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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.



Topic:    Changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes. 

1) It is said that the many environmental concerns and massive price tag of the river-interlinking project may outweigh its projected benefits. Do you agree? Discuss critically. (200 Words)


The debate on the river linkage is very old and deserves the given time of discourse due to the huge cost involved and probable impacts of the project on ecological balance. The idea was first mooted in 1858 by British irrigation engineer Arthur Cotton, who is known as the ‘Delta Architect’ of the Godavari districts because of his work in irrigation engineering through his construction of the anicut system.


The Indian Rivers Inter-link is a proposed large-scale civil engineering project that aims to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals and so reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts of India.

The Inter-link project has been split into three parts:

  • A northern Himalayan rivers inter-link component
  • A southern peninsular component
  • An intrastate rivers linking component.

The project is being managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA), under its Ministry of Water Resources. NWDA has studied and prepared reports on 14 inter-link projects for Himalayan component, 16 inter-link projects for peninsular component and 37 intrastate river linking projects.

Benefits of river linking project:

India also sees years of excess monsoons and floods, followed by below average or late monsoons with droughts. This geographical and time variance in availability of natural water versus the year round demand for irrigation, drinking and industrial water creates a demand-supply gap,  that has been worsening with India’s rising population.

projects claim the answers to India’s water problem is to conserve the abundant monsoon water bounty, store it in reservoirs, and deliver this water – using rivers inter-linking project – to areas and over times when water becomes scarce.

Beyond water security, the project is also seen to offer potential benefits to transport infrastructure through navigation, as well as to broadening income sources in rural areas through fish farming.

Basis for opposition to project:

Cost of the project: The comprehensive proposal to link Himalayan rivers with peninsular rivers for inters basin transfer of water was estimated to cost around Rs 5,60,000 crore in 2001. Land submergence and R&R (relief and rehabilitation) packages would be additional to the cost. There are no firm estimates available for the scheme, such as the cost of power required to lift water.

A study by IIT Madras and IIT Bombay presented evidence to show that rainfall in ‘surplus’ basins was declining while it was increasing in ‘deficient’ basins. It means, the report added, that rainfall was getting uniform, thus negating transfer of the water.

The Shah committee also pointed out that the linking of rivers will affect natural supply of nutrients for agricultural lands through curtailing flooding of downstream areas.

Half a million people are likely to be displaced in the process that will create the huge burden on the government to deal with the issue of rehabilitation of displaced people.

Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.

Due to interlinking of rivers, there will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life system and will be a major ecological disaster.

The impact of river linking on wildlife has not studied well as river linkages may damage the animal corridors and natural niches of the wild animal.

There is the possibility that, peninsular component of river linking may lead to the coastal erosion and submergence of coastal areas.

Controversy over the NRLP ranges from dubious project design, negative environmental impacts such as change in the land-oceans and freshwater-seawater ecosystems, increase in seismic hazards, transfer of river pollution, and loss of forests and biodiversity, huge social and financial cost of about US$120 billion, and available less costly demand management options.


Topic:  Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure

2) Can the Centre take recourse to Article 256, which empowers it to issue directions to the States, to put an end to the activities of vigilantes? Examine. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Recent incidence:

Supreme courts’ directions on cow vigilantism:

The Supreme Court asked all States and Union Territories to appoint nodal police officers district-wise to crack down on and prosecute cow vigilante groups that engage in violence and mayhem. The court directed the Centre to respond to a submission by senior advocate Indira Jaising that the Centre cannot wash their hands of its constitutional responsibility under Article 256 to instruct the States to take “necessary” steps in law to save innocent human lives from fury of the mobs.

The court directed the Chief Secretaries and the Directors General of Police of States to consult each other and respond to the court. The Centre shall also indicate its views on this issue.


It a civilian or organization acting in a law enforcement capacity (or in the pursuit of self-perceived justice) without legal authority.

A Vigilant person tries in an unofficial way to prevent crime, or to catch and punish someone who has committed a crime, especially because they do not think that official organizations, such as the police, are controlling crime effectively. Vigilantes usually join together to form groups. In last few years there is rising cow vigilantism in country that has threatened the life and personal liberty of many people.

Article 256 of constitution of India:

Obligation of States and the Union The executive power of every State shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament and any existing laws which apply in that State, and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.

The center can apply article 256 in order to protect the state because:

It is the constitutional provision and thus has the basis of law and legal authority to do so.

By applying article 256, the central government will take care of the life and personal liberty of indivisual who has got that protection under article 21.

As per the article 25, every indivisual has the fundamental right to religious freedom in terms of practice, profess and propagating it. By controlling the situation in state under article 256 will indirectly protect the right of an indivisual to practice her/his religion.

The issue of cow vigilantism is directly problem of law and order. This kind of situation needs prompt action to be taken by police department. In case of failure of state police, it is legally right for the central government to intervene by using article 256.

By doing so, the center will protect one of the most disadvantaged sections of society who generally becomes victim of violence due to vigilantism related acts.

The recent direction by supreme court are in light of constitutionalism and thus guides the various stakeholders about the action that state must take to preserve the fundamental rights of the people and law order situation.


Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability; E-governnce

3) Can the combination of the PMJDY,  the JAM and the BHIM be called as social revolution? Critically examine. (200 Words)

The Hindu


Objective of “Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)” is ensuring access to various financial services like availability of basic savings bank account, access to need based credit, remittances facility, insurance and pension to the excluded sections i.e. weaker sections & low income groups. This deep penetration at affordable cost is possible only with effective use of technology.

PMJDY is a National Mission on Financial Inclusion encompassing an integrated approach to bring about comprehensive financial inclusion of all the households in the country. The plan envisages universal access to banking facilities with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility. In addition, the beneficiaries would get RuPay Debit card having inbuilt accident insurance cover of र 1 lakh. The plan also envisages channeling all Government benefits (from Centre / State / Local Body) to the beneficiaries’ accounts and pushing the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme of the Union Government.


BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) is a Mobile App developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), based on the Unified Payment Interface (UPI). The app supports all Indian banks which use that platform, which is built over the Immediate Payment Service infrastructure and allows the user to instantly transfer money between the bank accounts of any two parties. It can be used on all mobile devices


JAM (short for Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) trinity refers to the government of India initiative to link Jan Dhan accounts, Mobile numbers and Aadhar cards of Indians to plug the leakages of government subsidies. Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana is India’s National Mission for Financial Inclusion to ensure access to financial services, namely Banking Savings & Deposit Accounts, Remittance, Credit, Insurance, and Pension in an affordable manner.

PMJDY, BHIM and JAM together bring a social revolution:

The synergetic approach to implement all the schemes at one platform for the particular set of goals can truly bring the social revolution by enhancing the number of beneficiaries in target group.

This trio can be used to rationalize subsidies by targeting right people who require government support the most.

Technological intervention can help to reduce the cost of transfer of money and provisions of other services at the doorstep of the beneficiary.

JAM ensures seamless transfer of welfare payments and facilitates the making payments in real time.

The educational sector and health sector being the crucial sectors of public good the application of all these schemes can improve the results of government efforts.

Informal sector is one of the most exploited sectors of society due to lack of social security. These three schemes can work in symphony in order to extend social security benefits to informal sectors of the society.

This kind of technological intervention can cross the geographical barriers and holds the potential to reach the inaccessible corners of the country.

In terms of accountability and transparency these technologies can change the very culture of corruption, nepotism and secrecy.

There are following existing challenges such as:

  • Inefficient hardware infrastructure
  • Right to privacy and issue over collection of biometric data
  • Challenge of vernacular language
  • Issue of data theft and financial security on internet.
  • New complications brought by Goods and Service tax and Direct tax code.
  • Regulation of virtual wallets and other e payment platforms.

The application all the three schemes in true spirit can bring social revolution if they are implemented not just in letter but in true spirit as well.



Topic:  Infrastructure; Economic growth

4) China has achieved some four decades of rapid economic growth. Is urbanization its source of growth? Compare with sources of India’s growth. (200 Words)


Cities play a vital role in generating economic growth and prosperity. The sustainable development of cities largely depends upon their physical, social and institutional infrastructure. According to THEODORE PARKER “Cities have always been the fireplaces of civilization, whence light and heat radiated out into the dark”. Urbanization over the last two centuries, the share of the world’s population living in cities increased from about 9 percent to about 46 percent.

Urbanisation and urban development have been on the rise in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution.  This time, with the relaxing of the strict rules regarding population mobility, saw the increased opportunity for Chinese people to move, and work and live, almost anywhere in the country that they desired.

Urbanisation in China Trend and analysis:

China has been working to shift from a manufacturing-led growth model fuelled by low-cost labour to an innovation-led, higher-value-added model underpinned by strong productivity gains. Urbanization will be critical to facilitate this shift.

In China half the population lives in urbanized areas, and less than 10% reside permanently in megacities. And the country’s urbanization rate remains well below the global average.

China has many dynamic second-tier cities—such as Chengdu, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Suzhou—that are capable of reaching first-tier status, if given the chance.

There is need to abolish land-quota system, which limits the amount of land cities can develop for future productivity growth and allocates a disproportionate share of land to factories. Otherwise, urbanization will continue pushing up already-high housing costs, but not efficiently enough to power sustained growth and development.

Urbanisation in India Analysis:

The trend analysis of urbanisation in India indicates that the urbanisation is mostly the result of the rural to urban migration leading to the huge pressure on urban centers of the country.

Major challenge is of revenue generation with the ULBs. This problem can be analyzed form two perspectives. First, the states have not given enough autonomy to ULBs to generate revenues and second in some case the ULBs have failed to utilize even those tax and fee powers that they have been vested with.

Housing provision for the growing urban population will be the biggest challenge before the government.

The safe drinking water sources are also found to be contaminated because of water in the cities are inadequate and in the future, the expected population cannot be accommodated without a drastic improvement in the availability of water.

The poor sanitation condition is another gloomy feature in urban areas and particularly in slums and unauthorized colonies of urban areas.

As high income individual are buying more private vehicle and use less public transport. Such huge number of vehicles in cities is causing more traffic jam, which in turn decreases the efficiency of public transport.

Vulnerability to risk posed by the increasing man-made and natural disasters. According to UNDP 70 % of Indian population is at risk to floods and 60% susceptible to earthquakes. The risk are higher in urban areas owing to density and overcrowding.

Comparison in opportunities in India and China:

In case of China there is still huge place for Tier 1 cities to get converted into tier 1 cities. Such possibilities in India though exist, has the issues of planning and implementation.

The infrastructure is not the stumbling block in China due to strong manufacturing sector, For India funding for infrastructure is main challenge.

Innovation has played very progressive role in urbanisation process in China, in India it is not upto the mark.

The quality of life in urban areas for people in the two countries varies to very large extent due to availability of job and level of social security.


Urbanization increase Economic Growth and globalization, Increase people standard of living, Good Education but this creates disparity in the market, owing to the large demands of the growing population and the primary sector struggling to cope with them.


Topic: Infrastructure – Railways

5) Why is Indian Railways (IR) not able to safely carry trains at 100 to 130 km/hr when railways elsewhere are carrying trains at a much higher speeds of 160 to 200 km/hr with the infrastructure and rolling stock based on the same technologies as IR’s? Also suggest measures to prevent railway accidents. (200 Words)

The Indian Express


Introduction :- In rail transport worldwide, raising the speed of trains while also reducing the speed differential between freight and passenger trains have been the key to increasing capacity and improving safety. Notable examples are the railway systems in Western Europe, North America and China. But in case of Indian Railway there is a gloomy picture.

It not able to safely carry trains at 100 to 130 km/hr when railways elsewhere are carrying trains at a much higher speeds of 160 to 200 km/hr with the infrastructure and rolling stock based on the same technologies as IR’s. Reasons for the same are :-

According to the latest data, utilisation exceeds the capacity on 65 per cent of busy routes. It is 120 per cent to 150 per cent on 32 per cent of the routes, and utilisation exceeds 150 per cent on 9 per cent of the routes. Over-utilisation is leaving little time for safety inspections and essential maintenance of track and other infrastructure as well as the rolling stock.

The focus of IR has shifted to daily fire-fighting, to somehow keep trains running, leading to all sorts of maladies like inter-departmental tussles and low morale.

Arguably, IR has one of the highest incidences of accidents due to material, equipment and human failures.

As its capacity stagnated right through 2000-10, IR started overloading wagons. In another knee-jerk response, IR latched on to the idea of building two Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) with three more to come in future. 

IR also began pushing for building High-Speed Rail (HSR) lines. HSR lines are too costly and suited for countries with very high per capita income. When the plan to build DFCs was announced, E. Sreedharan, India’s best-known railway engineer, had questioned the wisdom of building them. He has also said that India can wait for HSR.


The common causes of train accidents are listed below:

  • Derailments
  • Mechanical failure
  • Human error
  • Distracted pedestrians
  • Problems with the track
  • Crashes with other trains and vehicles
  • Accidents at unprotected railroad crossings
  • Stalled cars on the track
  • Suicides

following steps to reduce the number of accidents:

  • The work of track circuiting has been accelerated on the trunk routes and other important main lines.
  • Modification of the signaling circuitry is being carried out to minimize chances of human error in causing accidents,.
  • An auxiliary warning system that gives advanced warning about “signal at danger” to the engineer of the train has been commissioned on Mumbai suburban sections.
  • Walkie-talkie sets are being supplied to engineers and guards on selected routes.
  • An increase in the use of tie-tamping and ballast cleaning machines for track maintenance.
  • Sophisticated track recording cars, oscillograph cars, and portable accelerometers are being introduced to monitoring track geometry and running characteristics of the track.
  • Ninety-six more double-rail Ultra Sonic Flaw Detectors are being purchases for detecting rail fractures and weld failures. In addition, two Self-Propelled Ultra Sonic Rail Testing Cars are being purchased.
  • Maintenance facilities for coaches and wagons have been modernized and upgraded at many depots.
  • Routine overhauling depots have been equipped with ultrasonic testing equipment for detection of flaws in the axles to prevent cases of cold breakage of axles.
  • Whistle boards/speed breakers and road signs have been provided at unmanned level crossings and visibility for drivers has been improved.
  • Audio-visual publicity campaigns are being conducted to educate road users on how to make a safe crossing.
  • Steps have been taken to prevent inflammable and explosive materials from being carried in passenger trains.
  • Periodic safety audits of different divisions by inter-disciplinary teams from zonal headquarters has been introduced.
  • Training facilities for engineers, guards, and staff connected with train operation have been modernized including the use of simulators for engineer training.
  • Refresher courses are scheduled at specified intervals.
  • Performance of the staff connected with train operation is being constantly monitored and those found deficient are sent for retraining.
  • Periodic safety drives are being launched to improve safety consciousness among the staff.


Indian Railways has remained stuck at 130 km/hr since 1969, while congestion on the trunk routes sky-rocketed. It’s time to shift focus to the core network that carries more than 80 per cent of the total traffic. The last mile works for upgrading the trunk routes which were repeatedly deferred should be undertaken on a priority basis so that the entire nation can realise the benefits of faster and safer travel. Else, safety on Indian Railway will only worsen.


Topic:  Basics of cyber security

6) Recently, the government set up a five-member committee chaired by former Supreme Court judge, Justice (retd.) B.N. Srikrishna, to draw up a draft Data Protection Bill. Examine the significance of the Bill and the salient features on which its recommendations would be based. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :- The draft Data Protection Bill. The Bill, if made law, will be India’s first exclusive statute providing protection to online users’ personal data from breach by state and non-state players.

Significance and salient features of bill :-

  • Committee notes that the “government is cognisant of the growing importance of data protection in India. The need to ensure growth of the digital economy while keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected is of utmost importance.”
  • Both the government and the court have agreed that this would be the “conceptual foundation for legislation protecting privacy” in the form of the new Data Protection Bill.
  • The new Bill would be based on five salient features:
  • technological neutrality and interoperability with international standards;
  • multi-dimensional privacy;
  • horizontal applicability to state and non-state entities;
  • conformity with privacy principles; and
  • a co-regulatory enforcement regime.
  • The Justice Shah group which is the guiding light for the present committee had emphasised on taking the informed and individual consent of users before the collection of their personal data.
  • It had proposed giving users prior notice of information practices, providing them with choices, and collection of only limited data necessary for the purpose for which it is collected. If there is a change of purpose, it must be notified to the individual.
  • Most importantly, the report proposed access for users to their personal information held by a data controller. Users should be able to seek correction, amendments, or deletion of inaccurate information.


Topic: Probity in Governance:


7) Why probity in public life is sine qua non these days? Discuss.(150 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :- Today, we have descended to such a low level of ethics that associating probity in public life is pure oxymoron.  Probity in governance is an essential and vital requirement for an efficient and effective system of governance and for socio-economic development. 

  • Unfortunately for India, discipline is disappearing fast from public life and without discipline, as the Scandinavian economist- sociologist, Gunnyar Myrdal, has pointed out, no real progress is possible.  Discipline implies inter aliapublic and private morality and a sense of honesty.  
  • While in the West a man who rises to positions of higher authority develops greater respect for laws, the opposite is true in our country. Here, the mark of a person holding high position is the ease with which he can ignore the laws and regulations. We are being swamped by a culture of indiscipline and untruth; morality, both public and private, is at a premium.   
  • Indira Gandhi came out with an astonishing statement that corruption was no longer an issue in India for the simple reason that it was a universal phenomenon. 
  • Greed and gold have been our deities. In this new religion, there is a nexus between criminals and politicians with bureaucracy playing more than second fiddle. These are not irresponsible observations of critics of the government but findings of the high-power Vohra Committee.
  • Our public servants who should set an example are the worst offenders. The canker has spread even to judicial institutions. The CBI, which is the premier body to handle these cases, is itself totally controlled by and subordinate to the Ministry.

An important requisite for ensuring probity in governance is absence of corruption. The other requirements are effective laws, rules and regulations governing every aspect of public life and, more important, an effective and fair implementation of those laws, etc. Indeed, a proper, fair and effective enforcement of law is a facet of discipline.

History teaches us that no country has been destroyed by external aggression but many countries have been ruined by internal decadence. If this lesson is borne in mind, we can retrieve the situation even now. We don’t seem to enjoy the rule of law in this country. That will be possible only if there is absolute transparency in government administration. Glasnost is India’s key to survival. We have been fooled by governments both at the Centre and in the States that they are committed to open government. Some Bills have come up here and there. But public administration is not open to public scrutiny. Tolstoy wrote “slavery has been abolished in Rome, it has been abolished in America which provoked even a civil war, and it has been abolished in Russia – the word has been abolished but the fact remains.” This is so with transparency and the rule of law. One cannot compromise with lack of integrity in public administrations or even corporate administrations except at our peril.


Topic: Probity in Governance:

8) In your opinion, what measures are required to be taken for ensuring probity in governance? Examine. (150 Words)


Introduction :- The Oxford Dictionary defines probity as “the quality or condition of having strong moral principles, integrity, good character, honesty, decency”. It is the act of adhering to the highest principles and ideals rather than avoiding corrupt or dishonest conduct. It balances service to the community against the self interest of individuals.

Probity has been described as a risk management approach ensuring procedural integrity. It is concerned with procedures, processes and systems rather than outcomes. The best probity processes do not however guarantee a Board will be immune from problems or criticism. It requires that Boards act ethically, impartially, honestly and with fairness.

 Certain measures required to be taken for ensuring probity in governance:

  • Need for enforcing section 5 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988:
  1. Property held benami liable to acquisition:-  (1) All properties held benami shall be subject to acquisition by such authority, in such manner and after following such procedures, as may be prescribed. 

(2)  For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that no amount shall be payable for the acquisition of any property under sub-section 

  • Misfeasance in Public Office – A Remedy :-
  • Necessity for a law providing for confiscation of illegally acquired assets of public servants
  • Legislations in parliament for reducing corruption :-


  • Enactment of a Public Interest Disclosure Act :- One of the measures adopted in several western countries to fight corruption and mal-administration is enactment of Public Interest Disclosure Acts, which are popularly called Whistle-blower Acts. The object of such enactments is to improve accountability in government and public sector organizations by encouraging people not to turn a blind eye to mal-practice taking place in their organizations and to report the same to the specified authority.  The motto of the British Act (Public Interest Disclosure Act, 1998) is “Address the message rather than the messenger; and resist the temptation to cover up serious mal-practices”.  The Act provides for protection of Whistle-blowers from dismissal and victimization by making appropriate provisions in that behalf.
·         Enactment of a Freedom of Information Act :- Right to receive and the right to impart information has been held to be a part of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of article 19 of the Constitution subject of course to the reasonable restrictions, if any, that may be placed on such right in terms of and to the extent permitted by clause (2) of the said article.   It has been held by the Supreme Court in Secretary, Ministry of I&B v. Cricket Association of Bengal 
  • Necessity for enacting an efficient Lok Pal Bill in addition to the present model of lokpal act.
  • Strengthening of the Criminal Judicial System :- This is one of the most important requisites for ensuring probity in governance.  The criminal judicial system consists of the police/investigating agency, the prosecuting agency, the advocates, witnesses and finally the judiciary. Inasmuch as this topic is dealt with in another paper, the same is not being dilated upon in this Consultation Paper.