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SYNOPSIS: Insights Secure Q&A August 15, 2016

SYNOPSIS: Insights Secure Q&A August 15, 2016

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General Studies – 1;


Topic:  Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues

1) Why was August 15 chosen as India’s Independence Day? Do you think January 26 should have been chosen to celebrate Independence Day? Comment. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Why August 15th  is chosen as India’s Independence Day?

  • Mountbatten had been given a mandate by the British parliament to transfer the power by June 30, 1948. Mountbatten thus advanced the date to August 1947 so that there will not be any bloodshed or riot.
  • Indian Independence Bill was introduced in the British House of Commons on July 4, 1947 and passed within a fortnight. It provided for the end of the British rule in India, on August 15, 1947, and the establishment of the Dominions of India and Pakistan, which were allowed to secede from the British Commonwealth.
  • According to Mountbatten he set this date because it was the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender and it was he who accepted it being the Supreme Allied Commander of South-East Asia Command at the time.  

Yes ,Jan 26 should have been Independence Day because :

  • In the congress session held in 1929, Jawaharlal Nehru gave the call for ‘Poorna Swaraj’ or total independence from British colonial rule and January 26 was chosen as the Independence Day. 
    • In fact, Congress party continued to celebrate it 1930 on wards, till India attained independence and January 26, 1950 was chosen as the Republic Day
  • August 15 was suited according to British interests more than the Indian interests.
  • India was granted a dominionstatus on August 15, 1947. According to Balfour Declaration of 1926 ‘dominions’ is defined as autonomous communities within the British Empire but united by a common allegiance to the Crown.
    • So, by the definition, India was an autonomous community “within the British Empire”. 
    • Only on January 26th 1950 when India became a republic was the word Dominion Replaced by Republic.
  • India was called “Dominion of India” from 1947 to 1950.
  1. The British did not want our allegiance to be completely dissolved from Great Britain and;
  2. The British wanted to replace some provisions of the dominion status of India and Pakistan which were applicable to other dominion of British Crown, namely Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa.

 

  • Even till 1950, then Prime Minister of India was only the fourth in command. By January 26th, 1950 India wrote its own Constitution, and abolished the monarchy. So, effectively India’s Independence Day was January 26, 1950, and not August 15, 1947.

Dates are symbolic instead of  being critical of the past it is better to see how India has progressed over the years and how it stood upto the ideals fought by the Indian leaders then.


 

TopicModern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues 

2) “Much before the formation of the Indian National Congress or other nationalist organisations, nationalist ideas were expressed and spread through the medium of the press, and that too mostly the Indian language or vernacular press.” Discuss the role played by media in spreading nationalism in pre-independent India. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Positives:

  • It exposed the true nature of British imperialism and colonialism and helped in creating awareness and consequent unity to fight for the British .
  • The very fact that the British government had to enact a series of Press Acts proved the decisive role played by the Press in the development of the nationalist movement.
    • The highly critical tone adopted by the press against the administration for their inhuman attitude towards the victims of the famine of 1876-77, the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, decided to strike hard with the infamous Vernacular Press Act 1878.
  • The newspaper that had most raised the hackles of the government was the Amrita Bazar Patrikaand government’s plan was to take action against it under the new Act. However after the passing of the Act British were astonished to find that the Amrita Bazar Patrika had converted itself overnight into a purely English language newspaper, thus placing itself outside the purview of the vernacular press Act.
  • It is a matter of great significance that the nationalist forces, even before they were formally organised, won a major victory, and that too on the issue of civil liberties
  • Many open air mass meetings were held as a form of protest and expression that was to become the staple and defining feature of the Indian struggle for freedom.
  • The national movement, on its political side, was possible because of the facility of political education and propaganda provided by the Press.
    • It was a weapon, in the hands of the nationalist groups, to popularize among the people their respective political programmes, policies, and methods of struggle, and to form organizations with a broad popular basis.
  • Without the Press, all India conferences of nationalist organizations could not have been prepared and held and big political movements organized and directed.
  • The Press alone made possible exchanged of views among different social groups of different parts of the country.
    • The establishment and extension of the Press in India brought about a closer and intellectual contact between the Indian people.
    • It also made possible the daily and extensive discussions of programmes of inter-provincial and national collaboration in sphere of social, political and cultural.
    • National committees were appointed to implement the programmes adopted at these conferences throughout the country.This led to the building of an increasingly rich, complex, social and cultural , national existence.
  • The Press also helped the growth of provincial literatures and cultures, which were provincial in form and national in content.
  • The Press was an effective weapons in the hands of social reform groups to expose social evils such as caste fetters, child marriage, ban on remarriage of widows, social, legal and other inequalities from which women suffered and others.
    • It also helped them to organize propaganda against such inhuman institutions as untouchability.
  • Further, the Press also brought to the Indian people, knowledge of the happenings in the international world. It became a weapon to constrict solidarity ties between the progressive forces of different countries.
  • Small, informal library movements sprang up in every part of India, wherein the villagers would gather around a cot to read and discuss the day’s paper. In fact, it became a medium of nationalist political participation for those who could not play a more active and vocal role in the movement.
    • These library movements did a lot to propagate the modern ideas of democracy, freedom, equality and patriotism.
  • More importantly, it played a great role in welding India into a single nation and gave the Indians a sense of oneness and a new national identity, which was non-existent before. 

However media was hugely suppressed by the british acts which put restrictions on publishing and sent leaders to jail for the articles written by them like Tilak’s article in Kesari, Surendranath Banerjee’s Bengalee, put a little dent for the media efforts.


General Studies – 2


Topic: Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

3) Recently a private member’s bill to provide for direct election, and empowerment of the office, of mayors in large Indian cities was introduced in Lok Sabha.  Why directly elected mayor system is desirable? What are the challenges in establishing such a system? Critically examine. (200 Words)

Livemint

Why directly elected mayor system is desirable ?

  • Deficiencies in urban administration found in India can be largely traced to weak city-level institutions. An empowered office of a directly elected mayor is desirable. 
  • Mayors performing well can aspire to become MLAs and MPs.
    • The current president of Indonesia Joko Widodo started his political journey by successfully contesting for the mayor of the city of Solo in 2005.
    • The post of mayor, however, should be important in itself and not just be seen as a stepping stone to state or national level politics.
  • Revitalise local democracy :
    • An elected mayor would act as a focus for local people, both symbolically and as someone with real power to improve their lives. This in turn would turn attention to local democracy and increase turnout in elections.
    • Electing mayors would improve accountability in local government. At present it is easy for individual councillors or parties to dodge responsibility for unpopular decisions or failed policies. Placing this power in the hands of an elected mayor would streamline decision-making and increase accountability.
  • Elected mayors would speak on behalf of their communities, raising the profile of their town or city nationally and internationally. 
  • Elected mayors would allow talented individuals to make a difference, regardless of their party affiliation.
    • If mayors were directly elected, local parties would have to find dynamic candidates with a proven ability to solve problems and manage big organisations, or risk such candidates running and winning as independents.
  • Electing a mayor would not concentrate power too much in the hands of one individual.
    • Although models of local government vary, mayors usually have to pick a cabinet from among the elected councillors and to seek approval for their policies and budget from the whole elected council. A mayor would thus have to persuade and build a consensus in order to govern This is a more transparent approach to local decision making than the present one

Challenges to create such a system :

  • State governments do not wish to delegate more authority to city-level institutions. Even if the mayor is directly elected, the state governments can refuse to devolve power and resources, effectively reducing him to a figurehead. 
  • The second challenge is the post of municipal commissioner. Even if some powers are delegated to the municipality, the state governments have in place municipal commissioners to perform the executive functions.
  • Directly elected members belonging to a minority party might face difficulty.For example in Himachal Pradesh which had amended the Municipal Corporation Act in 2010 to introduce direct elections for the office of mayor and deputy-mayor. The posts were occupied by minority party.The working of the elected candidates has, however, became difficult as the 26-member corporation is dominated by rival parties.
  • The legislator of the area feels a political threat emanating from a directly elected local leader and this is an important reason behind the discontinuation of direct elections.
    • A mayor executing projects will tend to gain popularity at the expense of the local legislator whose job is to legislate and scrutinise the performance of the executive. 

Suggestions :

  • The private member bill introduced in the parliament recently rectifies by making the mayor the executive head of the municipality. Additionally, the bill also gives the mayor the power to authorise the payment and repayment of money relating to the Municipality.
  • Empower the mayor to veto a resolution passed by the municipality
  • Establish a mayor-in-council whose members will be nominated by the mayor from among the elected members of the municipality.
  • Voter awareness is the only thing that will drive them to vote for a legislator based on his performance in the state assembly or Parliament and vote for the mayor and councillors based on their executive performance.

Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

4) Recently, Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of IMF issued a comprehensive critique of the IMF’s role in Europe’s post-2008 crisis. Discuss IEO’s criticisms and lessons for IMF. (200 Words)

Livemint

Background:

  • After Asian financial crisis in 1998,the IMF established an Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) to undertake arm’s-length assessments of its policies and programmes. That office has now issued a comprehensive critique of the IMF’s role in Europe’s post-2008 crisis.

Criticisms:

  • IMF surveillance, intended to detect economic vulnerabilities and imbalances, was inadequate. 
  • The approach was not right . Europe was different. Its advanced economies did not display the same vulnerabilities as emerging markets. Strong institutions like the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) had superior management skills. 
  • The IMF’s early European bailouts, particularly of Greece, bruised the fund’s legitimacy and credibility, especially among emerging markets and developing nations.
    • In the wake of the European crisis, for example, emerging markets accelerated a move toward pooled arrangements meant to mimic the fund’s emergency-financing mandate.
    • For many of the fund’s members, it also served as evidence the fund treated its Western founders more favorably than poorer nations.
  • IMF acted mostly in European interest:
    • One answer is that European governments are large shareholders in the Fund.
    • Another is that the IMF is a predominantly European institution, with a European managing director, a heavily European staff and a European culture.
    • IMF staff failed to foresee the magnitude of the risks in Europe, taking a position often “too close to the official line of European officials.
  • Experts criticize the Fund for acquiescing to European resistance to debt restructuring by Greece in 2010.
    • The evaluation criticizes the IMF for setting ambitious targets for fiscal consolidation but underestimating austerity’s damaging economic effects
    • The IMF didn’t adequately explore alternative options to the ill-fated 2010 bailout of Greece, despite warnings both within and outside the fund that debt restructuring would be critical to succeed.
  • The report rejects claims that the IMF was effectively a junior member of the ‘troika’, insisting that all decisions were made by consensus.
  • The Fund encountered the same problem in 2008, when it insisted on currency devaluation as part of an IMF-EU programme for Latvia. In the end, the Fund felt compelled to defer to the EU’s opposition to devaluation, because it contributed only 20% of the funds.
  • When negotiating with a country, the IMF ordinarily demands conditions of its government and central bank. In its programmes with Greece, Ireland and Portugal, however, the IMF and the central bank demanded conditions of the government
  • Finally, the report criticizes IMF management for failing to ensure adequate involvement by the executive board, its oversight committee of 24 national representatives. Board approval was sought, but only after the key decisions were already made.
    • Moreover, the board was forced to act under intense time pressure and lacked the information needed to challenge management recommendations.
    • The revision of a key lending rule that paved the way for the exceptional Greek bailout wasn’t conducted in a transparent way and was made without due review and deliberation by the IMF’s board.
    • Growth projections for Greece were overly optimistic.The low level of credibility of the projections harmed both the fund’s reputation and any possible catalytic role that the fund might hope to play.

Support for IMF role :

  • Fund-supported programs succeeded in buying time to build firewalls, preventing the crisis from spreading, and restoring growth and market access in three out of four cases (Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus)

Suggestions:

  • The IEO’s report suggests involving the board more meaningfully, in order to provide a counterweight to political pressure from regional stakeholders. 
    • It would be better to allow an independent management team to make decisions free of political interference, in the manner of a central bank policy committee. 
    • The Executive Board and management should develop procedures to minimize the room for political intervention in the IMF’s technical analysis.
  • The Executive Board and management should strengthen the existing processes to ensure that agreed policies are followed and that they are not changed without careful deliberation. 
  • The IMF should clarify how guidelines on program design apply to currency union members. 
  • IMF should establish a policy on cooperation with regional financing arrangements
  • The Executive Board and management should reaffirm their commitment to accountability and transparency and the role of independent evaluation in fostering good governance.  

 

Topic: Role of civil services in a democracy.

5) “The numbers and skill sets of India’s foreign service is woefully out of sync with the global role that the political leadership envisage for the country.” Comment. (200 Words)

Livemint

India’s foreign service is out of sync :

  • India’s foreign service has the smallest number of diplomats among the G-20 and BRICS countries
    • According to a report, the total number of IFS officers is 772—140 short of the sanctioned strength of 912 officers, making it one of the smallest.
    • The Naresh Chandra Task Force Report of 2012 pointed out, the IFS doesn’t have enough diplomats to “anticipate, analyze and act on contemporary challenges.”
  • There is a serious disconnect between the foreign policy requirements of the country and the language skills of India’s diplomatic corps.
    • For instance, of the 772 IFS officers, only 569 have proficiency in any non-Indian language, leaving 203 diplomats with no foreign language ability whatsoever.
  • There is an even greater disconnect between the foreign policy priorities and language skills.
    • While the government has prioritized its Neighbourhood First policy, there is not a single diplomat with proficiency in either Bhutanese, Dari or Nepalese and a mere two with knowledge of Pushtu and only three diplomats with ability in Sinhalese.
    • Both the Act East and Think West initiatives are poorly served by the lack of local language proficiency. This will affect India to advance its interest.
    • Over two dozen embassies remain headless for want of diplomats and most of the diplomats serving there have no knowledge of the local language.
  • It has not developed any great advisory skills in technical subjects that handicaps Indian policymakers, and hurts national interest.
    • This is especially true with regard to military-national security policy areas
    • Negotiations on nuclear liability clause-related issues, space laws, climate change, environment security, and other areas require considerable expertise in the subject, which an IFS officer may not have.
  • Technology has enabled a complete centralization of control of foreign policy conduct and management by PMO
  • So, what happens is the Indian side rarely has a draft agreement ready for negotiation purposes but rather reacts to and works on the draft produced by the other side to alight on its own basic draft document.
    • This is what happened in the case of the 2008 nuclear deal with the US, and with the LEMOA
  • Recruitment process-who join the IFS are not necessarily people with the skills or aptitude for a career in diplomacy.
  • There has been a visible decline in the quality of IFS recruits in recent years.
    • With jobs in the corporate sector paying better and a career in domestic bureaucracies such as the IAS, IPS and IRS promising more power, the IFS has become a less attractive option. It no longer attracts the very brightest.
  • Experts say it does not engage in long-term strategic planning, that there is little clarity on goals and how they could be achieved.
    • IFS officers are compelled to take on more responsibilities along with their advisory role they have to show a significant leeway in crafting policy. New Delhi provides little input or directions to its missions.
    • This lack of top-down instruction means that long-term planning is virtually impossible

How has this service been successful ?

  • The strength of Indian diplomacy was once considered its expertise in drafting international treaties.
  • Sought to influence global developments through a series of initiatives, such as Neighbourhood First, Act East, Think West, SAGAR and the India-Africa Forum. India’s foreign policy apparatus, particularly the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), has so far done a valiant job to follow up these initiatives. 
  • Increasing clout in international financial institutions, growing acceptance as a nuclear-armed state, and impressive UN peacekeeping credentials, India’s status as a global power is not just recognized but increasingly institutionalized because of the diplomats.
  • Interactions between the NSA/NSCS, the PMO and the MEA take place regularly and in both structured and unstructured settings. Where required, such meetings also take place on a need-to basis

What can be done ?

  • The knowledge gap can be quickly filled with lateral entry into IFS by military officers on cross-postings, and from other technically capable govt services, and experts from outside the govt which is the norm in advanced countries.
    • As the country’s interests and influence extend into more continents, it needs more diplomatic representation. So more recruitment needs to be done .
  • Two divisions of the MEA that could  contribute significantly to India’s long-term strategizing  are the Policy Planning and Research Division and the Public Diplomacy. These need to be strengthened.
  • There is an urgent need for the IFS to become more consultative and engage more with outside experts and institutions.  

 

TopicFunctions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

6) It is argued that Kerala today is losing its tag as one of India’s best developed state. Why? How can this be changed? Discuss. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Background:

  • Kerala is one of the most developed States in India but it’s concentration on social expenditure led to lack of focus on economic growth.so it focussed on growth in the 2000’s

Why is Kerala losing its tag as a developed state?

  • Economic growth brought with some problems for the state.
    • The main drivers of this growth have been the service and construction sectors, which have together contributed 81 per cent to Kerala’s Net State Domestic Product (2011-12).
    • But the contributions of industry and agriculture to the State’s income growth have been marginal.
    • Clearly, a major drawback of economic growth in Kerala today is that it is not generating enough jobs to meet the expectations of educated Keralites entering the labour market. There are worrying signals of growing inequalities.
  • The increasing presence of the private sector in health and education is a threat to the gains made by the State in these areas during the earlier years.
  • The proportion of working women is low in Kerala (only 21.3 per cent in 2011-12).
    • This poses a hurdle in the efforts to reduce gender inequality.
  • The strains caused by economic growth on the natural environment are now highly visible
    • paddy fields have been converted into commercial plots and waste is dumped in public places.
  • The roots of Kerala’s industrial backwardness can be traced to investments to the State starting from the 1930s. Investments were mostly in chemical-producing industrial units.
    • These industries have hardly built any linkages with the rest of the economy. Further, they have been constrained in growth in the State due to power shortage, unavailability of land, and environmental problems.
  • The Kerala model has clearly delivered but it is no longer sustainable. The State’s GDP at $60 billion is $20 billion less than Sri Lanka’s which has 13 million fewer people.
  • Kerala already has proportionately the largest pool of aged for any large state in India and, disturbingly, more students in high school than at primary levels .

What can be done ?

  • Knowledge-based and skill-intensive economic activities can be developed in a more diffused pattern across Kerala.
    • For entrepreneurs, the State offers certain obvious advantages including the extensive reach of communication and other technologies and good infrastructure even in rural areas.
  • The government should play the role of a facilitator, setting up research centres and encouraging cooperatives of skilled workers and entrepreneurs.
  • An urgent requirement is to create public spaces such as libraries and parks where people can freely exchange ideas.
  • There are enormous possibilities in Kerala for the production, value addition and marketing of a range of agricultural and agro-based products.
    • As of now, there is very little value creation within the State even of important crops such as coconut and rubber.
    • A revival in agriculture, paddy cultivation in particular, will be extremely beneficial for maintaining an ecological balance.
  • Panchayats and other local bodies must find ways in which the growth of the agricultural and tourism sectors can enrich each other.
    • They may also seek to convert many of the beautiful, but largely under-utilised, houses in rural areas into homestays for tourists.
  • Kerala has the potential to emerge as a key player in fields such as healthcare, biotechnology and biomedical sciences.
  • It can also make a big impact is cultural industries, including media, advertising and animation. Ports and waterways can be another important source of income growth.
  • Kerala’s future growth requires large investments. Given that State governments have limited financial resources at their disposal, Kerala will have to be receptive to private investors, both domestic and foreign.
    • At the same time, the State and local governments should be able to effectively regulate and discipline investments in a way that suits the State’s larger interests.
  • Middle class Malayalis ,Migrants in particular, put their hard-earned savings mostly into constructing houses or purchasing gold.government plans to float an investment vehicle which will channel such savings into more productive purposes. This will be an important experiment in mobilising local capital.

General Studies – 3


TopicEconomic growth and development

7) Discuss the pros and cons of an inflation-targeting monetary policy rule. In your opinion, which system suits India best? Justify. (200 Words)

Livemint

 Background:

  • Inflation targeting means Central Banks are responsible for using monetary policy to keep inflation close to the agreed level. 

Pros:

  • It is used by every major advanced economy central bank. So it makes sense for India, too, to have adopted this system.
  • Credibility / Expectations:
    • If an independent Central Bank makes a commitment to keep inflation at 2%, people will tend to have low inflation expectations. This makes it easier to keep inflation low. If there was no inflation target, people could have higher inflation expectations, encouraging workers to demand higher wages and firms to put up prices. An inflation target makes it easier to keep inflation low.
  • Avoid Boom and Bust:
    • By keeping inflation low, we avoid boom and bust cycles
  • Costs of Inflation:
    • If inflation creeps up, then it can cause various economic costs such as uncertainty leading to lower investment, loss of international competitiveness and reduced value of savings.

Cons:

  • Critics of India’s adoption of inflation targeting point out that the system itself revealed serious flaws in the build-up to, and the aftermath of, the global financial crisis of 2008 and on.
    • In particular a singular fixation on inflation in the consumer price index (CPI) by central banks such as the US Federal Reserve System blinded central bankers to the dangers of asset price inflation and the formation of potentially destabilizing bubbles in the prices of various assets, including,  sub-prime mortgage housing market in the US and property markets elsewhere.
    • people have begun to question the importance attached to inflation target as they feel it is conflicting with other more important macro economic objectives
  • Cost-push inflation may cause a temporary blip in inflation. Just before the recession of 2009, the UK experienced cost push inflation of 5% due to high oil prices. To target 2% inflation, would have required higher interest rates, which leads to lower growth.
  • Central Banks Start to Ignore More Pressing Problems:
    • The ECB is setting monetary policy to keep inflation in the Eurozone on target. Yet, the ECB seems unwilling to act on the significant increase in unemployment.
  • Inflation above target can impose costs on the economy such as uncertainty, loss of competitiveness and menu costs, but arguably these costs are much less significant than the social and economic costs of mass unemployment.
    • Unemployment in Spain has reached 25%, but there is no monetary stimulus in the Eurozone because the ECB is worried of inflation at 2.6% – This is giving low inflation too much priority in times of a recession.
  • Sometimes you need a higher inflation rate:
    • This point is controversial, but many argue that it would be beneficial for Germany to have higher consumer spending and higher inflation.
    • In the Eurozone, Germany has a current account surplus of 6%. If Germany had higher consumer spending and higher inflation, then this would make the readjustment process in the Eurozone less painful.
    • Low inflation doesn’t mean the economy has an underlying stability.

General Studies – 4


Topic: Attitude

8) Is it possible for societies to compromise the current models of development and lifestyle and live a healthy life? In your opinion, what does freedom entail? Comment. (150 Words)

The Hindu