangered.
- Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board list:
- The Himalayan Gentian is one of the 16 plant species in the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board list of ‘threatened species’ in the state.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status:
How is it being conserved:
- The initiatives focused on the sustainable preservation and propagation of this endangered species through the rhizome-based technique.
- It is a process in which plants propagate through leaves, roots or stems.
- It can occur through fragmentation or the regeneration of unique vegetative plants.
- As of now, 600-odd Himalayan Gentian specimens have been successfully conserved.Topic 3 : Understanding worker productivity
Why in news: Infosys founder sparked a debate by saying that India’s worker productivity is one of the lowest in the world.
- It cited Japan and Germany as examples of countries that grew because their citizens worked harder and for longer hours to rebuild their nations in the aftermath of the Second World War.
- He urged young Indians to work 70 hours per week.
Difference between worker productivity and labour productivity:
- The only conceptual difference between the two is that:
- the ‘work’ in worker productivity describes mental activities
- the ‘work’ in labour productivity is mostly associated with manual activities.
- Measurement of productivity:
- At micro level:
- Productivity of an activity is usually measured as the quantum of output value per unit of labour (time) cost at a micro level.
- Atmacro level:
- It is measured in terms of the labour-output ratio or change in Net Domestic Product (NDP) per worker in each sector (where working hours are assumed to be 8 hours per day).
- Measurement in services:
- In certain types of services, especially ones involving intellectual labour, measuring the value of the output independently is very difficult.
- So the income of workers is usually taken as proxies to suggest productivity.
- At micro level:
Deeper understanding of productivity:
- Productivity in a more sophisticated usage is an attribute not of time but of skill.
- Human capital (a more reductionist version of Human Development) including education, training, nutrition, health etc., enhances the ability of labour to become more productive, or churn out greater quantum of value within the same number of working hours.
- Based on this understanding, the reduction in the number of working hours does not hamper the value of output produced, but in turn enhances the leisure and quality of life of workers in real terms.
- At the same time, the value added to the economy could still be increasing, nominal wages remaining the same.
Link between worker productivity and economic growth:
- While an increase in productivity made through any sector is likely to affect the value added and the accumulation or growth in the economy, the relationship between the two could be quite complex.
- If by prosperity we intend to suggest prosperity of the workers, this may or may not be true.
- Understanding worker productivity by taking India’s example:
- In 1980, India’s Gross Domestic Product was about $200 billion, which by 2015 exceeded $2,000 billion.
- However, in terms of the distribution of income across groups in India, data shows that during 1980-2015:
- the share in the national income of 40% of the middle income group and 50% of the low income group in India had decreased from 48% to 29% and 23% to 14% respectively,
- at the same time, the top 10% income groups share had increased from 30% to 58%.
- This effectively means that:
- the income groups in the bottom 50% in India experienced an increase in their income from 1980 to 2015 by 90%, whereas
- income groups in the top 10% experienced an increase in income by 435%.
- The top 0.01% has had an increase of 1699% percent from 1980 to 2015 and the top 0.001% have had an increase of 2040%.
- The increase in incomes or the prosperity of the richest people is not quite explained by their productivity.
- On the contrary, this prosperity is either linked to:
- hereditary transfers of wealth upon which the rich are earning yields (he called this patrimonial capitalism) or
- the ‘super managerial’ class who seem to be deciding their own exorbitant pay packages, quite arbitrarily, not related in any way to their productivity.
Does India have one of the ‘lowest worker productivity’ in the world?
- As incomes are seen as a proxy for productivity, there is a fallacious inference about productivity of workers in India being low.
- The question as to why over the years, beginning with the 1980s, the share of wages and salaries have declined while the share of profits has increased, perhaps is linked to:
- the informalisation of employment,
- labour laws and
- the development and regulation regime becoming unfavourable to workers.
- Indians are among the most hard working employees in the world.
- India ranks one of the lowest in terms of average wages per month globally.
Does having a high informal labour pool complicate the calculation of worker productivity and its correlation to GDP?
- Yes, because Informal employment in both the unorganised as well as the organised sectors has been on the rise through the course of economic reforms.
- The dubious claim of increased formalisation has been limited only to bringing activities under the tax net.
- This has however had no impact on improving labour standards or working conditions.
- Even in the formal manufacturing sector there is an overwhelming presence of Micro-Small-Medium Enterprises (MSME) which are labour intensive.
- Studies have also found that there is a systematic process of cost cutting through wage cutting in these enterprises.
- However, since high labour productivity combined with low wages fetch high profits, there can be no other explanation, but for exploitation of the workers, for why this segment becomes the preferred mode of investment.
- Large number of large-scale corporations have been found to outsource and sub-contract production to these smaller units, in India as well as globally.
- These comparisons don’t seem to enable serious analysis.
- Japan and Germany are neither comparable in terms of the size and quality of labour force nor in terms of the nature of their technological trajectories or their socio-cultural and political structures.
- India presents a unique case and any arbitrary comparison would only lead to dubious analytical inferences and fallacious policy prescripts.
- Enhancing social investments, focusing on exploring domestic consumption potential for increased productivity with a human centric assessment of development achievements is the way to a more sustainable and desirable outcome.Topic 4 : Appointment of State police chiefs
Why in news: Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)tightens rules for appointment of State police chiefs
- Only police officers with at least six months of service left before retirement will be considered for appointment as the Director-General of Police (DGP) of a State.
- The Empanelment Committee constituted by the UPSC will not assess Indian Police Service (IPS) officers on Central deputation for a State DGP’s post if the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) says that it will not be possible to relieve the officers.
- The guidelines also allow officers with 25 years of experience to be appointed as a DGP, against the earlier requirement of a minimum 30 years of service.
- The number of shortlisted officers cannot exceed three, but may consist of less than three officers in exceptional circumstances.
- Officers will not be included in the panel unless they themselves are willing.
- Need for the amendments:
- The amended UPSC guidelines come in the wake of several States choosing to appoint acting DGPs instead of regular DGPs, bypassing the requirement to go through the UPSC-selected panel of eligible officers.
- Some States have appointed DGPs on the verge of retirement, and many States have appointed acting DGPs to avoid due process.
- The guidelines were revised to discourage States from appointing favourite officers about to retire, in a bid to extend their tenure.Topic 5 : Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety Summit
Why in news: Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire near London was chosen to host the world’s first ever Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety Summit.
- Bletchley Park was once the top-secret base of the codebreakers who cracked the German ‘Enigma Code’ that hastened the end of World War II.
- The two-day summit that has drawn in global leaders, computer scientists, and tech executives.
- A pioneering agreement wrapped up on the first day, which resolved to establish a shared understanding of the opportunities and risks posed by frontier AI.
- Frontier AI is defined as highly capable foundation generative AI models that could possess dangerous capabilities that can pose severe risks to public safety.
- Twenty-eight major countries including the United States, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and India, and the European Union agreed to sign on a declaration saying global action is needed to tackle the potential risks of AI.
- The current summit was hosted by United Kingdom.
- South Korea will co-host a mini virtual AI summit in the next six months.
- France will host the next in-person summit within a year from now.
The Bletchley Park Declaration
- The declaration incorporates an acknowledgment of the substantial risks from potential intentional misuse or unintended issues of control of frontier AI, especially cybersecurity, biotechnology, and disinformation risks.
- The declaration noted the potential for serious, even catastrophic harm, either deliberate or unintentional, stemming from the most significant capabilities of these AI models, as well as risks beyond frontier AI, including those of bias and privacy.
- These risks are best addressed through international cooperation, the Bletchley Park Declaration said.