SECURE SYNOPSIS: 01 February 2017
NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.
General Studies – 1;
Topic: Poverty and developmental issues; population and associated issues
1) More than 240 million children are living in conflict zones and even more children are suffering from various abuses. What should be done to protect the rights, lives and futures of the world’s most vulnerable children? Critically examine. (200 Words)
Context- Year 2016 has witnessed largescale violence against children and it is said to be one of the worst year for children since 2nd world war.
“A sense of justice says no child should ever be exploited.” Yet around the world millions of children are being victimised and traumatised due to circumstances like war, natural disasters or any other ill human action.
Cause for the violence against children-
- Millions of children have been trapped in conflict ridden zones from Syria, Yemen, Iraq and northern Nigeria, to that of Somalia, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Also more than 50 million children are living outside their own countries or have been internally displaced. Among them more than half have been forcibly uprooted, and are facing new threats to their lives and well-being.
- Armed groups are increasingly targeting schools, hospitals and homes, and compounding children’s suffering.
- Further children from Africa and South Asia are facing adversaries like mal-nourishment and extreme poverty making them more vulnerable to physical, mental and sexual abuse from outsiders.
Consequences of such conditions-
- Children experiencing violence are often left with long-lasting negative social, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual consequences.
- Violence against girls and boys is a problem that not only harms each child but jeopardises their future survival, health and education.
- It simultaneously costs trillions of dollars, slows economic development and erodes a country’s human and social capital.
Steps to be taken to protect children’s rights-
- Political solution are the best way to ensure peace, stability and harmony in conflict zones. This would provide necessary environment for the healthy upbringing of child.
- The role of international institutions like UNICEF is very critical in alleviating the sufferings of victims. Increasing their Core funding and human resource would enables the UN and non-governmental organizations both to react more quickly in emergencies and to plan more strategically.
- We need to invoke spirit of solidarity and creativity among all nations to strengthen such institutions and their efforts. It is only because of conflict of interests prevailing among world powers that it is restricting the peaceful solution to Syrian civil war. Such solidarity would bring this solution.
- Deploying latest technology in war areas such as using drones to airdrop food and medical supplies, developing mobile apps to monitor needs and track supplies on the ground, to keep aid workers safer would help in mitigating evil effects of war and conflicts.
- There is urgent need for better coordination among governments, international organizations and local institutions to provide short-term and long-term relief more efficiently. Also there is need to maximize synergies between humanitarian and development initiatives as both go hand in hand.
- As these children are mentally disturbed as many have lost their parent and other family members. Providing them psychological support becomes very important for their well-being.
- Most of the children in war torn areas are out of the school and so in order to safeguard their right to education providing them with proper education facility, books and learning material may help in securing their future.
- All the countries should stand together against modern slavery which exploits children and rob them off their childhood. Strict laws and their meticulous implementation would stop this evil practice.
A safe and caring environment is the most important part of the life of every children in the world. All governments and civil society need to commit themselves to protect girls and boys from all forms of violence as a critical contribution to child well-being.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
2) India needs an all-encompassing healthcare model that is truly able to achieve the objective of improving access to quality healthcare. Do you think controlling drug prices achieves this objective? What other measures are needed to provide quality and affordable healthcare to citizens? Examine. (200 Words)
Introduction- As per the Drugs Price Control Order, Indian government can control the prices of drugs when they become extremely exploitative. The pharma industry is against the move as it they fear that it is leading to the nationalization of pharma industry.
Need of Drugs price control mechanism-
Medicines remain overpriced and unaffordable in India. In a country mired in poverty, medical debt remains the second biggest factor for keeping millions in poverty. With little to no availability of basic health insurance, and a preference for private practitioners, drugs engender poverty. Out-of-pocket expenses can comprise up to 80 per cent of all health financing, with 70 per cent of health spending on outpatient treatment devoted primarily to purchasing medicines.
Benefits of controlling drug prices-
- The drug pricing is made as per the set criteria and the government has every right to expand the list to improve affordability.
- The government controls only those drugs that are considered as lifesaving and don’t have any generic substitutes in market.
- The Supreme Court has made it clear that they have an appropriate criterion that is followed strictly to keep prices under control.
- The objective is also to control the pharmaceutical companies who go for higher pricing just to sell their drugs outside India.
Adversaries of controlling drug prices-
- Controlling drug prices results in loss of revenue to the pharmaceutical companies which may further reduce their incentives to invest in Research and Development or in other words price control policies provide short term aid to individual purchaser but at the expense of longer term healthcare technology and innovation.
- The pharma company’s fears are legitimate as the decisions are taken by the government without any consultations with the major stakeholders.
- The market has got enough mechanisms to reach to a fair price. There are almost 50-60 brands available of every drug, and so patient has the flexibility to buy a drug of different prices.
- NPPA made the changes in the price control methodology and made the base as market pricing instead of cost base.
The government has regulated the price of few essential medicines under the legal cover. The Pharma companies cannot hold the government incorrect for taking the step. And prioritising the humanitarian ground, the government will always have high moral ground.
However controlling prices of essential drugs is only one part of improving Indian healthcare system. The objective of healthcare system is provide high quality health services at affordable cost and ultimately moving towards Universal Health Coverage. To achieve this every branch of healthcare system has to be reformed. Thus solely depending Drug price control mechanism would not yield much results.
Other measures to provide Quality and affordable healthcare services-
- Develop and implement national standards for examination by which doctors, nurses and pharmacists are able to practice and get employment.
- Obtain proposals from private insurance companies and the government on ways to provide medical insurance coverage to the population at large and execute the strategy. It is healthy to have competition in healthcare, and provide health insurance to the millions who cannot afford it.
- Encourage business schools to develop executive training programmes in healthcare, which will effectively reduce the talent gap for leadership in this area.
- Revise the curriculum in medical, nursing, pharmacy and other schools that train healthcare professionals, so that they too are trained in the new paradigm.
- Develop partnerships between the public and private sectors that design newer ways to deliver healthcare.
- The government should appoint a commission which makes recommendations for the healthcare system and monitors its performance.
- India needs to have All India Public Health Service so that India has multi-layered health work force.
- Use of latest technology like tele-medicine should be encouraged to bridge the Urban-Rural divide.
The health of people is the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend. Thus instead of just relying on Drug Price control India should improve all aspects of medical healthcare system to provide accessible, affordable and quality healthcare services.
Topic:Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
What is H1B visa?
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States It allows U.S. employers/firms to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.
Why there have been changes into H1b visa?
- Changes are introduced with the intention to crack down on visa abuse and ensure jobs remain available for the “best and brightest talent” from around the world.
- Curbing abuse of the H1-B system will protect American jobs and help ensure that visas are available for innovators who need them to maintain a competitive workforce.
What are the major changes?
- The Bill, among other things, increases the minimum salary of H-1B visa to $100,000 per annum.
- Proposed US immigration reforms seeks to make a Master’s degree mandatory for H1B visa holders.
Impact on Indian IT Companies?
- Financial: –
Indian companies will have to pay high salaries to employees holding H1B visa, thus eroding their profits. This may erode operating margins of the companies by as much as 3 percentage points.
They might explore new markets where such visa restrictions are absent like Asia, Latin America etc
Indian companies may have to recruit more local Americans to fill vacancies caused by visa restrictions.
The companies may have to shift work offshore or other near-shore centres or even subcontracting to US firms.
Increased adoption of automation or technology like telepresence to bring down operating costs.
Indian IT companies may foray into more sophisticated products to remain profitable, instead of restricting themselves to outsourcing.
Job openings related to the high technology sector cannot be filled by Americans alone and therefore to bridge this skill gap, the US administration has been taking a calibrated approach to bring in the required talent from abroad through H1B visa route.
Topic: Functioning of judiciary; Appointment to various Constitutional posts
4) With a pendency of 59,000 cases in the Supreme Court (SC), over four million in high courts (HC) and a mind-boggling 25 million in subordinate courts, the judicial system is virtually dysfunctional. Considering these facts, do you think government of India’s suggestion for appointing a Search Cum Evaluation Committee (SEC) has a merit? Critically examine. (200 Words)
Indian judicial system has disproportionately high number of pendency of cases. Further selecting judges through existing collegium system results into massive waste of time and resources. In this view the government has suggested appointing a Search Cum Evaluation Committee (SEC) to assist and stream line judicial appointments.
Proposed structure of SEC
- It will comprise of former judges, academics and other experts.
- Membership of SEC is to be decided by the Chief justice of India (CJI) in consultation with the union government
- SEC to have three year tenure.
Examining the merit of SEC
- A SEC would assist HC and SC collegiums in expanding the zone of consideration, undertaking due diligence and acquiring necessary clearances. This would save the time and efforts of judiciary while appointing the judges. The eg of Madhya Pradesh HC is evident where only one judge was appointed after scrutinising 71 judges.
- The SEC will only recommend candidates in the ratio of 5:1 for the HC and SC collegiums to then select and forward to the GoI for required consultations. After due diligence, the rejection rate should come down dramatically.
- Being a subordinate body, the SEC will not in any sense restrict the supreme authority and autonomy of the SC collegium in the selection of judges. It will only institutionalise the search and selection process, making it objective, transparent and expeditious.
- With its composition of former judges, academics and other experts, the SEC would effectively widen the zone of consideration, which, at present, is highly circumscribed.Considering the availability of large number of advocates eligible for the post of judge, SEC is must to help existing collegium system. Otherwise the entire selection process thereby inevitably becomes subjective and opaque.
- SEC will bring judicial appointments in line with the practice in vogue in the GoI now, where senior-most appointments in the bureaucracy and regulatory bodies go through search and selection committees before being recommended to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for final approval.
Conclusion- Establishing SEC would be a right step in streamlining the judicial appointment. However it must be taken into account that SEC solely cannot prove panacea for reforming judiciary. Other steps like curbing corruption at the lower courts, imbibing ethical values among judges, creating required infrastructure and use of technology should be taken along with SEC.
Topic: Issues relating to poverty and hunger
5) Despite expansion in the use of the public distribution system (PDS), there has not been much decline in child malnutrition. Why is there such a disconnect? What other options are there to improve child nutrition? Analyse. (200 Words)
What is Public Distribution System?
Public distribution system (PDS) is an Indian food security system. Established by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and are managed jointly by state governments in India, it distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. This scheme was launched in India on June 1997. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene, through a network of fair price shops (also known as ration shops) established in several states across the country. Food Corporation of India, a Government-owned corporation, procures and maintains the PDS.
Child Malnutrition problem in India:
About a third of Indian’s are believed to be malnourished and over 40% of children receive less food than they should. The Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC), a survey performed between the year 2013 and 2014. They have demanded that malnutrition should be included as a medical emergency in hopes to further decrease the number of malnourished children in India.
The RSoC reports that:
38.7% are considered stunted (low height for age)
29.4% are considered underweight (low weight for age)
15% are considered wasted (low weight for height)
Data from an older report (NFHS-3 data) has shown similar numbers and correlation between the two studies seems apparent.
Despite expansion in PDS there has not been much decline in child malnutrition.
According to a study by Himanshu and Abhijit Sen, even before the NFSA is fully implemented, use of the public distribution system (PDS) expanded sharply with proportion of households getting PDS subsidy rising from about 25% in 2004-05 to 50% in 2011-12. Proportion of households receiving PDS subsidies in Rajasthan increased by about 15 percentage points, underweight declined by 3 percentage points. In Andhra Pradesh 59% of the population received PDS subsidy in 2004-05 rising to 76 % in 2011-12 but underweight rate seems to be stuck around 32%.
Reasons for disconnect:-
- Structural Reasons: – There has been many loopholes and leakages in the system. Poor targeting of beneficiaries, presence of ghost beneficiaries, black marketing of food grains, pilferages, hoarding and other practices.
- Economic Reasons- Conditions of poverty, family, food insecurity, unemployment, low purchasing capacity of poor people, corruption cases in government funds etc. has led to undernourished growth.
- Health Reasons- recurrent infections in early childhood, anaemic and micro-nutrient deficient adolescent mothers, problems of congested slums, lack of sanitation in rural India, Unhygienic living conditions, changing fast lifestyle diseases, inadequate health services etc. has escalated the problem.
- Unscientific Feeding practices-Inadequate complementary child feeding and a general lack of vital nutrients beside pure caloric intake is one cause for stunted growth. Research from National council of applied Economic Research suggest with more availability of grains people have switched to wheat, rice instead of milk, fruits, vegetables so imbalance in diets.
- Miscellaneous – Government policy paralysis, lack of information, illiteracy in rural areas, frequent deliveries, less nutritious food to women during pregnancy, Inadequate breastfeeding has also leads to undernourishment
Other options available to improve malnutrition:-
Community based malnutrition treatment in which child can be treated in community with help of people around rather than being left out at home.
Medical Solutions: – de-worming and nutritional supplements. Popularly used nutritional supplements include vitamin A, zinc, iron, and various minerals. In addition, iodized salt has been a popular weapon of the government of India as it continues to try and promote its consumption over normal salt.
Nutritional Approach:-Nutritional Planning (which means formulation of Nutrition Policy), Nutrition education, Nutritional Supplementation through Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Matritva Sahyog Yojana etc is required.
Improved Health Care System:-
Provide immunization, oral rehydration, periodic deforming, early diagnosis and proper treatment of common illnesses, infrastructural development in Primary Health Care Centres.
Eg. INDRADHANUSH Scheme, ASHA WORKERS
Behavioural Approach: – This includes giving children the right type and amount of nutrition. Focus on trying to change behaviour towards calorific food and encourage the consumption of a variety of foods. Education to mothers about child care and their nutritional intakes.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Economic growth and development; Resource mobilization
6) Educated estimates say, 95% of retail dealings continue to be in cash and only 5% of transactions are conducted digitally through various modes. It is suggested that Carbon credit-like system could curb usage of cash. Discuss how. (200 Words)
INDIA’S CASH ADDICTION: – India spends about Rs21, 000 crore annually in currency operation costs. This includes printing, storing and transporting the cash. Higher cash to GDP ratio is bad for economy. In fact few country in this world has gone cashless, all transactions are done through cards and electronic form only. For India this ratio is pretty high nearly 12–13℅ of GDP. Although average cash to GDP ratio is 4–5℅ in global markets.
CARBON CREDIT SYSTEM:
A carbon credit is a generic term for any tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide or the mass of another greenhouse gas with a carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide. Carbon credits and carbon markets are a component of national and international attempts to mitigate the growth in concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs). One carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide, or in some markets, carbon dioxide equivalent gases. Carbon trading is an application of an emissions trading approach. Greenhouse gas emissions are capped and then markets are used to allocate the emissions among the group of regulated sources.
IMPLEMENTING CARBON CREDIT CONCEPT IN DIGITAL ECONOMY:-
Just as global industries came together to achieve their one common objective of lowering greenhouse emissions post-1992, our government too can implement a similar model, with a slight tweaking of the original stance for its objective of reducing the use of cash
- If anyone is doing more digital transactions, can the government put in a system where the person is rewarded with points?
- Conversely, if anyone is doing more cash transactions, he or she will therefore be accredited with negative points besides being deprived of the benefits that are otherwise being entitled to people availing the digital mediums.
- Much similar to the carbon credit concept, these points (both positive and negative) earned can later be even traded off on a common exchange platform.
- The methodology can be slowly implemented in every level of the society. For example, income tax assesses can be divided into different categories depending on income slabs. A ratio can be then formulated in terms of usage of cash and digital for each of the earning slabs.
- Anyone spending cash above the defined percentage will be saddled with negative points and a similar process may be initiated for corporates as well.
- Taking a leaf from the carbon credit concept, the government can create a mechanism where people and companies can trade off their accumulated positive or negative points on an exchange platform.
- Under this, those people or companies that have breached cash transaction limits will have to knock them off on the exchange platform by either buying the credit (positive points) from those who have earned them or alternatively by undertaking digital transactions of a similar worth.
- On the other hand, individuals or entities, who have already gained credits by using digital platforms, can sell it to others. Price of the credits will depend on demand and supply on the exchange platform.
Adopting the carbon credit concept can be a self-sustainable model. It will be a challenge to implement it, but once agreed upon conceptually, we can move progressively, step by step.
Topic: Land reforms in India; Infrastructure
7) Even with the new improved land acquisition law, the intensity of conflicts over the acquisition of land for infrastructure projects are being witnessed in various parts of India. Critically examine why. (200 Words)
Land acquisition act was passes by GoI as it has a legitimate need for acquisition of land to build public goods such as roads, schools, hospitals etc. however this piece of legislation has proved to be bone of contention between various stakeholders particularly citizens and govt.
Key highlights of the bill:-
As per the Act, the union or state governments can acquire lands for its own use, hold and control, including for public sector undertakings and for “public purpose”.
Compensation: Given the inaccurate nature of circle rates, the Bill proposes the payment of compensations that are up to four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas.
To address historical injustice the Bill applies retrospectively to cases where no land acquisition award has been made.
Multiple checks and balances: A ‘comprehensive, participative and meaningful’ process (involving the participation of local Panchayat Raj institutions) has been put in place prior to the start of any acquisition proceeding.
Consent: In cases where PPP projects are involved or acquisition is taking place for private companies, the Bill requires the consent of no less than 70% and 80% respectively (in both cases) of those whose land is sought to be acquired. This ensures that no forcible acquisition can take place.
- Loss of livelihood: Land acquisition leads forceful rehabilitation of farmers leading to disruption in their daily life style and occupational pattern. Compensated land is not fertile in most of the cases.
- Economic: Inadequate compensation, adverse impact upon landless, small & marginal farmers. Crony Capitalism Factor also help create malpractices
- Loopholes in rehabilitations and resettlement policy: Farmers compensated on loss making side. Often negotiation process is top down with little or no involvement of civil society. Integration of people with local economy is not taken into consideration.
- Environmental and Ecological aspects: Forceful acquisitions for developmental project at cost of ecological delicacy of area and environmental sensitivity leads to protest by activists. Biodiversity of area is also affected.
- Miscellaneous: Land acquired for many purposes which are not in eminent domain or in public purpose. Misinformation or incomplete information given to people. Political agenda and vested interest by government officials further complicate the problems. Violation of PESA& FRA as no role is provided to consent of gram Sabha. Psychological reasons i.e. societal tensions and feeling of mistrust for government.
WAY FORWARD: – Implementation of law in its letter and spirit with necessary amendments is need of the hour. The issue need to be resolved in order to establish a fair and transparent process of acquisition.