SECURE SYNOPSIS: 25 March 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 : Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Introduction:- Bhagat Singh, who streaked like a meteor across the anti-colonial nationalist sky, was sent to the gallows on March 23, 1931 on charges of assassinating a British police officer and throwing a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly in New Delhi. He left behind a huge corpus of writing which can help us to comprehend his vision.
NATIONALISM:- Bhagat Singh was indeed a nationalist par excellence. Bhagat Singh stood for an inclusive nationalism, not just politically, but socially and economically as well. Bhagat Singh illustrated that religion was not necessarily an imperative for being a nationalist.
REASON:- He was not for blind flag-waving. His nationalism was embedded in the idea of progress where there is scope for criticism, disbelief and the capacity to question the old faith. He said, “mere faith and blind faith is dangerous: It dulls the brain and makes a man reactionary. A man who claims to be a realist has to challenge the whole of the ancient faith. If it does not stand the onslaught of reason, it crumbles down.” Silencing rationalists or defending obnoxious religious practices can’t be nationalism.
A rationalist he advocated reason and rationality as basis of one’s action. Can be seen in later days when he advocated mass based movement over individual heroic action, as only popular movement can give freedom.
RELIGION :- He was an atheist and wrote a classical essay called Why I am an atheist? He also warned against dragging religion into politics and gave an example of the early Ghadar revolutionaries who kept religion in the realm of personal faith and so worked together, espousing a composite nationalism. A true secular leader, he has made clear rules for Bharat naujawn samiti , that religion must be an individual affairs. He even didn’t spared national leaders like lala lajpat rai for mingling religion and politics.
POLITICS:- Initially he was a revolutionary freedom fighter who was influenced by Irish revolution. In the two years of prison, he matured as a political thinker and supported marxism, socialism and non-violent broad-based movement. He perceived hero worship of leaders like Gandhi and Nehru as symptomatic of an unhealthy and regressive politics. He wrote many insightful pieces on Indian politics urging press to follow their real duty of educating and cleansing the minds of people rather than preaching sectarianism which can destroy composite culture.
All these ideas are extremely relevant even today where not even India but world faces problems about idea of nationalism, separating politics and religion and applying reason to every aspect of life keeping aside the self beliefs.
2) Many sections of people from the Northeast have often complained about the effect of IST on their lives, and have pursued the issue of having a separate time zone with the Central government, but without much success. Examine why are they demanding separate time zone and how the existing IST is affecting them. (200 Words)
India is the seventh largest country in the world in terms of geographical extent and due to its large east-west extent, there is demand of separate time zone ( that is Chaibagan time zone ) for Northeast region.
The reason for demanding separate time zone by Northeast are –
- From east to west the time difference is around two hours.
More Electricity consumption. Planning commission in 2006 has recommended two time zones for the country saying that it would save lot of energy.
3. Will help in Day light saving.
4. Biological clock of the NE people.
5. Tea business is being affected.
Impact of Indian standard Time [IST] on NE people –
- Due to difference of time the sun rises in NE at as early as 4:30 am and sets around 4 PM. Thus this variation is affecting the efficiency of the people and institutions like offices, schools etc. as they get very little time to work during day.
- Due to long extended night the consumption of electricity has always been high in the region compared to rest of the country.
- Due to the time difference, people of NE working in rest of the country face difficulty in adjusting with their own biological clock.
- Tea is the crucial business of NE. Since picking of tea leaves is done during day time, due to less time left in hand the efficiency of workers get compromised compared to tea workers of south who gets more time for picking.
Challenges in implementing two time zones
- The two time zones will affect the scheduling of transport services – airline, rail services in whole country.
Difficulty in administration and governance practices, as office-timings will be different.
3. Separate time zone will create the tendency of separate mind set.
4. The biological clock of other people working in NE region will be affected.
Way forward –
- Committee set up by department of science and technology in 2002 has suggested of shifting the timing of offices and schools according to the need by local administration.
- Challenges and benefits can be studied by analysing the time zones of various countries example- USA,Russia etc.
The demand for separate time zone has always been since independence. Thus decision can be made by taking the views of all the stake holders into accounts and assessing the challenges and benefits at the same time.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
Our thriving democracy is based on the bedrock of elections and hence for proper functioning of the democracy free and fair election is a must. A report from the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) shows that 75% of the sources of funding for political parties are unknown which further become one of the major cause of corruption.
Recent measures taken to improve transparency in electoral funding:
- Capping of single-source cash donations to 2000 rupees would lead to lesser donation in cash.
- Allowing political parties to receive donations through cheques and digital means enhance transparency.
- Issue of electoral bonds by notified banks can be redeemed by recognised political parties within a prescribed time limit to ensure anonymity in funding.
- Asking political parties to file their income tax returns in time would lead to income disclosures.
1)The cash received by recipient party doesn’t have any ceiling limit. Either for the donor, that can perhaps donate cash multiple times to the party of choice or for the party that can receive infinite money in cash without any proof of donor that may lead more invisible payments.
2)Electoral bond perhaps give the party accounted money as donor have to channel it via bank but here nobody,even income tax authorities, except donor and receiving political party,can know the donor and will get full tax exemption which may lead white corruption and unbeatable shadow.
3)Maximum cash donation limit stays untouched: The Rs.2000 limit of cash donation can still be exploited by donors to break their donations into multiple cash donations of Rs.2000 which won’t bring any change.
4)No mention about RTI Act: Despite the order of CIC, political parties have refused to come under the ambit of RTI Act and the recent budget made no announcements/punitive measures/institutional measures to bring political parties under the purview of RTI Act.
Way Ahead :
1)If the country is moving towards digitization, even the Rs.2000 which can be paid in cash to the political parties should be paid online.
2)Donating to a National Electoral Fund and the details of the donors will be kept secret.
3)There are many political parties at present which do not file the return every year.So, all the transactions and accounts being done and used by political parties are regulated under a piece of legislation.
4) Bringing political parties under RTI.
Topic:Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these; Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
In an unprecedented move, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament under the chairmanship of K V Thomas, a former Congress minister, unanimously decided in December 2016 to review the country’s monetary policy. The PAC’s decision was in the light of the large-scale hardships faced by people due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to demonetize the ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes from 8 November 2016 onwards (PTI 2016). In doing so, the PAC did not deem it fit to wait for the audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), on the implementation of the demonetization policy.
Role of Public Accounts Committee in Indian context-
- As per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha, the PAC is empowered with the responsibility to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by the House for the expenditure of the Government of India, the annual finance accounts of the Government of India, and such other accounts, laid before the House as the committee may think fit.
- In scrutinizing the appropriation accounts of the Government of India and the report of the CAG thereon, it shall be the duty of the committee to satisfy itself (a) that the moneys shown in the accounts as having been disbursed were legally available for, and applicable to, the service or purpose to which they have been applied or charged; (b) that the expenditure conforms to the authority which governs it; and (c) that every re-appropriation has been made in accordance with the provisions made in this behalf under rules framed by competent authority.
- It shall also be the duty of the committee (i) to examine the statement of accounts showing the income and expenditure of state corporations, trading and manufacturing scheme, concerns and projects together with the balance sheets and statements of profit and loss accounts which the President may have required to be prepared or are prepared under the provisions of the statutory rules regulating the financing of a particular corporation, trading or manufacturing scheme or concerns or project and the report of the CAG thereon; (ii) to examine the statement of accounts showing the income and expenditure of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, the audit of which may be conducted by the CAG of India either under the directions of the President or by a Statute of Parliament; (iii) to consider the report of the CAG in cases where the President may have required him to conduct an audit of any receipts or to examine the accounts of stores and stocks.
- If any money has been spent on any service during the financial year in excess of the amount granted by the House for that purpose, the Committee shall examine with reference to the facts of each case the circumstances leading to such an excess and make such recommendation as it may deem fit, Provided that the Committee shall not exercise its functions in relation to such public undertakings as are allotted to the Committee on Public Undertakings by these rules or by the Speaker.
- An important function of the committee is to assess that the money granted by Parliament to an institution or to the government has been spent, respectively “within the scope of the demand.” The implications of this phrase are that (i) money recorded as spent against the grant must not be more than the amount granted, (ii) the expenditure brought to account against a particular grant must be of such a nature as to warrant its record against the grant and against no other, and (iii) the grants should be spent on purposes which are sent out in the detailed demand and cannot be spent on “any new service not contemplated in the demand.”
Should PAC review government policies?
- The PAC is the most important financial committee and the core fulcrum of the accountability system of Indian parliamentary democracy. The entire country looks up to their findings. The committee’s work depends to a great extent on the results of the audit and the examination of the accounts of the union government, as carried out by the CAG.
- Hence the Supreme Audit Institution plays a crucial role in the functioning of the PAC and the CAG is often termed as “friend, philosopher and guide” of the committee. It is therefore felt that it would be extremely difficult for the committee to examine an individual activity or an event of a department and pinpoint exactly the areas which need improvement, without the support of the CAG as an institution. In the formulation and implementation of a major policy decision like demonetization, a large number of stakeholders are involved such as the RBI, Ministry of Finance, Prime Minister’s Office, State Bank of India, public sector banks, private commercial banks, currency notes printing presses, currency chests, ATMs/banks and branches distributed throughout the country. It was, therefore, highly desirable and appropriate for the PAC to request the CAG to take up a performance audit on the implementation of the demonetization policy expeditiously, and based on their report the committee could then have examined all the major players and appropriately fixed the responsibilities on specific individuals and institutions, for the negligence and recklessness with which the policy was implemented.
- The chairman of the PAC was right, when he demanded to know on whom the responsibility of the death of 100 odd individuals should be fixed. Was it due to negligence by the PMO or the finance ministry, in approving the scheme? Or, was it due to the non-application of mind by the board of the RBI? Or was it due to sheer inefficiency of the implementing agencies—printing presses, currency chests or bank branches?
- In spite of this PAC has, by its suo motu action to examine the country’s monetary policy, virtually precluded the CAG from taking the audit of the implementation of policy. However, without a detailed investigation by an independent constitutional institution, it would be extremely difficult for a political body like the PAC to conduct a review of monetary policy and fix responsibility on any individual or institution particularly, when the ruling coalition has the majority of members in an oversight parliamentary committee.
In theory we are not supposed to concern ourselves with policy, but policy and economy merge into each other with such subtle gradations that it is quite impossible to decide a clear-cut line between what is policy and what is not.
— Sir Osbert Peake, Chairman of Westminster PAC, 1945
Thus it would be difficult for PAC in practical to differentiate between policy and ecomomy issues. This seems to be the case in present decision of PAC to review monetary policy of government. In such cases, though PAC is principally right, should take help of CAG audit in its findings.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
The proposal to use local currencies in intra-BRICS trade is of high significance and would make attempt to reduce the dominance of USA in global finance.
The idea of local currency in intra-BRICS trade is good because of following point-
- Dollar hegemony would be reduced if the trade intra BRICS trade shifts to local currencies. This would include reduced dependence on Federal rates, exchange rate management and dollar supremacy.
- The use of local currency in the intra-BRICS trade would cut back the costs of trading by 6% or more.
- This move would help in strengthening domestic currencies as demand of dollar would decrease and that of domestic currencies would increase.
- Extending the idea of the use of local currencies in trade is encouraging as it will provide avenues for generating additional demand within the region while avoiding shocks from exchange rate volatility, especially for member countries like China with its large trade balances in US dollar.
- A clearing account system in local currencies of the BRICS nations can be used for inter-country payments within the region. Each country within the group can settle her bilateral trade surpluses and deficits with the other four members without involving the use of non-BRICS currencies (like the US dollar, etc). For example, China’s exports to India will be paid for by the latter in rupees, and the renminbi (RMB) will be used by China to pay for imports from India. The net balances (in this case China’s trade surplus) will remain in rupees as a credit for China. Thus exports from any of these countries to another BRICS member will be paid for in the local currency of the importing country.
- Further the net balances, comprising a pool of individual local currencies, will remain within the BRICS and be deposited with the NDB. The sum, a pool of individual currencies, can be utilised by the respective creditor nations to import from deficit countries, thus creating more trade within the region. Alternately, the sum can be lent out by the NDB to one or more of the five members, subject to the consent of all members and consistent with the norms specified in the original agreement of the NDB.
However there is some skepticism to such idea-
- Political considerations would prevent the move because intra BRICS trade is largely in favour of China hence the move will strengthen Chinese currency
- Chinese exports would become much cheaper and problem of dumping would increase.
- Trade integration within BRICS is much smaller than with rest of world thus the trade would remain skewed towards dollar.
- Liquidity and value of dollar is very high compared to other currencis and would remain for some time.
- Need strong political will and sound infrastructure to implement this idea.
The idea to use local currency is indeed a good one as current global financial system is dominated by dollar and heavily skewed in favor of western half.
General Studies – 3
Employees’ State Insurance (abbreviated as ESI) is a self-financing social security and health insurance scheme for Indian workers. This fund is managed by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) according to rules and regulations stipulated there in the ESI Act 1948. ESIC is an autonomous corporation by a statutory creation under Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
- For all employees earning₹21,000 (US$310) or less per month as wages, the employer contributes 4.75 percent and employee contributes 1.75 percent, total share 6.5% percent.
- State government’s share is 1/8th and that by central government is 7/8th. This fund is managed by the ESI Corporation (ESIC) according to rules and regulations stipulated there in the ESI Act 1948, which oversees the provision of medical and cash benefits to the employees and their family.
- ESI scheme is a type of social security scheme for employees in the organized sector.
The move to extend the ESI has numerous positives:-
- Criteria of Self employed extended: Recognising these domestic workers as self employed would bereft them of their rights- demanding wage hike, better working conditions and legal right to fight against the employer..
- There are also likely chances that employers would now heed to these domestic laborers, for them being recognised by govt.
- Medical expenditure contitutes much of this aged population and thus the scheme captures their need.
- Inclusiveness:Domestic workers are left out of the social security net and the current step is an important move to extend social security benefits to them in addition to the existing employees.
- Gender Sensitive:Majority of the domestic workers are women. Social security shall go a long way in empowering women.
- Reduction in poverty: Domestic workers who generally are from the marginalized section often arepushed below the poverty line due to lack social safety net.
- One size fits all approach: Difference in incomes and regional requirements not considered.Should be tailor made to address socio-economic req. of the regional domestic workers.
However much needs to be done to bring out the benefits to real terms:-
- Discriminatory nature of extention: the extension scheme does not truly extend all benefits which are otherwise applicable to ESI members. eg: only medical expenses that too only at ESI aided hospitals for these domestic laborers. In medical benefitsupper cap, restricting the benefits to local hospitals with no exception to emergency service dampen the real motive of social security.
- Registration methods: are complex involving multiple agency authorisation with online application, considering the fact that most are illiterate.
- There isno roadmap for comprehensive registration to cover all domestic workers to issue identity cards to avail entitlements.
- Exclusion: The scheme identifies only upto 59 yrs aged workers, while domestic workers constitute mostly elderly women population above this age limit.
The International Social Security Association described the social secuirty in India as “patchwork” and ” mismatch between the labour market realities and history of social security laws. The policy under consideration reflects the statement and the government needs to address the lacunae to make it effective.