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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 17 JANUARY 2018


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 17 JANUARY 2018


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; Culture

1) Discuss the socio-cultural and other factors that make it difficult to regulate events such as jallikattu despite ban by the Supreme Court. (250 Words)

The Hindu

 

Background:-

  • Despite SC ban, the organising of Jallikattu held recently led to the death of two onlookers  in Tamil Nadu raising concerns.

Socio cultural factors which people believe make it hard to regulate:-

  • Concern on preserving native breeds of bulls. Few indigenous breeds which are known for their strength and ferocious nature are only used in this sport.
  • An age old tradition cannot be banned citing some odd cases. Steps must be taken to enforce strict rules and regulate the event. With over 4000 years of recorded history, it is one of the oldest sport in the world.
  • Bulls are mostly not killed or tortured during Jallikattu in Tamilnadu. Hurting a bull either by the owner or the player is a serious fault, which leads to disqualification.
  • The Sport has become an intrinsic part of the Tamil culture that it has broken all religious and caste barriers. People of all religions, caste and creed participate in this sport.
  • The participants and Jallikattu supporters consider it as cultural right enshrined in the constitution.

 

Other factors:-

  • District authorities have failed to find better ways to regulate the events because the scale of the event is very challenging.
    • There are too many events in too many places with in a period of a few days.
  • With change of office bearers, the Animal Welfare Board of India softened its stance towards this issue  
  • After last year’s protests against the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu, the authorities have been wary of condemning bull-taming during Pongal.
  • People started supporting it even after SC banned it.
  • If law enforcement agencies interfere during Jallikattu, law and order issues might arise.

Way ahead:-

  • As Jallikattu enjoys popular support of the public and is associated deeply with their sentiments instead of totally banning it a concrete mechanism with effective safety measures need to be brought in to avoid further loss of life and not compromising animal rights as well.

Topic:  Salient features of world’s physical geography

2) What are  shola grasslands? Examine the their significance and the threats faced by them. (150 Words)

The Hindu

 

Shola grasslands:-

  • Shola grasslands consist of dwarf trees growing 25-30 feet
  • It is a stunted forest growths of diverse grass species
  • Vegetation is double layered storey with closed canopy which hardly permits a single ray of sunlight to penetrate in the natural vegetation. 
  • Nilgiris upper region is classified as southern grassland mountain grassland. 
  • Between 1973-2014 Shola grasslands area had seen a 66.7% decline

Significance:-

  • The Shola forests and associated grasslands store large quantities of water on the mountain ranges, thus serving as huge `water harvesting and storage structures.
  • Many of the rivers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu originate from the Shola grasslands and were perennial. With depletion of Sholas and other forests, the streams that supply water to them dry up in summer.
  • They are rich store houses of biodiversity and  also home to extremely rich wildlife
  • About a third of their species are estimated to be Many are rare and endangered.
  • The presence of an endemic and endangered wild goat, the Nilgiri tahrimplies the grass- lands are in need of study and conservation

Threats:-

  • Administrative issues:-
    • The Forest Departments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, besides private planters, were responsible for large-scale destruction of Sholas during the past two centuries
    • Shola grasslands which are critical habitats for many species, continue to be viewed as lower priority or grassy blanks
  • As grasslands vanish or become more fragmented, local flora and fauna, particularly endemic species such as Nilgiri Pipit, may be under threat.
  • In the Palani hill range of Western Ghats
    • Timber plantations
    • Expanding agriculture – agriculture and fallow land have increased three times to 100 sq.km. in the past four decades.
    • The spread of invasive species like acacia have eaten into as much as two-thirds of natural grasslands
  • Unlike the adjacent forests the grasslands have not received much attention from biologists and conservationists.Research on these grasslands is scanty and highly dispersed
  • The grassland is being rapidly closed in by various woody exotic species for example lantana camera, ulex europaeus, Acacia mearnsii, Schoch broom and wattle
  • Fire is also one of the major factor which not only depletes undergrowth but also facilitates the  seed germination of fast invading, weed plants by breaking seed  dormancy. 
  • Shola is a very sensitive type of vegetation.  Once it vanishes from its original habitat, it is very difficult to make it reappear in view of the change in climate which does not allow shola seedling to grow in open grasslands.
  • Deforestation for purpose of agriculture has sounded the death knell for Shola and grasslands  
  • Development of tourism in places such as Udhagamandalam, Ponmudi (Thiruvananthapuram district) and Munnar is also leading to destruction of Shola grasslands

General Studies – 2


Topic:   India and its neighborhood- relations

3) What measures should be taken by both India and Nepal to prevent cross-border human trafficking between their countries? Also comment on the impact of this issue on bilateral ties. (250 Words)

The Hindu

Background:-

  • Human trafficking from Nepal to India witnessed “a three-fold jump” after the 2015 Nepal earthquake showing that social deprivation, unemployment is pushing people in Nepal towards this menace.

Measures needed to prevent Cross border human trafficking :-

  • Joint role:-
    • The Nepal-India border needs to be equipped with enhanced intelligence networks and effective monitoring mechanisms.
    • Strengthening security through effective law enforcement, installing screening and detection devices at the check points.
    • India and Nepal have to collaborate and coordinate their efforts to improve the situation along their border by setting up joint task forces to
      • investigate cross-border crimes
      • sharing real time intelligence
      • conducting coordinated or joint patrolling
      • re-installing missing border pillars and repairing the damaged ones and jointly developing infrastructure along the border.
    • Government of India and Nepal are vigorously campaigning against women and girls trafficking. Funding to NGOs and alarming vigilance are the major efforts that can be made.
    • Locating the routes of trafficking along the border and afterwards here in India
    • National and international efforts to overcome the problem in order to get it completely vanish on one hand and to ensure human rights of the victims on the other hand
    • Find out the gaps, leading to failure of the efforts, being attempted through NGOs and government agencies
    • Assistance of NGOs may be taken in this process but their accountability must be fixed
    • The Nepal embassy in Delhi is keenly active to get rid off the problem.
      • Searching of Nepalese female victims in Indian jails and sorting out their matters at the government level, providing legal assistance in such cases is remarkable.
    • Nepal’s role:-
      • Rehabilitation of victims:-
        • In case there is no adoption of the victims by their parents, they must be sent to a social protection home, like Nari Niketan in India, under the protection of the government, with restricted entries therein.
        • The government must pay each victim a stipend.
        • Some semi skill based programmes may be started there in the women orphanage / shelter homes in order to earn their livelihood. Trading of the products must be made at government level to ensure the earnings.
        • Besides, an ensured rehabilitation strategy must be adopted by the government.
        • Besides control measures, rescue efforts and rehabilitation strategy and efforts must be at priority in Nepal.
      • Imperative to create economic opportunities, particularly for the youth, within the country.
      • Legal provisions for maintenance and adoption of girls and children must be strict in order to prohibit their exploitation due to poverty
    • Indian action:-
      • Indians’ involvement in this activity and cross border gangs / racketeers role to flourish, nourish and protect this activity
      • The Government of India has to ensure the restriction on the flying the Nepalese girls to Gulf and Middle East countries, as imposed by the Government of Nepal. It is essential to prohibit the abroad deporting of Nepalese girls illegally.

Impact on the bilateral ties:-

  • Can give rise to security challenges due to illegal infiltration
  • Promotion of illegal business making law and order management difficult.
  • Resources are constrained due to increase in population

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources.  

4) Comment on the latest finding of  the 2017 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). (250 Words)

The Hindu

The Indian Express

The Wire

The Hindu

 

Background:-

 

  • The ASER survey looks ‘Beyond Basics’, exploring a wider set of domains beyond foundational reading and arithmetic in an attempt to throw light on the status and abilities of youth in this age group.

Analysis of findings:-

  • RTE helped:-
    • The 14-year-olds in the 2017 ASER (Annual Status of Education Report — Rural) survey are among the first to have benefitted from the RTE Act’s provisions of no-detention and free and compulsory education. As the ASER report shows, a direct consequence of the RTE has been that most tend to continue to stay within the formal education set-up, even after the Act folds up at age 14.
  • Highlights the issue of failure of quality education in schools.
    • Learning deficits carry forward as 14 to 18-year-olds go from being adolescents to young adults
      • Though their ability to read in regional languages and English seems to improve with age, the same does not apply to math. The proportion of youth who have not acquired basic math skills by age 14 is the same as that of 18-year-olds
    • Inability to apply basic literacy and numeracy skills to everyday tasks :-
      • These findings are worrying because these are everyday skills that formal education has failed to equip them with.
    • Given the fragile foundation of basic education, the large majority of workforce cannot be trained for high skill, high-productivity jobs.
  • Social mobility:-
    • Many of these students are the first in their families to complete eight years of schooling.
  • Gender discrimination:-
    • The report also highlights the gender aspect of enrolment, with the number of girls falling sharply with age. While the enrolment ratios for boys and girls are almost the same at 14, at 18 years 32% of girls are not enrolled,
    • Girls and young women have far lower access to computers and the Internet
  • Different focus:-
    • ASER 2017 focuses on an older age group: youth who are 14 to 18 years old.
    • Whereas previous ASER reports have reached almost all rural districts in the country to generate estimates that are considered representative at the district, State, and national levels, ASER 2017 was conducted in 28 districts spread across 24 States and generated only district-level estimates.
  • Students working :-
    • The study found that 86% of youth in this age bracket are still within the formal education system. Yet, a substantial proportion of them are also working (42%), mostly in agriculture or household chores.
  • Demographic dividend will be affected as the children are not skilled according to the demands of the industry. Only a small proportion of the workforce has the educational foundation required for skilled high-productivity jobs.

 

What needs to be done?

  • Focus needs change:-
    • Education policy in India is focused on inputs rather than learning outcomes
    • Education policy has a strong elitist bias in favour of higher education as opposed to primary or secondary education.
  • Public expenditure increase:-
    • Among Asian countries, the ratio of per student public expenditure in tertiary relative to primary education is less than four in Malaysia, two in Indonesia and one in Thailand and Korea. In India, it is over nine.
  • Teachers quality:-
    • Teachers have very less limited accountability i.e.., to the education department bureaucracy.
    • Teachers are rarely reprimanded for non-performance. So this needs change

Conclusion:-

  • The intrinsic value of a sound education system in enabling the citizenry to enjoy fulfilling lives and participate in robust democratic processes is important. For both its intrinsic value as well as its instrumental value, reforming our dysfunctional education system is of paramount importance.

General Studies – 3


Topic:  Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping;

5) In the name of reforms, recent disruptions of the PDS have taken different forms, from compulsory biometric authentication to so-called direct benefit transfer (DBT). Critically analyse implications of these PDS reforms on people. (250 Words)

The Hindu

 

Background:-

  • Recently PDS reforms in the form of authentication by Aadhar, Direct benefit transfer have been piloted in some states like the Jharkhand government made Aadhaar-based biometric authentication compulsory for PDS users

 Positives of these reforms:-

  • PDS was prone to corruption and leakage:
    • Proponents of substituting PDS grain transfers with cash argue that PDS is an inefficient mode of transfer of subsidies, prone to enormous leakages into the black market, and high waste in costs of transferring subsidies in the form of food transfers.
    • They argue that replacing food with direct cash transfers would greatly reduce corruption and leakages.
  • Better targeting:
    • It would enable the poor to access goods currently denied them by a PDS beset by corruption.
  • More Choice for consumers:
    • It would enable people to buy better quality food of their choice from the open market and not be restricted to items sold in the PDS, which are often inferior in quality and limited in range.
  • Reduce wastage:
    • Providing subsidies directly to the poor would both bypass brokers as well as reduce the waste and holding costs of storing grains in government silos.
    • The amount of grain actually required for India’s buffer stock needs could be held in better-quality warehouses, eliminating waste and rotting.
  • Fiscal deficit will be reduced:
    • Cash transfers would help reduce fiscal deficit by curbing expenditures earmarked for the PDS that are siphoned off through corruption, as well as avoiding substantially higher costs of transferring food rather than cash.

 

Negatives :-

 

  • Direct benefit Transfer:-
    • The main problem with DBT is that people waste enormous time shuttling between the banks,pragya kendras(common service centres) and ration shops to get hold of their money and then use it to buy rice at the ration shop. For many of them, this is a three-step process
  • Vulnerable groups:-
    • Due to these reforms vulnerable groups such as widows and the elderly, found themselves excluded from the PDS.
    • Those who were still able to buy their food rations faced considerable inconvenience due to connectivity and biometric failures.
    • Elderly persons with rough fingerprints are deprived of food rations without compensation
    • Pensions are discontinued without the victims being told what the problem is.
  • There was a revival of corruption, as PDS rice meant for those who failed the biometric test was siphoned off with abandon.
  • Government cancelling ration cards not linked to aadhar:-
    • The Jharkhand government did this and many of the cancelled ration cards actually belonged to families that had been unable to link their card with Aadhaar for no fault of their own.
    • The monthly PDS rations of 5 kg per person were restricted to those whose individual names had been linked with Aadhaar in the ration-cards database.
  • Growing centralisation and technocracy:-
    • Aadhar authentication involves installing “Point of Sale” (PoS) machines at PDS shops, and verifying the identity of cardholders by matching their fingerprints against the Aadhaar database over the Internet.
    • This is a wholly inappropriate technology for rural India, especially in the poorest States.
    • Even in State capitals, network failures and other glitches routinely disable this sort of technology.
    • Note that Internet dependence is inherent to Aadhaar since there is no question of downloading the biometrics.
    • Recent developments in Rajasthan illustrate the dangers of forcing biometric authentication on the PDS which failed.
    • PDS dealers often give people less than what they are entitled to, and pocket the rest. PoS machines are ineffective in preventing quantity fraud. They may help in reducing identity fraud, such as it is, but that does not justify depriving people of their food entitlements when the technology fails.
  • Weak Banking Infrastructure:
    • There is no clarity on which account is selected for DBT when a household has several bank accounts.
    • There are also worries about how genuinely inclusive of people in remote rural regions is India’s banking system. Fair price shops exist in three of every four villages, and are therefore generally accessible.
  • PDS a shield against Inflation:
    • Another advantage of PDS over cash transfers from the perspective of the poor is that PDS supplies rations at a constant price, irrespective of the fluctuations in market prices. This therefore provides a shield against inflation, a benefit that cash transfers cannot match.
  • PDS ensures stable income for Farmer’s:-
    • PDS requires the government to procure food from farmers. The government builds up stocks of grains which are also useful for price stabilization
    • The guarantee of minimum support price purchase by the government for wheat and rice is the most important instrument for the protection of farmers’ income in India
    • This would become unfeasible if the government could not offload a lot of this grain back through the PDS.

 

Conclusion:-

  • Instead of cash transfer Government should give food coupons as this will solve the problem of misuse of cash for buying non-food things and it will also give poor people choice to buy food from the retailer of their choice.
  • Digital literacy need to be promoted for effective implementation of biometrics in PDS

Topic:  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

6) What do you understand by bond yield? What factors influence variation in bond yields and how these variations impact economy? (150 Words)

The Hindu

 

 

Bond yield:-

  • A bond yield is the amount of return an investor realizes on a bond. 
  • When investors buy bonds, they essentially lend bond issuers money. In return, bond issuers agree to pay investors interest on bonds throughout their lifetime and to repay the face value of bonds upon maturity.
  • The money that investors earn is called yield.
  • Investors do not have to hold bonds to maturity. Instead, they may sell them for a higher or lower price to other investors, and if an investor makes money on the sale of a bond, that is also part of its yield.
  • As bond prices increase, bond yields fall

Factors influencing variation in bond yields :-

  • Generally, investors see bond yields fall when economic conditions push markets toward safer investments. Economic conditions that might decrease bond yields include high rates of unemployment and slow economic growth or recession.
    • India saw a fall in bond prices on expectation of the Central government breaching its fiscal deficit target .
  • As interest rates increase, bond prices also tend to fall.
  • Bonds with lower ratings are considered to be non-investment grade and are referred to as high-yield or junk bonds. The lower the credit rating, the higher the yield a bond will pay.
  • Risk of default usually is the single most important factor affecting bond yields.
    • A bond essentially serves as a loan to a government or company. Just like an individual with bad credit has to pay extra interest on a car loan to compensate the lender for the additional risk of a default, so too do governments and companies issuing bonds on the private market.
    • In 2015, for example, yields on short-term Greek bonds were very high, because investors saw Greece as a very risky economic environment..
  • Private sector’s saving rate :-
    • A measure of how much money businesses and individuals are socking away for the future.
    • When the savings rate is very low, bond yields tend to rise. That’s because bonds are a form a savings.
    • Bond yields tend to drop dramatically because investors are competing for the chance to lend money, which drives the price of debt down.
  • When investors think that growth across the whole economy will be very strong, bond yields tend to go up. Investors have lots of options available, so they demand higher rates of returns on bonds to compensate for opportunity cost of not investing in other areas like stocks. When the overall economy looks weak, the opposite is true. Bond yields tend to fall because investors don’t see any productive alternatives for their money.
  • The perceived risk of inflation influences bond yields. That’s because inflation can completely erase earnings if the rate of inflation is higher than the rate of the bond. High inflation risk means higher bond yields

How this affects economy :-

  • The sharp rise in bond yields has hit banks with losses on treasury operations dominated by sovereign bond holdings
  • It affects money market stability.
  • With surging yields, many top-rated public-sector companies are not tapping the debt market in a hurry.
  • The bond market weakness will remain unless either oil prices, or global yields, stabilize 
  • Higher bond yield increases the cost of production which in turn will affect earnings going forward.
  • Historically, rising bond yields have had an inverse co-relation with markets.

 

Topic: Conservation; Environmental pollution

7) What are the dangers faced by the Great Barrier Reef? Discuss its natural and cultural significance and measures needed to save it from extinction. (250 Words)

The Hindu

 

 

 

Background:-

  • Recently Australia called on the world’s top scientific minds to help save the Great Barrier Reef, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund research into protecting it.

Dangers faced :-

  • The UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef is reeling from significant coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.
  • Pollution and dredging
  • Poor water qualityfrom land-based run-off leading to impacts like outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish.
  • Coastal development is affecting coastal habitats that support the Reef and producing damaging urban run-off, litter and marine debris.
  • Illegal fishing and poaching
  • The reef is also threatened by storms, coral bleaching and ocean acidification
  • Shipping accidents continue to be perceived as a threat, as several commercial shipping routes pass through the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Tropical cyclones are a cause of ecological disturbance to the Great Barrier Reef. The types of damage caused by tropical cyclones to the Great Barrier Reef is varied, including fragmentation, sediment plumes, and decreasing salinity following heavy rains (Cyclone Joy).

Natural significance :-.

  • It is one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses.
  • One of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
  • Largest living structure on the planet, so big it’s visible from space.
  • World’s largest coral reef stretching 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coastline and covering an area of 344,400 square-kilometres. 
  • World Heritage Listed in October 1981.7% of the World Heritage area is made up of coral reefs. 
  • It also holds great scientific interest as the habitat of species such as the dugong (‘sea cow’) and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction.
  • No other World Heritage property contains such biodiversity. This diversity, especially the endemic species, means the GBR is of enormous scientific and intrinsic importance.
  • Provides some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.

Cultural significance:-

  • The Great Barrier Reef is important in the history and culture of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Important cultural sites and values exist on many islands and reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Region
  • Animals such as dugongs and turtles have long been part of Aboriginal dreaming and are important in many aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture.

Measures needed to conserve it are :-

  • Recently the Australian government has announced Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and an extra $100 million for a long-term plan to protect the reef, which would go to landowners near the reef to improve water quality. This needs effective implementation.
  • Permanently ban all dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
  • Make the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) responsible for all aspects of the reef again, including fishing and ports
  • Dramatically increase funding to restore the GBR.
  • Place a moratorium on coal.

General Studies – 4


Topic:  Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
8) Ranganath Bharadwaj is working for a TV news channel as its senior editor. Earlier he worked as journalist for a newspaper and later he joins another TV news channel as news anchor. He was given an opportunity as news anchor after much pleading with its boss. Due to his unique style, he becomes popular and he becomes instrumental in increasing TRP of the news channel. Due to rise in his popularity, he starts demanding huge remuneration – which is denied by his boss. Hence he moves to rival new channel where he is now its senior editor and hosts a prime time debate program which has very high TRP. The news channel is known for its series of sting operations targeting politicians, celebrities and businessmen and then holding a debate on these sting operations where the victims of sting operation are prosecuted and persecuted by a panel headed by Ranganath. Some of the ‘victims’ were asked to pay huge amount of bribe to stop airing these videos of sting operations and debates. One day Ranganath receives a call by his previous boss. Ranganath is told that they have footage of Ranganath harassing, threatening and receiving bribe from a celebrity actress and they would air the program unless he resigns and joins back their channel as news anchor again. The airing of this footage is certain to end Ranganath’s career.
c) Do you think Ranganath deserves punishment in the form of airing of footage where he is involved in criminal activity? Justify.
General

 

  1. A) Options before him are :-

1.First verify whether the previous boss has the footage

  • Merits:
    • If the footage is with the previous boss, he can resign and go join the previous channel so his career will not be affected
  • Demerits :
    • He is succumbing to the pressure by the previous news channel boss.
    • Even if he works in the previous news channel he can be emotionally blackmailed again and again and be at the mercy of the boss.
    • Public are still unaware of the unethical journalism taking place behind curtains when media is respected as the fourth pillar of democracy.
    • Value deterioration is visible in the attitude of the journalist as he is being selfish in saving his career.

 

  1. Decline the offer and stay with the current employer explaining the situation with him/her
  • Merits:
    • The present boss might negotiate with the previous employer and his job might be saved.
  • Demerits:-
    • Lack of accountability leading to Ranganath still holding the job despite committing a crime

3.He can come out in open of all his acts and face punishment for the crimes done by him.

  • Merits:-
    • It will give me peace that he did the right thing .
    • People will be aware of the sting operations and the reality behind it and will atleast appreciate his honesty in accepting the mistakes.
    • To avoid such incidents in future a proper accountability mechanism and checks and balances will be framed.
  • Demerits:
    • He will lose his job and his career will be affected.
    • People might lose trust on the media as a whole.

 

B)Ethical issues:-

  • Unethical journalism
  • Corruption
  • Lack of Integrity and honesty
  • Blackmail
  • Decline of moral values
  • Lack of responsibility towards the society
  • Violating right to privacy even when there is no larger public interest.
  • Violation of human dignity treating human beings as means to an end

 

  1. C) Ranganath deserves punishment but airing the footage is against media ethics as the previous employer is resorting to blackmail and committing crime as well. The public functionaries through police and judiciary will take action against him and punish him accordingly for the crimes committed.