SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 May 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: Salient features of Indian society, Role of women; Social empowerment
1) In the light of the hearing of Shayara Bano v. Union of India case by the Supreme Court, critically analyse issues that the SC faces in deciding about constitutionality of practices such as triple talaq, polygamy, and nikah halala. (200 Words)
Introduction :- The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in Shayara Bano v. Union of India , which has popularly come to be known as the “triple talaq case”. This case, in which the constitutional validity of certain practices of Muslim personal law such as triple talaq, polygamy, and nikah halala has been challenged, has created political controversy across the spectrum.
One would expect the judges of the Supreme Court to adjudicate the constitutional validity of triple talaq detached from the political debate, and strictly in accordance with law. A closer look reveals, however, that the court cannot decide this case without engaging in a series of complex and difficult choices.
Triple Talaq (also known as Talaq-e-Mughallazah — Irrevocable divorce) is a form of divorce that is practiced by Muslims in India. It has been a subject of controversy and debates within the country, raising the issues of justice, gender equality, human rights and secularism. Triple Talaq is a form of divorce practiced in India, whereby a Muslim man can legally divorce his wife by pronouncing talaq (the Arabic word for divorce) three times. The pronouncement can be oral or written, or, in recent times, delivered by electronic means such as telephone, SMS, email or social media. The man need not cite any cause for the divorce and the wife need not be present at the time of pronouncement. After a period of iddat, during which it is ascertained whether the wife is pregnant with a child, the divorce becomes irrevocable. In the recommended practice, a waiting period is required before each pronouncement of talaq, during which reconciliation is attempted. However, it has become common to make all three pronouncements in one sitting. While the practice is frowned upon, it is not prohibited
Halala is a disputed Islamic marriage strategy practiced primarily by certain sects of Sunni Muslims, which involves a female divorcee marrying someone else, consummating the marriage and then getting a divorce inorder to make it allowable to remarry her previous husband
Muslims in the rest of the country are subject to the terms of The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, interpreted by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Still, many Hindus, tribal peoples and Buddhists practice it all over the country, rejecting the laws as
However, in a judgment in February 2015, the Supreme court of India stated that “Polygamy was not an integral or fundamental part of the Muslim religion and monogamy was a reform within the power of the State under Article 25” According to the 1961 census (the last census to record such data), polygamy was actually less prevalent among Indian Muslims (5.78%) than among several other religious groups. Incidence was highest among Adivasis (15.25%) and Buddhists (7.9%); Hindus (5.8%), by comparison, had an incidence 0.5% higher than Muslims in 1960, though it has declined much more quickly among Hindus in the last five decades with its criminalization. Although there are movements to end polygamy, some orthodox members of the Muslim community seek to preserve the practice.
The issues faced by SC in addressing the case are:-
- Personal laws Vs. Constitution:- The first and foremost issue the supreme court faces is whether personal laws comes under jurisdiction of judiciary. As all these laws are stemmed out of faith in religion and its scriptures. so court have to decide whether these laws are in line with the spirit of our constitution.
- Personal laws/Article 13/Article 44:- supreme court also facing issue that whether personal laws can be dealt in accordance with article 13 of the constitution which says laws in derogation or inconsistent with fundamental rights be void and it include “custom or usage” article 13(3)(a). Court also faces the issue of article 44 i.e. formation of a uniform civil code to which this case become a huge basis of initiation.
- Judiciary Vs. Executive:- As adaptation of UCC is a part of DPSP and must be worked upon by the executive wing of the state these issues can also be analyzed by the state first and give strong legislative support to people’s will. Court also faces the issue of judicial overreach and separation of power between judiciary and executive.
- Religious views Vs. Fundamental rights:- court must have a non-partisan eye towards the religious views and fundamental rights. It has to analyses whether practices like instantaneous triple talaq has any validity in real senses in Islamic faith or do these practices infringes upon fundamental right to an extent that these can be struck down.
- Reform within or Out with :- court has to decide the approach by taking into consideration the narrow approach that instantaneous triple talaq is invalid while other types of triple talaq (According to which some time span must be there between the utterance of the word) or by taking the other more reformative view by completely striking down the practice citing its inconsistency with the fundamental rights and biased nature against female gender.
Conclusion:- There is no doubt that triple talaq violates women’s rights to equality and freedom, including freedom within the marriage, and should be invalidated by the Supreme Court. The larger question, however, is whether the court will stick to its old, narrow, colonial-influenced jurisprudence, and strike down triple talaq while nonetheless upholding a body of law that answers not the Constitution, but to dominant and powerful voices within separate communities; or will it, in 2017, change course, and hold that no body of law (or rather, no body of prescriptions that carries all the badges and incidents of law) can claim a higher source of authority than the Constitution of India?
General Studies – 2
Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations
2) It is argued that Prime Minister of India’s second visit to Sri Lanka must help restore deeper cultural connect between the two nations. Discuss India’a cultural connect with Sri Lanka and how PM’s visit can deepen it. (200 Words)
Introduction :- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to Sri Lanka in two years would hopefully launch a productive new phase in bilateral relations. Prime Minister has also sought to restore the deeper cultural connect between the two nations as part of his effort to go past the divisive discourse of the last few decades and rebuild mutual trust between Delhi and Colombo. That, precisely, is where an important dimension of his second visit to Colombo comes — the bonds of Buddhism that bind India and Lanka.
The historic India-SL relation includes a lot of cultural tenets. For instance
- Sacred Geography which encompasses the peaceful principles of Buddhism
- Spiritual History – Both are well-mentioned in the epic of Valmiki, Ramayana.
- Unique Tamilians lifestyle practices and livelihood options
- Other socio-cultural activities like food, festival, etc.
Such cultural connect becomes quite important in the context of second visit of Indian PM to SL in the last two years. This visit could deepen the cultural relation in following ways-
- As the Prime Minister has to participate in International UN Vesak day, there is the probability of strengthening of the ‘Buddhism bond’ that binds both countries together. India should applaud SL’s special role in preserving Buddhist heritage through the centuries.
- Our PM could emphatically communicate with thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils, especially with the people of recent Indian origin in central province, so as to better the Tamilians bonhomie on two sides.
- The visit indicates that India is not adversely influenced by ‘narrow-domestic-political-consideration’ syndrome.
- The visit would be a step towards eliminating the trust deficit as well as removing India’s perception as a regional bully.
Conclusion :- In reclaiming the shared spiritual heritage with Lanka, recognizing its special position in the sacred geography of Buddhism, and acknowledging Colombo’s leadership role in Asia and the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister can help rebuild the special relationship with Lanka based on sovereign equality, mutual trust and common benefit. That could generate a more helpful environment for the resolution of long-standing problems and the expansion of all-round bilateral cooperation.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,
3) It is said that, in India healthcare policy has relied on pharmaceutical and equipment advances, but evidence-based policymaking has been absent when it comes to service delivery. What is evidence based policymaking? Why is it important? Discuss. (200 Words)
Introduction:- The Union cabinet recently approved the National Health Policy, 2017. In a welcome move, the policy includes progressive steps towards universal and affordable access to healthcare services for the underprivileged. It does this by making provisions for comprehensive primary care via the conversion of 150,000 sub-centres (the first contact point between the primary healthcare system and the community) in Indian villages to “Health and Wellness Centres”. There is provision for every family to be provided with a health card that will link it to the primary care facility and make it eligible to receive a defined package of services anywhere in the country. While this is a positive step, the government will require a robust mechanism to implement and monitor the mammoth mission.
Evidence based policy making :-
- Evidence-informed policymaking is an approach that aims to integrate the best available scientific evidence into the design of public policies. Central and state governments make hundreds of policy decisions, small and big, every day that have an impact on millions of lives.
- But not all of this research finds its way into government policies. This is often because we lack a unifying mechanism within government that can synthesize a diverse array of scientific evidence, from India and other developing countries, and provide coherent recommendations for policymakers. Also such accommodations of evidences into policy is not an easy task.
- Flagship development programs in India have not been designed or modified based on evidence from evaluations. There has been a continuity of some social programs over decades, although governments may have given them different names and made a few changes in design. >Swachh Bharat Abhiyan builds on Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (2012), the Total Sanitation Campaign (1999) and the Central Rural Sanitation Program (1986). But politics rather than evidence is the key driver for programs getting closed, changed or renamed.
- Policymakers need to know what works and what doesn’t. There is evidence to show that projects fail largely as they are not evidence-based. However, the biggest dilemma that policymakers face is that though there is abundant evidence available, there is a lack of consensus about its quality. Some of the evidence is not available in a suitable form, but, primarily, policymakers have multiple goals other than research effectiveness to focus on. Policymakers’ demands for quick results restrict policymaking processes from being evidence-based.
- There is absence of “research collaboration” in healthcare delivery. Spending some resources on research will help the government deliver benefits in an effective way as well as avoid the often-repeated mistakes of earlier mechanisms. With minimal investment, the government will stand to gain from robust evidence.
- According to a 2014 report brought out jointly by the World Bank, the Better than Cash Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, over 2.5 billion adults around the world are ‘unbanked’. Evidence shows that just opening bank accounts in someone’s name, as the Jan Dhan program is doing, doesn’t work. Many people don’t even access the account to take out the initial deposit placed there for them. Jan Dhan’s goal of opening accounts for 10 crore poor people is not enough by itself. There are many reasons people don’t use bank accounts: lack of trust in financial institutions, distance to the bank, illiteracy and reliance on informal and traditional banking sources. In addition to tackling these issues, there may be a need for complementary activities to ensure that the poor can benefit from having bank accounts.
- Synthesized evidence from impact evaluations of water and sanitation program in low and middle-income countries shows that building toilets is not enough for improving sanitation. An impact evaluation of the Total Sanitation Campaign in Odisha in 2010 showed that demand-oriented program raised latrine use from just six per cent to 35 per cent. This seems like a useful increase, but not one that made any difference to people’s health, and left 65 per cent still not using the new facility. A more recent 3ie-supported impact evaluation in Odisha also showed a substantial increase in latrine coverage at the village level. But this increase was also insufficient to reduce child diarrhea, most likely because the villages in the study were not open defecation-free. It is well established that open defecation supports various transmission channels by which children consume faecal matter: direct contact or indirectly from pets or other animals, and through flies crawling on both excrement and the food children may eat. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, diarrhea causes the deaths of more than 7,50,000 children under the age of five every year. A study published in the Lancet in 2012 reports that in India alone, an average of 2, 12,000 children under the age of five die of diarrhea every year.
Way Forward :-
- Institutions promoting evidence-informed policymaking at the national level are increasingly gaining traction around the world. In 2010, UK Prime Minister David Cameron set up a Behavioural Insights Team, also called the “nudge unit”, which later spurred a network of “What Works Centres”, established to improve the way government creates, shares and uses high-quality evidence for decision-making. The results have been impressive. The unit’s work has led to an increase in tax collection rates by altering the messages of reminder letters, boosted court fine payments by sending personalised text reminders and improved the effectiveness of a job counselling programme.
- In 2013, the White House too set up a Social and Behavioural Sciences Team with an identical mission — to explore how social and behavioural insights can be used by federal agencies to design public policies that work better, cost less and serve citizens better. This was preceded by a What Works Clearinghouse, set up by the US department of education in 2002, to provide a resource centre that could guide informed decision-making in education policies. Till date, the centre has reviewed more than 10,500 studies, on topics that range from improving adolescent literacy to helping students with learning disabilities.
- The initiatives of the UK and US governments mirror the larger movement in international development towards rigorous impact evaluations as well as greater use of empirical evidence and behavioural insights in designing social programmes. This comes from a realisation that despite decades of effort in designing and implementing anti-poverty programmes, there is little consensus on the most effective strategies for improving the lives of the poor. Reflecting this thought, the World Development Report 2015, the flagship report of the World Bank, focuses on mind, society and behaviour and makes a strong case for the application of behavioural science in development.
- Last year, the government of Tamil Nadu entered into a partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to institutionalize the use of evidence in policymaking by rigorously evaluating innovative program before they are scaled up, strengthening monitoring systems and enhancing the officials’ capacity to generate and use data. In perhaps a first for any state government in India, the Tamil Nadu government also set up an Innovation Fund, with an annual allocation of Rs 150 crore, through which any government agency can access resources for pilot innovation program through a competitive process. There is sustained commitment across the highest levels of the government of Tamil Nadu to advance evidence-informed policymaking through these initiatives. In a short span of time, five evaluations of promising interventions have been initiated, covering preventative health, school education and skill development, with many more in the pipeline.
Hence Indian policymakers at central level must consider the evidence based policy making as the backbone and must therefore take help from global studies and think tanks like NITI Ayog in order to make policy making evidence inclusive.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education,
Regulation of private schools and role of non-government players in education, particularly private education providers at elementary education-level continue to attract immense interest of researchers, policymakers and educationists from across the world. In countries like India where private schools are playing a pivotal role in universalizing access to elementary education, the debate on role and regulation of private sector has intensified over the last decade or more.
Need to regulate the private school-
- There has been arbitrary and exploitative increase in the educational fees of private school in last some years causing heartbreak to the huge number of middle-class of India.
- While school fees have been increased dramatically, the facilities and quality of the education remains inadequate and deficient.
- Private elite schools have also become dens of discrimination where financial and social status of parents would decide whether their children would get the admission into such schools or not.
- Even if some private school renders good quality education, their high fees automatically shuts the door for children from poor economic background.
- The state has every right to regulate and monitor the functioning of private schools because education is a quasi-public good that cannot be delivered effectively through market mechanisms.
- Poor governance in education allows concentrated oligopolies to develop. This manifests in many ways, including in the quality of education having no relation to the fees that parents pay. The nexus between bad governance and bad schools crowds out good education.
- The opening of private schools and colleges has become new commercial business and market good where the most ignored thing is the quality of education. Further such institutions are also becoming the tools for politicians and black money holder to launder their black money easily.
With over 250,000 private schools spread everywhere, and our current sociopolitical culture, any regulatory mechanism will be far from perfect. Here are some elements of the design of a system which will help it become as effective as possible in this reality.
- First, we should recognize that the regulation of schools is the domain of state governments.
- Second, the regulatory mandate must be limited to only the minimal essentials. Genuine philanthropic private initiative must not be stifled. Regulation need have only two goals. One, that all private and public schools meet standards in basic academic and operational aspects: for example, the number of teachers and their qualifications, classrooms, safety. The other goal should be to protect the public from the exploitative practices of schools.
- Third, the states must form an independent, quasi-judicial school regulatory body. Today, the state departments of education are conflicted as they are regulators and also the largest operators of schools. An independent body protected from political and bureaucratic interference will enable efficiency through focus, improve probity by forcing transparency, and increase accountability. Such bodies will not be perfect, but would be a substantial improvement.
- Fourth, the school regulator must demand that schools be not-for-profit, as required by law. And for substantiating this, annual financial audits, executed with the same rigour as in companies, must be required. Accounting standards need to be developed for schools with the objective of eliminating practices that are often used for skimming money from such not-for-profit entities: for example, “management” cannot be outsourced. Again, this won’t be perfect, because our audit ecosystem is not perfect. But then, we have nothing better.
- Fifth, the schools must publish their fees publicly every year for the following three years, and thereafter no changes should be permitted. Fees must not be capped. There is no way of determining appropriate levels for capping, and any such effort will provide room for more corruption.
- Sixth, a grievance redressal mechanism for parents should be made available, on stability of fees, other financial matters and safety. The quasi-judicial status of the regulator will enable this.
For good, equitable education there is no substitute for a robust public system. But till we get there, such a regulatory mechanism will reduce rampant exploitation of the public and help improve educational quality.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Indian economy
The government of India recently took a bold step to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency, which means that the legal tender of currency units is declared invalid from the specified date. Demonetization of currency means discontinuity of the said currency from circulation and replacing it with a new currency.
- Restrain in the rise of real estate prices-
Demonetization has helped to stop the ever increasing prices of real estate sector in India. This could help ordinary citizens buy affordable housings in near future.
Although it would be too early to conclude that demonetization has led to digitalized economy, there are signs that digital transactions are increasing all over India albeit in smaller proportion.
- Increase in money supply for banks-
The amount of total money with the banks has risen exponentially after the demonetization. This has helped banks to lower the interests’ rates and provide credit to various sectors.
- Small increase in tax revenue-
Government kept open the option of voluntary disclosure of black money but with the high penalty. This has earned some tax revenues for government as there were quite a few individuals who disclosed their black wealth.
The demonetization move would serve as a strong deterrence for the hoarders of the black money in future. This could reduce the tendencies of hoarding black money.
- India’s GDP growth rate of around 7 per cent over 2016-17 is commendable; tribute goes to policy initiatives such as the GST and the new bankruptcy law. However, these policies, coupled with two global trends (low international price of crude oil and rising wages in China. ), should have propelled India to a growth rate of over 8 per cent, the kind it had achieved before 2008.
- One of the motives of the demonetization was to eliminate counterfeit currency. There is no surprise that the activity of faking is continuing even now. Seizures of fake 2000 rupee notes have been reported from West Bengal, Gujarat, Haryana and other places. To curb fake notes, what is needed is a steady improvement in the quality of notes, not a sudden intervention paralysing 86 per cent of the value of all currency in the country, as the demonetisation policy did.
- The other reason for demonetisation was to curb black money. The hope was that people who made money and did not pay taxes would be stranded by the suddenness of the announcement. However, the wealthiest players keep the bulk of their black money in offshore accounts and in real estate.
- Moreover, demonetisation created a new form of corruption whereby rich people parcelled their illegal money into small batches and used ordinary people —“money mules” — to change it to legal tender and escaped detection.
- Finally, demonetisation was touted as a method of “digitalisation”, a move to a cashless society. There is no denying that the world will eventually be fully digitalised. But in today’s world, where even the most advanced nations have not got there, to expect India to leapfrog to a digitalised economy is fantasy. The move was devastating for the poor and those in the informal sector, since about half of India’s adult population does not have bank accounts and lives by cash.
The positive outcomes of the government may not be in proportion to the overall objectives what government has decided earlier. But it has shown strong political will of the government to go after the corrupt and wicked tendencies of the people.
After the debacle of BSP in Uttar Pradesh and Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi municipal elections, large number of political leaders of these parties have accused that EVMs could be tempered easily and demanded the replacement of EVMs by ballot paper. Even Mr Bharadwaj of the AAP had produced a prototype of the EVM which could be easily hacked.
Design and Technology used in the EVM-
- An EVM consists of two units, control unit and balloting unit. The two units are joined by a five-meter cable. Balloting unit facilitates voting by voter via labelled buttons while control unit controls the ballot units, stores voting counts and displays the results on 7 segment LED displays.
- The controller used in EVMs has its operating program etched permanently in silicon at the time of manufacturing by the manufacturer. No one (including the manufacturer) can change the program once the controller is manufactured.
- EVMs are powered by an ordinary 6 volt alkaline battery manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad. This design enables the use of EVMs throughout the country without interruptions because several parts of India do not have power supply and/or erratic power supply and due to the low voltage, there is absolutely no risk of any voter getting an electric shock.
- An EVM can record a maximum of 2000 votes and can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a single balloting unit and up to a maximum of 4 units can be connected in parallel.
- The conventional ballot paper/box method of polling is used if the number of candidates exceeds 64. It is not possible to vote more than once by pressing the button again and again. As soon as a particular button on the balloting unit is pressed, the vote is recorded for that particular candidate and the machine gets locked. Even if one presses that button further or any other button, no further vote will be recorded. This way the EVMs ensure the principle of “one person, one vote”.
Can they be hacked?
Mr. Bhardwaj of AAP recently showed that the use of malicious code (“secret codes”) by a voter affiliated to a certain party could fix the results to be different from the actual tally and in favour of that party and, ergo, demonstrated that the machine could be hacked. He went on to allude that this is how EVMs are being hacked in the country and that it is easily possible to do the same with the ECI’s EVMs.
- In reality, the ECI’s EVM does not allow for any trojan horse (malicious code) enabled key presses. Only one key press on the ballot unit is allowed during the act of voting and recognised by the control unit, so the use of a secret code to lock the tally in favour of a party as alleged by the demonstration does not hold true in the case of the ECI’s EVM.
- Bhardwaj later claimed in his presentation that a simple change of the “motherboard” in the ECI’s EVM was enough to render the manipulations of the kind he demonstrated as possible. In other words, if the ECI’s EVM was manipulated by the change of its microcontroller, it could function in the manner he demonstrated.
But for that to happen, a large-scale operation of changing the microcontroller embedded in every EVM to be used in an election is required, and this is only possible if there is direct collusion between the ECI authorities who are in charge of storage, commissioning and allocation (which is done via several stages of randomisation) and the political party that is orchestrating this mass fraud.
That is, every administrative safeguard instituted by the ECI would have to deliberately violated by its own officials to allow for the manipulation.
- Further quality control checks are done during and after manufacture, and besides these, the ECI’s new models (M2 and M3) prevent tamper-proofing by time-stamping key presses and provide for encryptions and tracking software that handle EVM logistics.
Thus the EVMs used in the elections are far more safe and secured than what some of the political leaders are pretending to. Election Commission is working continuously to accommodate better technology and put in place adequate safeguards for the non-tempered functioning of the EVMs.
Advantages in using EVMs-
- The most important advantage is that the printing of millions of ballot papers can be dispensed with, as only one ballot paper is required for fixing on the Balloting Unit at each polling station instead of one ballot paper for each individual elector. This results in huge savings by way of cost of paper, printing, transportation, storage and distribution.
- Secondly, counting is very quick and the result can be declared within 2 to 3 hours as compared to 30-40 hours, on an average, under the conventional system.
- Thirdly, there are no invalid votes under the system of voting under EVMs. The importance of this will be better appreciated, if it is remembered that in every General Election, the number of invalid votes is more than the winning margin between the winning candidate and the second candidate, in a number of constituencies. To this extent, the choice of the electorate will be more correctly reflected when EVMs are used.
The EVM, just as any other machine, needs to constantly evolve in order to remain secure and workable under any condition while at the same time keeping its operations simple. The introduction of the VVPAT should enable another layer of accountability to the EVM. To seek to improve the use of EVMs and to secure them better is one thing; to call them faulty machines which are being deliberately manipulated by a pliant system that is in cahoots with dominant political actors is another, considering the experience of its use for the past two decades and repeated clarifications and improvements made to them by the ECI. This amounts to delegitimising the entire system of an accountable and independent ECI that conducts elections with the participation of other administrative actors as watchdogs and checks over it.