Print Friendly, PDF & Email



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 world’s physical geography.

1) Discuss the importance of Antarctica in a rapidly warming globe. (250 Words)

Down to Earth

Antarctica is the biggest reserve of fresh water in the world, which it holds in form of ice sheets and permafrost. In a rapidly warming world, Antarctica’s ice shelf are loosing ice and started to melt off. For example recently Larsen C Shelf broke itself off from the main landmass of Antarctica, before that Larsen A and B shelf have already been drifted.




  1. Large quantity of fresh water
  • Antarctica holds a staggering amount of water. The three ice sheets that cover the continent contain around 70% of our planet’s fresh water, all of which we now know to be vulnerable to warming air and oceans. If all the ice sheets were to melt, Antarctica would raise global sea levels by at least 56m.

2.Impact in changing climate of Southern hemisphere

  • Meltwater would slow down the world’s ocean circulation, and shifting wind belts may affect the climate in the southern hemisphere.
  • Ocean currents flow and winds blow precisely because of temperature difference between poles and equator region. With global warming this difference will come down thus affecting both currents and winds.
  • Naturally it will significantly disturb the balance of climate
  • For example – erratic monsoon, frequent El-Nino and La-Nina

3.Reservoir of Carbon

  • Existing Ice Sheets have kept a massive source of Carbon Dioxide and Methane underneath.
  • If these ice sheets are to melt, huge mass of these greenhouse gases will escape and further exacerbate Global Warming catastrophically.

4.Heat budget of the Earth

  • Icesheets are excellent medium for reflecting back the sunlight, known as albedo. Thus Antarctica is significant in balancing the heat budget of earth.

5.Presence of minerals

  • Antarctica is lesser known but significant store house of minerals, some of which are not even quantified. E.g, gold deposits.
  • Presently, there may not be commercially viable to extract, but with GW they are more likely to be.



  • In polar regions, surface temperatures are projected to rise twice as fast as the global average, due to a phenomenon known as polar amplification. It is therefore crucial to reduce CO₂ levels now for the benefit of future generations, or adapt to a world in which more of our shorelines are significantly redrawn.
  • Antarctica is one of the most crucial component of earth’s ecosystem and has significant position in preserving earth’s landscape, ecosystem and climate. It is a global common, thus humanity needs to coordinate its developmental activities and limit the emission of green house gases.

Topic: Role of women; Social empowerment

2) The right to privacy, as conceptualised in K Puttaswamy v Union of India, addresses many concerns that feminists have had with this right. Applied logically and robustly, this judgment has the potential to transform the landscape of women’s entitlements under the law. Discuss. (250 Words)




  • In K Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017), a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and that, at its core, it means the “right to be let alone.”

Feminism and privacy

  • Feminist legal theory has had an ambivalent relationship with the right to privacy.


  1. Privacy defined through patriarchal notions
  • Gender structures our imagination of what is private and what is not. For example, sexual relations are generally considered to be private matters.
  • Sex outside marriage, such as in adultery or sex work, is denied the same level of privacy protection as sex within marriage.
  • After Suresh Kumar Koushal v Naz Foundation 2014, homosexual behaviour is also within the purview of public regulation. Taken together, these examples indicate that the understanding of privacy in the context of sexual activities is based on sexual (hetero)normativity.

2.Spatial privacy will exacerbate discrimination

  • Feminist scholarship has debunked the notion that there is any natural distinction between the realms of the public and the private.
  • Notions of privacy that shield certain spaces (such as the home) and relationships (such as marriage) from state scrutiny can leave persons within these spaces and relations vulnerable to discrimination, coercion, and abuse.
  • Conceptions of the home as a place of “sanctuary” and “repose” obliterate lived experiences of women for whom these spaces are often sites of oppression and violence.

3.Spatial privacy supposes privacy for all which is practically not the case

  • Spatial notions of privacy also presuppose that everyone has access to private spaces. This may not be the case for many due to economic inability, or for same-sex, inter-caste, or interfaith couples.
  • In these situations, the private space of the home can be stifling in its control, whereas the public sphere might be a place of relative anonymity and therefore, of relative autonomy.

4.Decisional and Informational privacy help women control their own lives

  • On the other hand, the move away from spatial and relational framings of the right to privacy, to decisional and informational privacy, has opened up new vistas for women’s rights and empowerment.
  • By grounding the right to privacy in individual autonomy and control over vital aspects of one’s life, this right empowers women to question social and legal structures that limit their ability to exercise control over their bodies, minds, and lives.
  • By and large, the Puttaswamy judgment embraces this notion that privacy is grounded in individual self-determination.

5.Scope for affirmative action for women opened further

  • If the right to privacy exists to protect the individual’s control over vital decisions affecting their lives, then non-intervention might not be sufficient to achieve this end.
  • There may be need for affirmative action by the state to enable a person to effectively exercise autonomy in making fundamental personal decisions.

6.Surveillance of women not addressed

  • In addition to the social surveillance of women, providing public officials control over a wealth of information about an individual can render such persons vulnerable to active coercion, through acts like stalking or extortion.
  • In a social context where society judges women for their sexual and reproductive choices, mandatory disclosure of such information may not only constrain women in making such choices, but also in accessing safe and legal reproductive health services.
  • The Puttaswamy judgment does not directly address the constitutionality of surveillance mechanisms.
  • The plurality judgment finds privacy to be an “intrinsic recognition of heterogeneity, of the right of the individual to be different and to stand against the tide of conformity.”



General Studies – 2


Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,

3) Accredited social health activists (ASHAs), despite being at the forefront of health activism and acting as crucial link in the institutionalisation of state health service delivery in India, face myriad of problems. Comment. (250 Words)

Down to Earth



  • Accredited social health activist (ASHA) is a crucial last link to India’s rural healthcare delivery system.
  • It has been 12 years since ASHAS were introduced by the Union government under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
  • She is responsible for maintaining the health of the pregnant women in her community, encouraging them to undergo institutional delivery, ensuring newborns get immunised at the right time and the mother gets the right nutrition after child birth




  1. Interface between community and Public health system
  • The primary role of the volunteer, selected from within the community, is to act as an interface between the community and the public health system.

2.Range of functions is wide

  • Under the scheme guidelines, there are 43 different functions along with specific remuneration for each of them.
  • They range from a maximum of Rs 5,000 for administering medicines to drug-resistant tuberculosis patients to just Rs 1 for distributing an ORS (oral rehydration solution) packet.

3.Critical in improving maternal and child health

  • Several studies credit them for the improvement of critical health indicators in the country.
  • Institutional delivery in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh increased from 12 per cent in 1992-93 to 55 per cent in 2008 due to the introduction of ASHAs.
  • The role of ASHAs in dramatic turnaround in immunisation numbers and tackling malnutrition is also well documented.




  1. Low and non-fixed salary
  • There are over 0.87 million ASHAs across India
  • In the past three years, ASHAs from at least 17 states have demanded fixed salaries, higher incentives and inclusion in social safety schemes such as pensions
  • ASHAs are not recognised as workers and thus get less than Rs 18,000 per month. They are the cheapest healthcare providers in India.
  • ASHAs say they normally earn through antenatal care (Rs 300), institutional delivery (Rs 300), family planning (Rs 150) and immunisation rounds (Rs 100) as cases of other diseases are far and few.

2.No dedicated fund

  • They are paid from the NRHM fund for which they have to wait for long time. The scheme does not have a dedicated budgetary allocation and the funds are arranged on an ad-hoc basis from different government schemes under NRHM such as National Immunisation Programme.
  • The delays in reimbursement of incentives hurt the self esteem of ASHAs and has a bearing on her service delivery.

3.Abysmal training

  • Under the scheme, every ASHA receives induction training where she is given a broad training on healthcare and her role in it. Subsequently, ASHAs should receive regular trainings on specific subjects such as maternal and child health, family planning or HIV-AIDS.
  • The residential trainings at the block-level should happen once every year.
  • In practice, the trainings do not happen regularly.


Way forward


  1. Fixed salary and dedicated fund
  • A Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women way back in 2010 recommended fixed salaries for ASHAs.
  • There should be a dedicated fund for ASHAs, which will ensure timely payment of the incentives and boost the morale of the volunteers

2.Skill training

  • Skill upgradation should be an integral part of the scheme.
  • Volunteers should be encouraged to take short-term courses on auxiliary nurse mid-wives/general nursing and midwifery. This will not only help the volunteers in getting a better incentive, but will also ensure that the people living in remote areas have better health access.
  • Currently, nursing schools in 11 states give preference to ASHAs for auxiliary nurse mid-wives and general nursing courses.

Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

4) It is said that to chalk out the future course of action in view of the disputes regarding the use of Mahanadi river water, a well-rounded strategy that includes both the people and policymakers is needed. Discuss the nature of Mahanadi river dispute and strategy needed to resolve this dispute. (250 Words)




  • The construction of the Kelo dam on Mahanadi was approved in 2009.
  • The problem came about because a joint control board was not formed as per an interstate agreement between Odisha andMP in 1983, when Chhattisgarh was a part of MP.


Nature of dispute


  1. Feasibility of Hirakud dam will be impacted
  • The construction of dams and barrages in the upper catchment area of the Mahanadi river gives rise to the looming fear that the flow of water into the Hirakud dam will slow down and, consequently, a massive spat between the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh will ensue, with all its political overtones.

2.Potential ecological imbalance

  • The ecological balance of the river has been gravely affected by the rapid industrialisation undertaken by both states.

3.Dependence of people

  • On the one hand, the Mahanadi is the means of survival for the people of Odisha. The government will not be able to cater to the developmental needs of the state if the flow of water decreases.
  • On the other hand, Chhattisgarh, which speeded up its developmental work after its separation from Madhya Pradesh (MP), has a huge water requirement. Both states are now at loggerheads over their right to the Mahanadi water.

Strategies needed to resolve the issue


  1. Cooperative governance of Mahanadi basin
  • The states should prepare a cooperative plan to meet irrigation demands and to drought-proof the river basin.
  • Instead of arguing about water utilisation, both governments should discuss the setting up of a Mahanadi basin governance plan with mutually agreed upon terms and conditions.
  • The haphazard planning of water extraction will increase drought, farmer suicides, aggravate flood devastations, and increase disasters in the Bay of Bengal
  • Joint management of the river under a board or commission might even allow Odisha to find better water storage facilities in Chhattisgarh and, consequently, control the downstream flooding in the monsoon season and increase irrigation potential in the dry season.
  • At the moment, both the states are competing with each other and are treating the Mahanadi as a tradable commodity and not as an ecological entity.

2.Make Mahanadi a comprehensive waterway

  • The Mahanadi river can also be an addition to the river projects undertaken by the union shipping ministry for the navigation of small ships.
  • If the Mahanadi becomes a waterway, it will facilitate mineral transport and contribute immensely to making Paradip a bigger port.
  • Therefore, the Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments should join hands to resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner and make the Mahanadi a river of wealth for both states and not a “river of sorrow”.

3.Empower tribunal over courts

  • Proper adjudication of the dispute also necessitates that the state governments approach the central government to set up a tribunal whose decisions will be final and binding on the parties.
  • Arbitration and negotiation should be considered as methods of conflict resolution .
  • A system of cooperative mechanisms or agreements that allows states to manage the river must be established without going through court procedures, which is dilatory and expensive. Courts are generally not well-equipped to decide on extremely complicated problems involving hydrology, economics, engineering, and law.

4.People centred river network

  • A multi-stakeholder forum around the Hirakud dam is urgently required, which can facilitate communication among people and help explore new pathways to a win–win solution, thereby minimising contention
  • A river network is of grave necessity, consisting of people and institutions from different fields, like academicians, activists, farmers, river users, students, and other like-minded groups. Academia, civil society, and intelligentsia all need to be involved to develop an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to dealing with water.


General Studies – 3


Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

6) When most of the terms of trade are against farmers, doubling their income by 2022 will e a very difficult challenge unless we address the post-production issues. Analyse. (250 Words)

Down to Earth




  • The latest report by the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI), which is headed by Ashok Dalwai has recommended a transition from a price-based support policy to an income support policy to accord importance to value realisation from post-production activities.
  • Only increasing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) may not always have a positive outcome from the macroeconomic point of view.
  • A potentially more beneficial means of raising farm incomes is by reforming the marketing system of agricultural produce and “developing new institutions and reviving existing ones to facilitate linking of the farmer to the markets”.


Post production issues


  1. Storage of the produce – Warehousing
  • Dalwai Committee report recognised inadequate warehousing facilities at the village level, leading to huge post-harvest losses and distress selling as one of the major issues faced by farmers
  • The government needs to relook at the idea of providing subsidy for creating rural godowns.

2.Marketing of the produce – APMC distorts marketing

  • From the time a farmer comes up with his produce till the time his produce reaches consumers, there are lots of intermediaries, with each one getting better share than the farmer. The only way forward is to break those channels.
  • There is need for state for adoption of model APMC act and the E-NAM to provide farmers with more choices to sell their produce at reasonable cost.
  • Also, there is a need to revive that basis philosophy of collectivisation and aggregation.
  • Farmer producer organisations (FPOs) will enable farmers to directly give their produce to processing companies.
  • The committee has suggested: integrating small and marginal farmers into the agricultural market system is possible with the help of farmer producer and village producer organisations (FPOs/VPOs).
  • The idea of creating federation of FPOs should also be explored on the model of Amul. If five or six companies come up with different products and establish linkages downward, they can build their brand of millets and vegetables.
  • Karnataka, for example, has developed 92 FPOs so far for marketing of various horticultural products directly to the processors. There are 14 exclusive farmer federations on organic produce and millets.


Credit for investment

  • The committee also strongly recommends stepping up of institutional credit on a large scale, estimating that the country would need about 10,000 wholesale and nearly 20,000 rural retail markets to achieve the desired market density to build a pan-India system.
  • Institutional credit is one of the factors, but not ‘the’ factor. In 2003-2004, the flow of institutional credit was Rs 80,000 crore. Now it is Rs 10 lakh crore. The problem is not the credit, but the way it is being channelised. Currently, bulk of the agricultural credit goes into giving farm loans.
  • The focus needs to be given on assets creation in rural areas.



  • Government have been taking steps in this direction in form of the promotion to food processing industries to ensure value addition, schemes like Gram Bhadharan Yojana to incentivise private investment in storage infrastructure and reforms in the APMC mandis in form of E-NAM etc.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

7) On December 18, 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) issued a draft notification to amend the Environment Impact Assessment Notification (2006) and subsequent amending notifications such as those issued in 2014 and 2016. Discuss these amendments and their significance.(250 Words)

Down to Earth


Note that this is a draft notification and thus is not required to learn verbatim, but it is very important to appreciate the policy trends on ‘Environment Impact Assessment , which is a particularly mentioned topic in the syllabus.



  • Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is used as an instrument to assesses the environmental damage due to industrial and other developmental activities and minimizing adverse impact on environment by suggesting changes in the design, land use, technology and sometimes refusing the clearance for development activity.
  • On December 18, 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) issued a draft notification to amend the Environment Impact Assessment Notification (2006) and subsequent amending notifications such as those issued in 2014 and 2016.
  • The latest amendment increases the ambit of state government authorities to grant environmental clearances (ECs) to development projects.
  • The draft notification particularly relates to mining projects involving non-coal minerals and minor minerals, as well as river valley/irrigation projects.
  • The draft notification, which is in public domain, now puts more mining projects under the ambit of State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) and State Expert Appraisal Committees (SEACs), for clearance.


Changes proposed for mining projects


Non-coal mining projects

  • The Central government can now clear only those non-coal mining projects requiring 100 or more hectares of land lease.
  • Until now, the EIA notification of 2006 (and subsequent amendments) required the Centre to clear all such projects which required 50 or more hectares of land.


Minor minerals

  • For minor minerals, including sand mining, both for individual and cluster projects, the ones requiring more than 25 but less than 100 hectares of land will require state clearances, while those above 100 hectares requiring central clearances.
  • Proposals regarding lease areas of less than five hectares, however, remain under district authorities such as District Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) and District Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC), as per the 2016 amendment.

River valley and irrigation projects

  • River valley and irrigation projects, involving cultural command area (CCA) of 2,000-10,000 hectares, were initially to be cleared by state agencies whereas those involving more than 10,000 hectares were to be cleared by the Centre.
  • The new notification, however, expands this range of projects vastly by allowing states to clear projects involving CCA between 5,000 to 50,000 hectares. Projects involving CCA of less than 5,000 hectares would be classified under ‘minor irrigation projects’.
  • For those river valley projects falling in more than one state, the Central government would be the appraising authority.
  • Moreover, project proposals, involving changes in irrigation technology (which have environmental benefits) by existing projects leading to an increase in CCA but no increase in dam height or submergence, will no longer require ECs.



  • The purported changes are part of a series of notifications which have, over the years, steadily increased the responsibility of states to clear more and more projects by reducing the burden on the Centre.
  • However, there are problems are especially with respect to state-level clearance authorities, the SEIAAs and SEACs. These agencies neither have the capacity to handle increased work load, nor is there a system of accountability in place to ensure some transparency in how clearances are issued.

General Studies – 4

Topic: Work culture, Quality of service delivery




Prime minister decried the “chalta hai” culture in the nation and called upon the people, especially the youth, to embrace a “badal sakta hai” attitude. In this respect, the role of IAS becomes significant not only because it occupies the centre of the administration, but also because IAS is at centre of the callousness, venality and corruption that define our governance as well.

IAS must regain its moral stature. There must be introspection on where and how the service lost its ethical moorings and what should be done to reverse the degradation.

The service has to focus on reinventing both its character and its personality.


Chnaging the character

  • It will happen only by each and every IAS officer internalising the ethos of the honour code and conforming to it no matter the provocation or the temptation to infringe it.
  • It means championing change, pursuing public good with passion and professionalism, acting without fear or favour, accepting challenges, no matter how daunting, and letting actions and results speak for themselves.
  • It means reviving the old esprit de corps where officers stand up for each other in order to uphold public good. It means shunning ostentation, luxury and frills.


Changing the personality

  • On the personality front, the IAS must adopt and adhere to a code of conduct of work ethics and behaviour. This means diligence and application, punctuality, disciplined work habits, willingness to learn, accepting responsibility for mistakes with humility, going to meetings well prepared, communicating clearly and effectively and being courteous and humble.
  • It also means being properly attired and well groomed.


Changing administrative norms

  • They should delegate the authority to the subordinate officials and to the local levels as they cannot have the sufficient knowledge of intricacies of development.
  • Values like empathy, courage, emotional intelligence should be imbibed.




Once the IAS begins on this mission of reinventing itself, its effects will ripple through the system, galvanising change across the administrative hierarchy. It will soon find that it is well on its way to bringing out a transformation from “chalta hai” to “badal sakta hai” in the larger society.

Topic: Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions;

9) There is a need for removing discretion and codifying the conflict of interest inherent in having senior bureaucrats assuming corporate roles post-resignation or retirement. Comment. (150 Words)

The Hindu



  • Some bureaucrats seem to have meshed the virtues of public service with private profit in retirement. They expose themselves to a potential conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is seen to be at the root of all abuse of power by public officials for private ends.
  • It is important to understand the scale of the problem, determine the right legal mechanism to deter and work towards changing our lackadaisical cultural norms on conflict of interest.
  • India has an official policy however, regulated by the Ministry of Personnel, whereby senior bureaucrats have to seek permission for commercial employment after their retirement.
  • However, such grants of permission within cooling-off period depend primarily on government discretion, with no codified mechanism.


Necessity of such a discretion

  • Not all corporate roles are same. Hence there is a need for case to case judgement.
  • Such a judgement needs to consider role of the bureaucrat in government and the role he will play in the corporate organisation.
  • Any laid out procedure will surely have certain loopholes which a bureaucrat will know how to exploit.


Reduce discretion and codify procedure

  • There is a need for legislation to make non-disclosure of a conflict of interest punishable.
  • A private member’s bill (The Prevention and Management of Conflict of Interest Bill, introduced in 2012), the legislation ought to cover all arms of governance, including the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.
  • The recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Department of Personnel and Training, calling for early retirement if interested in post-retirement private service is established, needs to be implemented, besides increasing the mandatory cooling period to five years so that no undue influence can be exerted by the retired bureaucrat.
  • Also, the reasons for declining their requests for joining such firms need to be laid out clearly, to limit political concerns.
  • An open, public data platform enlisting all post-retirement appointments of civil servants will increase transparency


Government spends huge time and money to train a bureaucrat. He is privy to many secret. Hence there is a need to increase cool off period. Also bureaucrats can rather be encouraged to join philanthropic work.