SECURE SYNOPSIS: 05 June 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: Location of industries, Resources;
1) For many years, fires in coal deposits under the surface of the Jharia coalfields in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district have become a common occurrence. Discuss the causes, consequences of these fires and solutions needed to stop these fires. (200 Words)
The Jharia coalfield in Bihar is an exclusive storehouse of prime coke coal in the country, consisting of 23 large underground and nine large open cast mines. The mining activities in these coalfields started in 1894 and had really intensified in 1925. The history of coal-mine fire in Jharia coalfield can be traced back to 1916 when the first fire was detected. At present, more than 70 mine fires are reported from this region.
- Coal, a non-renewable source of energy, is found in several parts of the world. The coal layers are mined by two methods: open cast mining and underground mining. Coal is formed from organic matter with a high carbon content, which when exposed to certain conditions (temperature, moisture, oxygen etc.) tends to ignite/ burn spontaneously at rather low temperatures. This may occur naturally or the combustion process may be triggered by other causes.
- However, once a coal seam catches fire, and efforts to stop it an early stage fail, it may continue to burn for tens to hundreds of years, depending primarily on the availability of coal and oxygen. Coal fires have occurred in nearly all parts of the world like India, the US, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, China, Germany and many other countries. However, the nature and magnitude of the problem differs from country to country. In India, the fire in the Jharia coalfield has mainly been due to unscientific mining and extraction of coal in the past.
- Fires may occur in coal layers that are exposed to the surface of the earth or areas close to it. These are visible to the naked eye.
- Also, fires erupt in the underground seams, which have large cracks that serve as channels for oxygen to the burning coal. The main cause of natural coal fires are lightening, forest fires, bush fires, etc.
- Among human causes are accidents, negligent acts, domestic fires, lighting fires in abandoned underground mines for heating or distilling alcohol etc. Besides, burning away of an important energy resource, it creates problems for exploitation of coal, poses danger to humankind, raises the temperature of the area, and when present underground, can cause land to subside.
The pollution caused by these fires affects air, water, and land.
- Smoke, from these fires contains poisonous gases such as oxides and dioxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, which along with particulate matter are the causes of several lung and skin diseases.
- High levels of suspended particulate matter increase respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, while the gases contribute to global warming besides causing health hazards to the exposed population.
- Methane emission from coal mining depends on the mining methods, depth of coal mining, coal quality and entrapped gas content in the coal seams.
- These fires also pollute water by contaminating it and increasing its acidity, which is due to a certain percentage of sulphur that is present in coal. These fires lead to degradation of land and does not allow any vegetation to grow in the area.
- Forest fires lead to shifting of basic transportation routes like rail and road because of threat of cave ins. Indian government has already spent over 3000 crores in shifting the rail network of the area. It leads to loss of revenue, increase in expenditure and also affects livelihood of people associated with the routes.
- Migration – Inhospitable condition because of gas spills, and cave-ins which can be a death trap too, compels people to move out affecting economy and livelihood of the area.
- The measures for controlling coal mine fires include bull dozing, leveling and covering with soil to prevent the entry of oxygen and to stabilize the land for vegetation.
- A mix of nitrogen and water can be sprinkled to ensure that the fires are dampened if not extinguished to give time for the authorities to act.
- Cutting off Oxygen supply – Cavities on the ground are filled with sand and mud to cut off the oxygen supply.
- Reducing Temperature – Water is sprinkled in the affected mine to reduce the temperature which may stop the fire to spread.
Fire fighting in this area requires relocation of a large population, which poses to be a bigger problem than the actual fire-fighting operations.
The urge to produce more and earn more is becoming a virtue of human nature in this race of urbanization. The government should tighten up the screws and intervene at all steps to make sure the safety procedures are followed in any sector which has a huge risk factor involved.
Topic: Salient features of Indian society
Multiculturalism describes the existence, acceptance, or promotion of multiple cultural traditions within a single jurisdiction or single political territory. Multicultural ideologies and policies vary widely, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group to which they belong.
Multiculturalism that promotes maintaining the distinctiveness of multiple cultures is often contrasted to other settlement policies such as social integration, cultural assimilation and racial segregation. Multiculturalism has been described as a “salad bowl” and “cultural mosaic”.
The culture of India has been shaped by its long history, unique geography and diverse demography. India’s languages, religions, dance, music, architecture and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality. The culture of India is an amalgamation of these diverse sub-cultures spread all over the Indian subcontinent and traditions that are several millennia old.
Diversity is also existent in the very idea of free markets, especially in the mental make-up of the youth of the country whose aspirations and impatience to ‘acquire’ socio-economic upward mobility is defined by their sense of entitlement to have multiple choices in what they eat, wear and believe in.
This cultural diversity stands as the strength of India and not its weakness. The real threat to Indian unity arises when single culture dominates others or when there are attempts to enforce the single cultural identity on all the people in the country.
The attempt to monochrome its tradition results into confusion, distress among minorities, hatred towards other cultures, languages and tradition. This could also breeds non-tolerant attitude among people towards each other’s culture, practices and traditions which is a danger for democracy.
In India too there have been instances where threads of multiculturalism were shaken and attempts were made to enforce majority culture. Cow vigilantism and moral policing have emerged as threat to minority rights and has created serious mistrust among different communities.
In a democracy like India there should be enough space for dissent and diversion from the mainstream thinking. In some of the instances, such dissent and diversion from the mainstream thinking in colleges and universities were crushed with the brutal force by the state.
Seeing and projecting the country as a unidimensional monolith may seem to be an easy way out but will be both fruitless and counterproductive, hindering our peaceful and sustainable development.
The surge in confidence in individuals and communities in today’s India has resulted in a reinvention of identities and helped them express resistance to the emergent nationalism in innovative forms. Their expressions not just make us aware of the multicultural character of our country but also show that attempts to monochrome its composition will be a failure.
Any kind of action to tamper with the idea of diversity will only result in conflicts and resistance, and will impede the country’s economic development, which characterizes the aspiration of all Indians today.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group consisting of 12 of the world’s major oil-exporting nations. OPEC was founded in 1960 to coordinate the petroleum policies of its members, and to provide member states with technical and economic aid. OPEC is a cartel that aims to manage the supply of oil in an effort to set the price of oil on the world market, in order to avoid fluctuations that might affect the economies of both producing and purchasing countries.
OPEC, which describes itself as a permanent intergovernmental organization, was created in Baghdad in Sept. 1960, by its founding members: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The headquarters of the organization are in Vienna, Austria, where the OPEC Secretariat, its executive organ, carries out OPEC’s day-to-day business.
According to its statutes, OPEC membership is open to any country that is a substantial exporter of oil and that shares the ideals of the organization. Along with the five founding members, OPEC has 9 additional member countries, as of 2016. They are: Qatar, Indonesia , Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, Gabon and Angola.
It is notable that some of the world’s largest oil producers, including Russia, China and the United States, are not members of OPEC and pursue their own objectives.
OPEC’s influence on the market has been widely criticized. Because its member countries hold the vast majority of crude oil reserves (about 80%) and nearly half of natural gas reserves in the world, the organization has considerable power in these markets. As a cartel, OPEC members have a strong incentive to keep oil prices as high as possible, while maintaining their shares of the global market.
Issues faced by it-
- Shale gas competition-
The huge production of shale gas at the cheap cost has created stiff competition for the oil producing nations of OPEC.
- Global economic slowdown:
With the ongoing global economic slowdown, the demand for petroleum and oil has fallen, leading to a decrease in price. This has led to falling of revenue of these countries whose majority of GDP is dependent on oil export.
- Conflicts among the member countries:
A fixed quota is given to each member country to produce oil to keep stable output at fairly high prices. However there have been differences over the allotment of quota among different member countries. Eg Saudi Arabia and Iran.
- Excess production:
Even with the changed scenario of a global slowdown, these countries are not changing their production patterns to suit the need of the changing world, leading to excess of supply with a constant or decreasing demand.
- Competition from non-OPEC countries:
Other countries are also exploring new oil reserves and devising new ways and technologies to reduce their dependence on OPEC countries for their oil requirements. For eg, North Sea, Mexico, Alaska etc.
Impact on India-
India, being the fourth largest importer of crude oil, imports 85 per cent of total oil and 95 per cent of gas from OPEC nations.
- Lower oil prices kept the economy on the shining path and managed to keep inflation under control.
- Reduction in the cost of oil import- The prices of the oil have reduced more than half over the last decade. This has helped India to save huge foreign exchange.
- Limiting trade imbalance- The decrease in oil prices also had positive impact on the trade imbalance of the India which was heavily tilted in favor of import.
- Indian government could pocket the windfall gains through the decrease in the oil prices. This has also encouraged the government to increase the strategic reservoir of oil.
- Decrease in the remittances from the gulf- The global economic slowdown and thereby decreasing oil prices have made adverse impact on the remittance coming to India from the gulf region.
Thus the decrease in oil prices had largely positive effect on India. Further OPEC needs to resolve the internal issues and reduce the oil production to enhance the collective bargaining prices.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then the bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed at the economic, military, agricultural and political levels. Nature of India-Israel relationship-
Nature of India-Israel relationship-
- A cautious beginning-
Relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi were not always warm. Although both countries gained their independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, they found themselves headed in pointedly different directions for nearly four decades – India as a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement that maintained close relations to the Arab world and the Soviet Union; Israel which linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.
The formal diplomatic relations were opened in 1992 between the two in limited spheres initially. Since then the relationship has blossomed and strengthened gradually.
- De-hyphenation of Israel and Palestine-
One of the reason for not having formal diplomatic relations with the Israel initially was the India’s high moral stand on the issue of Palestine. However since 1992 India has separated the two issues. Thus even when India’s proximity with the Israel is increasing, it has not changed its stand on the Palestine issue.
- Strategic relationship-
Both countries see themselves as isolated democracies threatened by neighbors that train, finance and encourage terrorism, therefore both countries also view their cooperative relationship as a strategic imperative.
- Defence ties forms the pivot of relationship-
India and Israel have increased co-operation in military and intelligence ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The rise of Islamic extremist terrorism in both nations has generated a strong strategic alliance between the two. India recently launched a military satellite for Israel through its Indian Space Research Organisation.
India has purchased many military equipments and technologies to meet its internal and external security needs. For eg Barak missiles, Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs), Laser-guided bombs, Phalcon AWACS, anti-tank missiles etc.
- Bilateral relations beyond the defence-
- Agriculture- India and Israel are cooperating closely in the field of agriculture since the last decade. The strongest instance of this are the Centers of Excellence, which were begun in 2009 and now exist in a large number of Indian states. One of the interesting collaborations between Israel and India in the agriculture sphere is the Olive Plantation Initiative in Rajasthan. Plus, a number of states, the most recent example being Punjab, are keen to seek Israeli assistance in drip irrigation.
- IT start-ups- Tel Aviv has been ranked as number five in the world in terms of providing an ecosystem for entrepreneurs. At the time when present Indian government is focusing on building entrepreneurial culture in India, the cooperation from Israel could prove the most important. At a time when a large number of countries are becoming more insular and imposing visa restrictions — with IT professionals being the biggest sufferers — the need for focusing on start-ups, especially in IT, is even more important.
- There are other areas too where both countries can enhance their cooperation. While in the area of education, exchanges between both sides are steadily rising, they remain way below the true potential. As of 2016, one-tenth of foreign students in Israel were from India.
- The number of tourists from India to Israel has witnessed an increase. In 2016, over 40,000 Indians visited Israel. India has been focusing on this aspect, and since 2015 efforts have been made to attract more Israeli tourists, especially those of Indian origin. An increase in the number of flights will give a spurt to tourism exchanges.
With the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi to Israel, the relationship between the two will only strengthen and encompass various dimensions of the bilateral relations.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Recently some of the instances have been reported where failure in authentication processes led to denial of services to people. This Aadhaar based exclusion has emerged as a serious concerns and needs to delve into it.
- Biometric mismatch:
Many a times a biometric mismatch occurs either through system failure or helped by shop owner that leads to denial of very basic rights of the people like getting their monthly ration or fetching of other services.
- Poor internet connectivity:
When the ADHAR CARD holder has to be identified by his/her biometric through a large database, poor internet connectivity can obstruct the process.
- Machine malfunction:
The malfunctioning of machine is other big hurdle for identification process. Along with the lack of digital literacy and machine familiarity, it can lead to failure of authentication of process.
- Lack of grievance redressal mechanism:
The absence of any institution to report the Aadhaar related issues, magnifies woes of the poor people.
- Lack of awareness:
People especially in remote rural and tribal areas are unaware of their rights, they can be easily fooled by the authorities and middleman.
Different states have experienced different types of exclusion problems-
In the last year when UID authentication was made mandatory in the state, the food department website shows that over 25 per cent of ration card holders with Aadhaar seeding have been unable to draw their rations. That amounts to 25 lakh families, or more than a crore of the most vulnerable people.
Under the pension “reform”, 10 lakh social security pensioners disappeared from the lists and their pensions were stopped even when most of them had Aadhaar cards and were alive.
- Andhra Pradesh-
The Andhra Pradesh Food and Civil Supplies Corporation found that…nearly one-fifth ration card holders did not buy their ration.” Further, “When the government delved deeper in the issue, it was found that out of the 790 cases interviewed for the study, 400 reported exclusion. Out of the excluded cases, 290 were due to fingerprint mismatch and 93 were because of Aadhaar card mismatch. The remaining 17 cases were due to failure of E-PoS.”
In Chitradurga (Karnataka), Rs.100-150 million in wages from 2014-15 were held up for a year. When payments were being processed, their job cards could not be traced in NREGAsoft. Upon enquiry, the district administration learnt field staff had deleted them to achieve ‘100% Aadhaar-seeding’.”
The consequences of the problem are wide with far reaching effects. Some of them are:
- Exclusion denies citizens of their basic necessities like food, pension etc.
- Lack of exclusion develops mistrust and frustration against the government among the masses.
- This can have gross impact on our targets to remove poverty and malnutrition under SDGs.
- It gives rise to involuntary manslaughter with vulnerable citizens dying of hunger and destitution.
- Exclusion problem can give a set back to the opportunity of exporting Aadhaar technology to other willing countries like Sri-Lanka and others.
Aadhaar was brought in with the objective of inclusion of masses into the fold of government welfare programs that deserved it but were excluded. However some of the instances have shown that Aadhaar itself is leading to the exclusion of targeted beneficiaries. Thus government needs to take immediate corrective steps so that the noble idea of bringing Aadhaar is preserved.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
- Cryogenic technology involves the use of rocket propellants at extremely low temperatures. The combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen offers the highest energy efficiency for rocket engines that need to produce large amounts of thrust
- A Cryogenic rocket stage is more efficient and provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant it burns compared to solid and earth-storable liquid propellant rocket stages. Specific impulse (a measure of the efficiency) achievable with cryogenic propellants (liquid Hydrogen and liquid Oxygen) is much higher compared to earth storable liquid and solid propellants, giving it a substantial payload advantage.
- However, cryogenic stage is technically a very complex system compared to solid or earth-storable liquid propellant stages due to its use of propellants at extremely low temperatures and the associated thermal and structural problems. Oxygen liquifies at -183 deg C and Hydrogen at -253 deg C. The propellants, at these low temperatures are to be pumped using turbo pumps running at around 40,000 rpm. It also entails complex ground support systems like propellant storage and filling systems, cryo engine and stage test facilities, transportation and handling of cryo fluids and related safety aspects.
- The engine works on “Gas Generator Cycle” which has flexibility for independent development of each sub-system before the integrated engine test, thus minimising uncertainty in the final developmental phase and reducing development time. This engine generates nearly 2 MW power as compared to 1 MW generated by the engine of Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) engine of GSLV. The high thrust cryogenic engine is one of the most powerful cryogenic engines of upper stages in the world.
Why this technology is important for India?
- India is only the 6th country to develop the cryogenic engine after the USA, France, Japan, China and Russia.
- It is important technology for India because India could launch heavy satellites (of weight more than 2500-3000kg) with the help of Cryogenic engines and its critical for the success of GSLV program.
- The technology also holds importance in the context that India was denied this technology in 1990s by the USA when India was making deal with Russian agency to transfer of technology.
- With this technology India does not have to depend on the other space agencies.
- It will not just help ISRO probe deeper into space but will also bring it extra revenue, enabling it to make commercial launches of heavier satellites. By providing the cost effective and reliable services India can tap the Asian and African space markets, which are looking towards India on this front.
How has India acquired this technology?
- ISRO had planned the development of a cryogenic engine way back in the mid-1980s when just a handful of countries — the United States, the erstwhile USSR, France and Japan — had this technology.
- To fast-track its development of next-generation launch vehicles — the GSLV programme had already been envisioned — ISRO had decided to import a few of these engines. It had discussions with Japan, US and France before finally settling for Russian engines. In 1991, ISRO and the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos, had signed an agreement for supply of two of these engines along with transfer of technology so that the Indian scientists could build these on their own in the future.
- However, the United States, which had lost out on the engine contract, objected to the Russian sale, citing provisions of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that neither India nor Russia was a member of. MTCR seeks to control the proliferation of missile technology. Russia, still emerging from the collapse of the USSR, succumbed to US pressure and cancelled the deal in 1993. In an alternative arrangement, Russia was allowed to sell seven, instead of original two, cryogenic engines but could not transfer the technology to India.
- These engines supplied by Russia were used in the initial flights of first and second generation GSLVs (Mk-I and Mk-II). The last of these was used in the launch of INSAT-4CR in September 2007. But ever since the cancellation of the original Russian deal, ISRO got down to develop the cryogenic technology on its own at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Thiruvananthapuram. It took more than a decade to build the engines and success did not come easily.
In 2010, two launches of second generation GSLV rockets, one having the Russian engine and the other indigenously developed, ended in failures. The big success came in December 2014 with the experimental flight of third generation (Mk-III) GSLV containing an indigenous cryogenic similar to the one used in GSAT-19. This mission also carried out an experimental re-entry payload, that ejected after reaching a height of 126 km and landed safely in the Bay of Bengal. After that, there have been three successful launches of second generation GSLV (Mk-II), the latest one, in May 2017, being GSLV-F09 that launched the South Asian satellite.
Topic: Resource mobilization; Agriculture
GST raises three important questions regarding the agriculture-
- One, is the GST going to be inflation neutral, given that food has 45 per cent weight in consumer price index (CPI)?
- Two, is the GST going to be revenue neutral, and especially, which states could lose revenue and how will they be compensated?
- Three, does it give some incentives to link farmers with the food processing industry, which may help them reduce market risk, augment incomes and create new jobs in rural areas?
Answer to these question gives important insight about the impact of GST on agriculture-
- Fertilizers, which currently attract VAT varying from 0 to 8 per cent in several states, will now attract 12 per cent tax under the GST. That means the price of fertilizers is likely to go up by 5-7 per cent, unless the government decides to absorb this by increasing the subsidy.
- Pesticides are put in a slab of 18 per cent, up from the 12 per cent excise today and a VAT of 4-5 per cent in some states.
- Tractor rates are tricky: Several components and accessories are put in a slab of 28 per cent, while tractors are under the 12 per cent slab, up from zero excise and a VAT of 4-5 per cent. Overall, it seems from the inputs side that the cost of cultivation for farmers may increase marginally, which in turn may put a mild pressure on agri-prices.
- Most raw agri-commodities ranging from rice, wheat, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, are in the zero tax slab, rightly so, as they are consumed by the masses.
- However, it may be interesting to note that a state like Punjab which contributes maximum grains to the central pool, imposes taxes and various cesses to the extent of 12 per cent on wheat and rice. On top of that, there is the arhatiya commission of 2.5 per cent making the transaction cost of these staples in Punjab mandis as high as 14.5 per cent.
- Now, with the new GST regime, even if a commission of 2.5 per cent stays, one hopes that all other taxes and cesses will go away. As a result, the purchase cost of wheat and paddy (rice) from Punjab mandis will go down by 12 per cent. This would be a major gain with several ripple effects. One, that the price of these basic staples in the open market should come down by say 5-7 per cent, as most grain surplus states impose at least that much tax. This was a major distortion in the mandis, driving the private sector from Punjab. Now, with zero taxes, the private sector may come back to buying wheat and rice from these surplus states, giving a fillip to grain milling.
- At an all-India level, Food Corporation of India (FCI) may save anywhere from Rs 6,000-8,000 crore, which could show up in a lesser food subsidy bill. But surplus states like Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh may lose this tax revenue, which they are getting from the FCI or GoI under the current system. How they will be compensated is not yet clear even to the FCI, although there is a provision for compensating losing states for five years by the Centre. The rationalisation of mandi taxes and associated cess and levies will be the biggest gain from the GST as far as agriculture is concerned.
- However, the taxation structure for processed food is not very encouraging. For example, fruit and vegetable juices will be taxed at 12 per cent, up from the current 5 per cent; fruit jams, jellies, marmalades, fruit and vegetable purees, etc. are taxed even higher at 18 per cent, up from 5 per cent. This is surprising as it will discourage the development of the food processing industry, especially for perishable fruits and vegetables.
It may be worth reconsidering these rates and bringing them down to the 5 per cent slab for stronger linkages between farmers and the food processing industry and creating jobs in rural areas. Since the raw material could be sourced directly from farmers instead of being entirely depending on middlemen in mandis, e-NAM provides this opportunity to graduate to a real pan-India market for agricultural products. A smooth GST regime can break inter-state barriers on movement and facilitate direct linkages between processors and farmers. This can transform the operations of mandis too if other necessary reforms to free up agricultural markets are undertaken. If this happens, farmers would also welcome the GST the way organized industry seems to be.