SYNOPSIS – Insights Secure – 2017: 20 December 2016
General Studies – 1;
Topic: Poverty and developmental issues
1) The official study of Maharashtra government reveals that in seven tribal belts, over 40 per cent of children are affected by some form of malnutrition. Examine the causes and comment why Maharashtra government has failed to address this issue. (200 Words)
It is a paradox that, one of the top performing states on economic indices- Maharashtra reels with severe malnutrition in tribal belts with over 40% children suffering from Moderate to severe malnutrition. Tribal districts like Palghar, Melghat see severe child mortality with up to 500 children dying every year against a population of 3-4lakhs.
Causes for malnutrition among tribals :-
- Ineffective implementation of schemes- The top-down approach followed by government schemes do not cater for food habits of tribal .
The PDS, Supplement Nutrition and Take home ration schemes have not been effective in addressing the issue of malnutrition in the state. Most of the tribal families did not have ration cards to avail the benefits of the scheme.
- Poor quality of services – The was found that grains infested with insects, worms and other containment were being supplied to the tribal. Except for carbohydrates and proteins, other food groups – milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and fats and sugars – were missing from the diet of the food being supplied by the government. The Aaganwadi’s either do not serve the meals or serve meals of ‘poor quality and quantity.’ Also, they did not have toilets or had toilets in unusable condition, adding further to the malnutrition problem.
- Isolation- Tribal areas still lack the basic amenities- health infrastructure facilities which could be instrumental in addressing health problems due to malnutrition, addiction to alcohol, teenage pregnancies and poor hygiene practices which further adds to the miseries of tribal people.
Why Maharashtra Government has failed ?
- The government failure is due to lack of a comprehensive plan for tribal development.
- Poor Monitoring, irregular and delayed PDS services with two to three month delivery gap, also the quota delivered was not as per the entitlement.
- The poor infrastructure and connectivity makes the services centres inaccessible for people and they often walk for several kilometres. So, government also failed to build sufficient infrastructure.
- State government failed to focus on the special needs of the tribals as they vary culturally and geographically from other beneficiaries.
- State government has also failed to create awareness among indigenous tribals due to illiteracy, there is less knowledge about “hygiene”, “balanced diet”.
Way forward- While health centres have seen better functioning recently, there is an urgent need to connect and develop the backward region to address the root cause of poverty while simultaneously having a nutrition based food scheme instead of general PDS. Maharashtra government should allocate higher fund to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Amrut Aahar Yojana, which can be a starting point to address this crisis.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes;
2) Critically analyse the effects of subsidised Amma food centres and drinking water schemes of Tamil Nadu government on long-term governance questions of distribution, institution-building, democracy, inclusion and sustainability. (200 Words)
Background – TN Chief Minister’s government tactics was characterised by schemes for for free or subsidized products and services. The Amma goodies range from meals and water to laptops and pharmaceuticals. While a section of population welcomes this to be a pro-poor, welfarist approach, another section denounces this to be populism.
Effect of Schemes on :-
- The canteens also, as Chennai discovered during the 2015 floods and the 2016 cyclone, provide a city-wide infrastructure of community kitchens that can be mobilized during disasters. Thus, it is helping in building the capacity of the city.
- Still most of the rural poor are facing hunger problems and lack of good water as these schemes are only confined to very few cities /towns not in villages.
- Self-help groups of women have been constituted to be employed there with adequate remuneration. Unagayam schemes is also helping in assured supply of food ingredients through a proper supply chain. Thus building Institutional capacity.
- Though it offers employment economically weaker sections but there is lack of accountability and transparency, regarding the availability, variety quality nutritional value of food.
- The Unagavam canteens attract nearly 3 lakh customers a day including college students, office workers, domestic construction and sanitary workers, migrants, homeless people and travellers. Thus, canteens construct a space for social convergence, encounter and diversity. This deepens social democracy.
- Shared resource access- the Unavagam canteens are built at various places – beaches, parks, pavements, or public transport, they bring diverse swathes of urban society into relationships. The canteens have emerged as a type of “commons” in the city – widely accessible and collectively used, regardless of who legally owns or controls them.
- Kudineer scheme: scheme sets out to sell drinking water at discounted price of Rs.10 a litre to the poor. As production costs of RO water are estimated at about Rs.3-4 per litre, the scheme appears to be profiteering in the name of providing for the poor.
- The Kudineer scheme has been helpful in providing safe & potable water to households of economically weaker sections by providing a daily allowance of 20 litres of water from RO plants. Till now seen as the privilege of rich class, as Reverse osmosis technology is costly. Thus, scheme has been helpful in fulfilling the aspiration of poor people by including them.
- The Unagavam scheme (subsidised food centres) are operated by women SHGs, employing 4000-5000 women at daily wages of Rs 300. This provides for economic empowerment of women too. This has also been a boon for low-wage urban workers.
- The Unavagam scheme is becoming sustainable in creating a network of community kitchens and mass urban eateries in the city, which would be helpful in attaining the targets of food security.
- The kudineer scheme is criticised for its unsustainable withdrawal of groundwater and for its wasteful use: for every gallon of water produced, 3 litres of rejected water are dumped.
- The Kudineer scheme is filling the city’s dump yards very fast due to their non-recyclable plastic bottles and clogging the drainage and waterways of the city, which is not environmentally sustainable.
- In kudineer scheme, RO process actually demineralises water, removing particles of calcium, magnesium and iron that may usually be present in natural water. Demineralised water has been found to be associated with bone and joint diseases, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems.
While both schemes follow the government’s idea of providing basic amenities to people at subsidised rates, the canteen scheme adds on to the burden of exchequer apart from PDS schemes and the RO water scheme promotes a costly enterprise which may not be sustainable in the long run. A rethink on the exact pattern of schemes is needed so that subsidised food is available to the needy and potable water is available to all citizens.
Governments should not go for such populist measures, which no doubt for short term are lucrative, but in long term create a chain of disadvantages. DPSPs definitely asked for “state participation” in removal of poor’s pain but those should be viable and sustainable.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
The recent demonetization is pushing whole nation to adopt technologies and alternatives to cash. Various platforms like – NEFT, RTGS, IMPS, use of Debit and credit card, Paytm, mobiquick, etc are being used to replace the use of cash. However there is huge disparity in the availability and usage of these platforms and alternative in rural, when we compare it with urban areas.
Challenges in Rural Areas for a cashless economy:
- Inadequate Infrastructure – Internet connectivity, electricity, banking services are not adequate, thus the penetration of debit and credit card is poor. Also, there is near zero availability of point of sale devices. Of the over 367 million Internet and broadband users in India, only 32.60 per cent are in rural areas.
- Inadequate digital and financial illiteracy – Rural people are hardly aware of financial tools- saving, investment, banking transaction, etc and along with it the digital illiteracy adds on to the problem in the era of demonetization.
- Trust deficit- People do not trust digital transaction. Along with it, the growing incidences of cyber-crimes are raising concern for safety of the money, which is further causing trust deficit among people.
- Nature of Rural economy – Rural economy is mostly informal, so cash suits better than digital transaction. Thus, people are more inclined to have more liquidity rather than saving because they have to use money for buying commodities for daily usage and consumption.
- Lack of services in vernacular languages – Since, most of the mobile apps have English as their language, it becomes an additional challenge for rural people to adapt such technology based transaction and services.
- Affordability gap – With meagre income, high cost of internet services, high cost of smart phone, etc – the affordability of technological services for rural people become unviable. This affordability hap pushes them to use cash for their day to day life.
Steps to overcome these challenges:-
- Improvement in infrastructure – Low cost Smartphone especially designed for rural areas with vernacular languages. Swift implementation of Bharat Net, ensured supply of electricity, better and cheap internet connectivity by creating hotspots and rationing of free data as proposed by TRAI on monthly basis, improvement in banking services especially online services. Reformation and better implementation of PURAs./ RURUBAN mission. The availability of services of payment banks could also be instrumental in bridging the infrastructural gap.
- Improving the digital Literacy – Common Service Centre (CSC) under the aegis Digital India programme should be fast tracked, computer education in schools promoted, Self Help Groups (SHGs) should be trained and encouraged to spread digital literacy. Volunteers should be promoted to make people learn about digital services, as recently started by Paytm.
- Bridging the trust deficit- Suitable advertisement strategies, persuasion through celebrities and local leaders should be done and promotion of cashless economy can help. Incentives like “Lucky Grahak Yojana” and “Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana” are steps in right direction. Broadcasting TV channels like Digishala should tapped to create more outreach to people form remote areas.
- Revamping of Rural economy – Rural economy should be formalized to the extent possible. This can be done by easy availability of loans in formal sector, incentives for adopting digital economy, digitization of land records, better implementation of JAM etc. Also, saving should be encouraged in rural areas.
Rural areas has multiple challenge in its transition to cashless economy, mutli-pronged approach needed to overcome these challenges. Thus the need of hour is to provide them productive, effective, affordable and sustainable digital infrastructure along with bridging gap created by digital and financial illiteracy.
Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations
4) Do you think the issue of Dalai Lama has potential to completely upset India’s relationship with China? Should India continue to engage and entertain Dalai Lama at highest levels? Critically comment. (200 Words)
The issue of Dalai lama has been a perpetual thorn in India-China relationship. In fact, one of the prominent reasons of Indo-China war of 1962 was the asylum granted to Dalai lama by India.
Does Dalai Lama issue has potential to upset India-China relationship?
The issue of Dalai lama has potential to upset India’s relationship with China, because China argues the Dalai Lama is a political exile who engages in separatist activities under the cloak of religion.
Already, Chinese Army have been claiming disputed territories in Ladakh-Tibet region. This incident may again excite them army to create tension in the Ladakh region.
However, considering the nature of economic integration, diplomatic dialogues and tie-ups, this issue cannot completely upset the relationship.
But, India should be alert and not forget that India became part of Tibet problem ever since the Dalai Lama took refuge in India after a failed Tibetan uprising against Beijing in 1959. This coincided with the escalation of tensions on the disputed Sino-Indian border and an eventual military conflict in 1962.
Also, there are possibilities that the relationships will not be affected directly, but indirectly China by supporting Pakistan- economically and military, construction of CPEC, etc . China’s reluctance to support India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, its active opposition to India’s effort to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and China’s strategic push into the Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean have further pushed the bilateral ties into an uncertain phase. So, may be China will continue to do so.
What India should do ?
India-China relations are very fragile, thus it is very necessary to maintain the diplomatic relations for mutual benefits. But it does not mean India should submit itself to each and every concerns of China.
India has already given refuge to Dalai lama and considers him- a respected and revered spiritual leader. Thus any non-political engagement like recently organised by Nobel laureates dedicated to the welfare of children, should be continued.
Since Dalai Lama, is a religious leader for Buddhist community, India should engage with him, if need arises to address any specific social or communal problems of Buddhist community like – appeal to check communal tensions as happened in Myanmar or any health related issues, etc.
However, India has been maintaining its stand that it does not allow any political activity by the Dalai Lama in India. Thus, unnecessary Chinese apprehensions should not be given any heed and India should maintain the same stand.
Way forward- India should engage Dalai Lama with caution. It would be good for both the nations if a political settlement is reached between China and Tibet, pursuing a middle way. It will lead to permanent elimination of this thorny issue from Indo-China further engagements.
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States
5) As we transition from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are taking policy centre stage in most emerging and developing countries. Critically analyse how union and state governments are dealing WASH challenge at policy level. (200 Words)
In India, 128 million lack safe water services and about 840 million people don’t have sanitation services. WASH sectors being concurrent subjects, policies have been formulated by the Central government and respective State governments.
How central and state governments are dealing with WASH challenge at policy level ?
- Beneficiary-centric approach: initially, the approach followed was one-size-fits-all approach. This led to poor outcomes as beneficiaries differ and the barrier they face to access benefits too differ. Now, the gram sabhas are given greater power in beneficiary identification. Eg: in MGNREGA, Grameen awas yojana
- Life-cycle approach: earlier, approaches differed as per geographical and social context ie urban and rural, low income and high income. Now, a life cycle approach is followed ie Beneficiaries are thus segmented as children, adolescents, adults, senior citizens, and so on
- Capacity of state and local governments: lower capacities of state and more importantly local governments leads to poor policy implementation of WASH policies, resulting in poor outcomes
- Inadequate focus on IEC: data from various surveys point out that in WASH programmes, emphasis on information, education and communication to change the behavioral patterns has received less attention. For instance, till Swacch Bharath Abhiyan, all the previous total sanitation programmes emphasized more on building of toilets rather than on behavioral and attitudinal changes.
- Poor convergence and inter-linkages: for instance, hygiene emphasizes on sanitation through Swach Bharath Abhiyan. This is however not adequately linked with the water component. So even in areas where toilets have been built, there is reluctance in using them due to water scarcity issues.
- Cost recovery: the WASH services provision entails cost. In the absence of cost-recovery, the provision of services become unsustainable and its quality suffers. For instance, water pricing has been an issue of contention. In the absence of proper pricing, there is lack of finances to upgrade the infrastructure, ad-hoc supply all of which leads to poor policy outcomes.
Way forward: to attain the SDGs, government needs to follow a decentralized approach, by concurrently upgrading the capacity of lower tiers of government who can formulate and implement policies according the local needs and resource base. Outcome assessment and auditing of policies must be made from time to time by involvement of citizen groups to ensure accountability in implementation. More emphasis on IEC and innovation should be given. For instance, bio-toilets can be used to reduce the use of water. A convergence and bottom up approach, with timely feedback and course correction will make the policy and its implementation robust and enable the achievement of SDGs.
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
The central govt. recently proposed to have a Permanent Tribunal with a retired SC judge as its chairperson. It will subsume existing tribunals to adjudicate the inter states water disputes
- Faster adjudication: At present, adjudication of river water disputes between states take place by the setting up of ad-hoc tribunals. proposal to have a permanent tribunal that will subsume existing tribunals is expected to provide for speedier adjudication. The tribunal is also to dispose the case within 3 years, and also, the verdict gets notified automatically.
- Objective and impartial approach: the changes proposed includes an expert agency to collect data on rainfall, irrigation and surface flows. This is important because the party-states have a tendency to question the data provided by the other side.
- Dispute Resolution Committee: There is a proposal for setting up a Dispute Resolution Committee, which will be an expert body to resolve inter-state differences before the tribunal is approached. This is likely to reduce the number of disputes before the tribunal.
- Issue of Irregularities in separate tribunals can be tackled: An instance is cauvery tribunal remained without chairman for almost 2 years when its chairman resigned on health grounds in 2013.
- Efficient usage of resources since benches will be formed when required, and wound up after dispute is resolved.
But there are certain challenges as mentioned below :-
- Rise in water disputes: Given the number of ongoing inter-State disputes and those likely to arise in future, it may be difficult for a single institution with a former Supreme Court judge as its chairperson to give its ruling within three years
- Appeals to Supreme Court: the permanent tribunals’ interlocutory and final awards may be challenged before the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court verdict said that it had the court had unfettered powers to hear an appeal arising from a river water dispute tribunal under Article 136 of the Constitution (Special leave petition). Thus, finality and enforcement of a tribunal’s award may remain elusive
- Temporary benches: it is proposed that benches of the permanent tribunal will be created to look into the disputes as and when they arise. It is not clear in what way these temporary benches would be different from the present tribunals
Often, the state parties have shown refusal and reluctance in abiding the orders of the tribunal and the judiciary. Thus, apart from having an institutional mechanism in the form of a permanent tribunal, it is equally important to infuse a sense of responsibility in the state governments. Water disputes have humanitarian dimensions, including agrarian problems worsened by drought and monsoon failures. This makes it all the more important for institutional mechanisms to be backed up by the political will to make them work efficiently.
Topic: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive
7) Recently, the union government announced Lt General Bipin Rawat as the new army chief by superseding two of his seniors. How would this decision affect civil – military relations? Critically comment. (200 Words)
Government announced appointment of Lt General Bipin Rawat as the new army chief by superseding two of his seniors. The essence of civil-military relations in a democracy is that the civilian government chooses the army chief.
Why is seniority preferred ?: One of the important lessons learnt after the India-China war of 1962 was that government should have a hands-off policy towards all the operational issues pertaining to the defense services. The insularity from political influence got even stronger with the passage of time. Even the army commanders of operational commands, whether it be the northern command looking after Kashmir or eastern command involved in fighting insurgencies in the Northeast, rarely get to interact directly with the political leadership.
Civil-military relation and seniority: In order to shield the military promotions from political interference, the norm of following the seniority for selecting military chiefs was followed. This has been followed except once in 1983 when Lt General S.K. Sinha was overlooked for promotion to the post of army chief by the Indira Gandhi government.
The inter-se seniority of officers from the same batch is determined by their performance at the training academies, which hardly has any bearing on his suitability as a military chief. However, those in favor of seniority argue that the few people who contend for the post of military chief have risen to the top in a deeply hierarchical military, due to their merit only. They would have passed 4 promotion boards. There is little to choose among them, so the best way to do so is to simply adopt seniority.
Civil-military relation and violation of seniority: When the political leadership overlooks seniority of officers whose performance too haven’t been bad, it is bound to raise concerns. This could soon lead to a situation where various contenders start courting political leadership for patronage, as has been the case with the DGPs of state police forces.
Way forward: Seniority need not be the sole determinant for any post in any modern organization, including the military. But alternative to this cannot be arbitrary political selections. There should be a due process to weigh various contenders, based on certain established parameters. The political leadership should understand the military ethos and culture and performance and potential of military officials. Formalizing and institutionalizing the process of selection will remove arbitrariness while shielding the military from political interference. It will also instill a sense of fairness while rewarding merit.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Latest developments in S&T; Awareness in biotechnology
8) One of the most important medical insights of recent decades is that cancers are triggered by genetic mutations. However, in recent days scientists are focusing on protein – led approach instead of gene-led approach to understanding and treating cancer. Examine why. (200 Words)
Cancer involves abnormal growth of cells which may be triggered by a genetic mutation. The conventional approach to treat cancer is based on genetic mutation study which studies change in gene structure, however a new approach of Protein study is finding its way in cancer treatment
Drawbacks of genetic analysis: A recent study of 2,600 patients at Texas, showed that only 6.4 % of patients could be given drugs that were specifically meant to treat the gene mutation which caused the cancer. The reason is that there are only a few common cancer-triggering mutations, and drugs to deal with them. Other triggering mutations are numerous, but rare—so no treatment is known as yet as drug discovery for each of these innumerable mutations is not economical and possible.
How protein led approach can help:
- DNA contains the code for which protein is to be manufactured by the cell. It was found by researchers that the pattern of code on the gene and the associated protein production that sustain a given type of cancer are almost identical from patient to patient. It would thus be simpler to interfere with a smaller number of proteins that dictate cell’s behaviour rather than the innumerable mutations of genes which can trigger cancer.
- Genes encode proteins and proteins are involved in regulating various cellular activities like growth, cell division. Also, one protein changes the behaviour of others, which in turn changes behaviour of yet others and it goes on. Researchers have identified near lt 300 proteins which act as master regulators in at least one type of cancer.
- For instance, in aggressive prostate cancer, two proteins called FOXM1 and CENPF act together to promote a tumour’s growth. In glioblastoma, a cancer of the brain, three proteins collaborate to start and maintain the cancer.
Thus, it is simpler to handle and work upon smaller classes of proteins which regulate cellular activities rather than handling enormous number of genes and their mutations. This will also help in economics of drug discovery and faster development of medicines for cancers for which no medicines have yet been found.
General Studies – 4
Topic:Ethics and Human Interface:
CSE Mains 2016 – GS IV
Ethics denotes moral principles which governs a person’s behaviour and conduct, based on which he decides what is right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, just or unjust. Society, contributes to ethics by defining the norms and values for the citizens, which become part of the societal ethics.
Ethics and social well-being:
Ethics acts as a binding force and promotes mutual trust, helps in maintaining the social order in the society. For example- according to social ethics, crimes like rape, theft, etc are not acceptable, thus it puts moral sanction against such things and acts as deterrent for people to indulge in such practices.
Ethics forms basis of egalitarian society and imbibes the feeling of moral responsibility to eliminate social evils- poverty, dowry, etc Philanthropists and NGOs pay tribute to society through their different kinds of social works. There are various examples to prove it – Kailash Styarthi got Nobel Prize for his efforts fo rthe welfare of children. Another example of an IIT professor Alok Sagar, who has contributed his 30 years of life in tribal belt for education & upliftment of tribal in Betul district of MP – guides and inspires other people to follow their work and thus marinating the societal ethics.
Ethics and human well-being:
Growing materialistic needs like money, status, increasing cut throat competition, jealousy, corruption, rivalry etc are causing mental stress & loneliness. Ethics helps an individual in shaping their personality & provides them enough strength to face and fight the above mentioned challenges.
Ethics checks the immoral & illegal acts of an individual and guides them towards the right path by equipping them in decision making. It helps an individual to differentiate between need & greed and thus checks ethical erosion and ethical dilemmas.
Ethics also helps an individual in developing their emotional intelligence. For instance, environmental ethics asks an individual to reduce their carbon footprint and maintain balance with the nature. Thus, following environmental ethics, an individual develops empathy towards plants and animals, they become self-conscious of their activities and their impact on the nature. It helps them in developing sensitivity for those who are suffering due to climate change.
Following personal ethics and value system, an individual feels happy and satisfied, which ultimately contributes to human well-being.
The society can be a better place to live in, if every human guides themselves as per the societal and personal by the ethical standards. Thus, at an individual level , we should initiate and spire to meet the objectives of well beings and we must adhere to Gandhiji’s thoughts: Be the change you want to see in the others.