SECURE SYNOPSIS: 29 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: Urbanisation – problems and remedies
1) Indian cities are growing at rapid rates but without regard to quality of civic life and regard for lives of urban poor. What approaches would you suggest to revitalise Indian cities to make them more inclusive and enabling? Analyse. (250 Words)
- India is one of the world’s fastest urbanising countries.
- The number of Indian urban agglomerations with more than one million people has grown by more than 50 per cent over one decade alone, to 53 (the 2011 Census). Yet, most Indian cities are decaying rapidly and increasingly becoming unlivable.
Decline in urban life :-
- Not one of india’s major cities can provide even the bare minimum of water, sanitation, electricity, road space, affordable schooling or public transport etc .Only an affluent minority has all these.
- Glaring rich-poor inequalities are a constant feature of the cities, manifested in deeply inegalitarian provision of services, from roads to drainage, to water and electricity etc.
- Little effort has been made to redesign cities to adapt to climate change.
- The Sustainable Habitat Mission under the National Action Plan for Climate Change is poorly conceived and omits large components from its scope, focussing narrowly on matters like “green buildings”
- Drainage problem:-
- Natural drainage is very bad in many major cities leading to floods and diseases. Now this is becoming an issue even in smaller cities.
- A steady migration from rural to urban India has made many of its cities and towns burst at their seams, led to unchecked proliferation of slums, steady deterioration of city infrastructure and abject failure of municipal corporations to live up to the challenges
- Multiplicity of city authorities:-
- Victim does not know to which authority to turn to for a particular grievance, or whom to hold responsible or accountable when things go wrong with roads, pavements, infrastructure, gardens, power, water, drains or sanitation.
Initiatives are being taken :-
- However with Smart cities, AMRUT after long years of neglect and alienation, cities are now vying for credit rating, which encompasses the entire gamut of urban governance, including the mindset of politicians and the city official
- Some cities are issuing municipal bonds.
- Release of funds is now linked to progress of mandated governance reforms under all new urban missions including the housing mission.
- Online integrated single-window clearance for construction permits is being put in place to improve ease of doing business.
- Cities are now looking at public-private partnership and value capture financing with a changed mindset.
Approaches needed are:-
- The city’s overriding plan should be directed towards an accommodation of all migratory tasks home, employment, entertainment, and commerce in buildings and public facilities altered to suit their primary needs. This may radically change the overall structure of the city.
- Government must devise a development strategy for small Tier-3 towns that is itself a departure from conventional
- It must take into account new forms of public housing, regulate bye-laws that restrict commuting and delineate public space over private commerce.
- The process must simultaneously relieve larger towns of the burden of new citizens. The government’s plans need to reverse the processes of long-range connectivity, in favour of local outlooks that include
- Conversion to mixed-use streets
- Reduction of commercial activity
- Eradication of gated neighbourhoods.
- Any new expansion of ideas on the ground needs to motivate all participants to live together in ways not imagined before, and encourage a sense of community and inclusion that erodes differences of ethnicity, profession, caste, social and economic position.
- International experiences:-
- There are multiple agencies dealing with different subjects, but they all work in perfect coordination under a single authority the city mayor, an elected official who selects his own team of qualified administrators who are primed to deliver.
- In London ,the directly elected mayor takes charge when a crisis of any kind breaks and fixes issues.
- There are civic and city laws that are strictly implemented and respected by its citizenry. If anyone were to flout the law, the system comes down heavily on them .So there is a need also for more civic sense and awareness
- Instead of rehabilitating the slum population who are not keen to be changed to other areas as cost of living in slums is very cheap it is better for the government to develop slums itself.
- So there is a need for a perceptible shift in government strategy geared to urban transformation, by overhauling urban governance and making it geared for better service delivery.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States,
2) Indian elections are the world’s biggest exercise in democracy but also among the most expensive which is mostly funded by private entities. Discuss the options that India can explore to minimise private funding while examining the shortcomings of electoral bonds. (250 Words)
- India’s expenditure for elections is compared with US presidential election which is very expensive too.
- Corruption in election finance and the flawed party funding system drive political parties to misuse government’s discretionary powers to raise funds for election campaigns. The combined effect is the absence of a level playing field which has reduced the effectiveness of our democracy.
- Nearly 70% to 80% of the funds to the political parties are never reported and they are collected from unknown sources.
- To avoid such instances India needs to explore multiple options
- Electoral bonds:-
- The current system of cash donations from anonymous sources is wholly non-transparent. The donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed
- According to government the system of Bonds will encourage political donations of clean money from individuals, companies, HUF, religious groups, charities, etc. After purchasing the bonds, these entities can hand them to political parties of their choice, which must redeem them within the prescribed time.
- Some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received.
- Analysts said the move could be misused, given the lack of disclosure requirements for individuals purchasing electoral bonds.
- Electoral bonds make electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system.
- With electoral bonds there can be a legal channel for companies to round-trip their tax haven cash to a political party. If this could be arranged, then a businessman could lobby for a change in policy, and legally funnel a part of the profits accruing from this policy change to the politician or party that brought it about.
- These bonds share two characteristics with tax havens ,secrecy and anonymity.
- Electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations which means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations.
- The requirement for a company to have been in existence for three years (paving the way for fly-by-night shell companies) is also removed
- Companies no longer need to declare the names of the parties to which they have donated so shareholders won’t know where their money has gone.
- Far from reducing the large-scale corporate funding of elections, the introduction of electoral bonds does not even address this issue.
- Electoral bonds will result in unlimited and undeclared funds going to certain political parties which will be shielded from public scrutiny as the balance sheets will not show which party has been the beneficiary of this largesse.
- Nearly Rs. 7,900 crore donations came from unknown sources in 2015-2016. Electoral bonds will not change this.
- As for political parties, they no longer need to reveal the donor’s name for contributions above ₹20,000, provided these are in the form of electoral bonds. So a foreign company can anonymously donate unlimited sums to an Indian political party without the EC or the IT department ever getting to know.
- They have potential to load the dice heavily in favour of the ruling party as the donor bank and the receiver bank know the identity of the person. But both the banks report to the RBI which, in turn, is subject to the Central government’s will to know.
- Other countries have partial or full public funding or transparent regulation and financial accountability of political finance as in the U.S.
- According to Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi an alternative worth exploring is a National Electoral Fund to which all donors can contribute.
- The funds would be allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they get. Not only would this protect the identity of donors, it would also weed out black money from political funding
- The best way to bring about such transparency in political funding is to put a complete ban on cash donations by individuals or companies to political parties.
- Making it mandatory for all parties to receive donations only by cheque, or other modes of money transfer.
- There should be clear provisions for getting tax benefits for all those making such donations.
- Make it mandatory for political parties to submit details of all donations received with the Election Commission and also with the income-tax department.
- State funding of political parties can be considered. The Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections had endorsed partial state funding of recognised political parties
- The mechanics of this process need to be carefully worked out to establish the allocation of money to national parties, State parties and independent candidates, and to check candidate’s own expenditure over and above that which is provided by the state.
Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
3) What do you understand by the statement that the Constitution is a living document? Why calling the Constitution as a living document gains significance in the present social and political scenario? Critically comment. (250 Words)
- The Constitution of India was adopted on 26 November 1949. Its implementation formally started from 26 January 1950. More than fifty-five years after that, the same constitution continues to function as the framework within which the government of our country operates.
Constitution is a living document :-
- Constitution accepts the necessity of modifications according to changing needs, situations and circumstances of the society arsing from time to time.
- In the actual working of the Constitution, there has been enough flexibility of interpretations.
- Both political practice and judicial rulings have shown maturity and flexibility in implementing the Constitution. These factors have made Indian Constitution a living document rather than a closed and static rulebook.
- Founding fathers recognised that in the future, this document may require modifications.
- The Indian Constitution is a combination of both the approaches mentioned above: that the constitution is a sacred document and that it is an instrument that may require changes from time to time.
- In other words, Constitution is not a static document, it is not the final word about everything; it is not unalterable.
- Like a living being, the Constitution responds to experience. Even after so many changes in the society, the Constitution continues to work effectively because of this ability to be dynamic, to be open to interpretations and the ability to respond to the changing situation. This is a hallmark of a democratic constitution.
- The Constitution is open to interpretation by the Supreme Court after understanding the society and the basic foundational values of the constitution.
Why this aspect of constitution is important in current social and political scenario :-
- The progressive values enshrined in the constitution like fraternity, justice, liberty and equality as very valid even today and are a necessity in India at present
- There have been instances of cow vigilantism, discrimination against dalits etc. The constitution with right to equality, right against discrimination irrespective of caste, sex etc ,right against Untouchability is still valid today. On this basis itself there is discussion ob rights of LGBT communities as well.
- Freedom of expression is strictly upheld in constitution so the bans on creativity ,art are invalid.
- This particular aspect of Indian constitution is important especially when India is seeing a phase of growing intolerance like communal riots, insecurity of the minority communities ,Cow vigilantism by majority community gender and caste discrimination.
- The right to privacy is interpreted as a fundamental right based on the provisions of the constitution itself
- The judgement on triple talaq by the supreme court upholds the tenets of the constitution
- The formation of Telangana reiterates the principle of India as an indestructible union of destructible states.
Topic: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.
- Despite reservation and advertising of vacancies for women constables in states between 2005-2010, quotas went unfilled.
- The intake of women police in many states did not match the number of women in the employable category. In some states, there are simply not enough takers for the job.
- This shows the apathy of the police force in employing women
- As on January 2016, out of 22.80 lakhs total police force (states) in the country, actual strength of women police was only 122912. It’s barely 7.10% of the total strength.
Why India needs a gender diverse police force?
- To command confidence, trust and respect of the public, a police unit must be reflective of the community it serves. Female police officers bring to the table skills, experiences and perspectives that are vastly different from those of their male counterparts.
- Women do not feel comfortable their problems with the male dominant police force. As a result, their access to justice is negatively affected by a lack of women to whom they can spell out their grievances.
- Higher representation and visible presence at various levels ensures more approachability
- More women in the force will help repair the deficit in equality of opportunity to work, as well as the deficit in access to justice that women face.
- Women officers, apart from being able to do the job as effectively and efficiently as men, bring additional skills and traits to, and improve the image of and public confidence in, the police as a whole.
- It is written in the Journal of Police Science and Administration that Policemen see police work as involving control through authority while policewomen see it as a public service.
- International research has exploded the myth that women are unsuitable for police jobs.
- Women officers use less physical force, are better in defusing violent confrontations with the public
- They also possess better communication skills than their male counterparts and are better able to elicit the public’s cooperation and trust.
- They respond more effectively to violence against women
How such a force should be created?
- Efforts to address gender discrimination and give a push to gender equity within the police forces will be the harbinger for broader police reforms in policing that can comply with the aspirations and expectations of a developing democratic republic like ours.
- Need for a diverse police was highlighted by the National Police Commission in the early 1980s. The commission had suggested that the composition of the police should reflect a general mix of communities as exists in society so that the people would have confidence in the force
- Need for increased representation of women and several measures including 33% reservation, special recruitment drives and better facilities for women need to be installed.
- Policewomen need to attain professional excellence that would automatically change gender stereotypes and make them important players in decision-making, career planning and management in the police.
- There is a tendency to engage women police only in situations like security checks and other specialized duties relating to women. This needs change and women need to be assigned frontline duties in the police stations.
- Tamilnadu and transgenders:-
- With the State’s amended recruitment rules, third gender personnel will don the uniform
- Greater investment in advertisement campaigns in a way that appeals to the sensitivities of females candidates is the need of the hour.
- Proper monitoring of utilisation under gender budgeting and regular stock taking of implementation of various policy decisions is necessary
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
5) One of the central problems in India’s healthcare system has been the low levels of public spending on health. Critically examine why public spending on health remains low despite poor health indicators. Also comment why the issue needs to be addressed immediately. (250 Words)
Why urgent care is needed?
- Slow improvements in basic indicators of maternal and child mortality
- Double burden of communicable as well as non-communicable diseases
- High out-of-pocket expenditure
- Failing public sector and heavily commercialised private sector characterise the healthcare crisis in India.
- Deaths of children in a public hospital in Gorakhpur highlight the systemic failures in public health provision
- The cases of excessive billing and negligence in big corporate hospitals
- The protests against the NEET examination brought forth the complexities involved in ensuring a fair and inclusive system of medical education.
- The resistance to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act (KPME) demonstrated the difficulty in regulating the private sector and the influence of doctors working in the private sector.
- Low levels of public spending on health and as a result the poor access to affordable and good quality healthcare for the majority of India’s population. The public expenditure on health at about 1.2% of the GDP is amongst the lowest in the world.
- Public health facilities suffer from poor infrastructure and human resource inadequacies.
- For instance, according to the Rural Health Statistics 2017, 13% of the sanctioned health worker (female) posts remain vacant.
- Failure of government schemes:
- Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) was criticised as it covers only the first live birth and it has been slow to take off with hardly very few woman to have benefited from it.
- Over the last few years, the central budget on other nutrition schemes such as the ICDS and school meals has been reducing with new cost sharing norms putting a greater burden of expenditure on these schemes on state governments
Why health spending is less:-
- Low tax base as India has limited taxpayers.
- Even the allotment made for the schemes does not reach the targeted sections due to leakages and corruption.
- Lack of effective coordination between state and central governments about who spends how much and how the approach should be
- India is a developing country with multiple challenges and health and education are given less importance.
- The challenge of the number of diseases in India is increasing day by day. This reduces the per capita expenditure on health.
Measures are being taken to improve healthcare and conclusion:-
- The National Health Policy 2017 aims to increase health expenditure by Government as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.15% to 2.5 % by 2025.
- According to ASSOCHAM, India loses nearly 4% of GDP due to different forms of malnutrition. The delivery of health services also creates much needed employment opportunities. For instance, the Niti Aayog’s three-year action agenda states that according to a report by the National Skills Development Corporation, healthcare in India has the potential to generate an additional 7.5 million direct job opportunities by 2022.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Environmental pollution
- India ranks low in the Environmental Performance Index(EPI) 2018, slipping from rank 141 in 2016, to 177 in 2018.
Reasons for low rank are:-
- Big gap between policy goals and action:-
- The government has gone back on its promise of implementing strict power plant emission norms by December 2017, and may even dilute the norms.
- Full conversion to electric vehicles is realistically possible only by 2047.
- Annual electronic waste collection target of 30% of the products sold in the market has now been relaxed to 10%.
- CAG report-criticised government for not developing an action plan and for its poor utilisation of allocated funds in the clean-up of the Ganga.
- Too much focus on economic imperatives is leading to environment degradation.
- Lack of political will to implement even existing environmental laws and regulations.
- There have been instances of grabbing of forest land by private conglomerates, illegal mining etc.
- Environmental impact assessment is not effectively done.
- The current state of the country’s air quality reveals that only seven cities come under the satisfactory annual average air quality, as per the latest report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
- Pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning, and emissions from motor vehicles continues to degrade the air quality for millions of Indians.
Measures taken recently show that India is moving in the right direction:-
- In 2015, government notified new, strict environmental standards for coal-fired power plants, to be effective from 2018.
- An aggressive target was set to implement Bharat Stage VI emission norms from April 1, 2020, skipping Stage V norms.
- In 2017, a road map was being prepared so that only electric vehicles would be produced and sold in the country by 2030.
- The target under the National Solar Mission for setting up solar capacity was revised from 20 GW to 100 GW by 2021-22.
- The Centre has also assured the Supreme Court of India that the highly polluted Ganga will be cleaned up by 2018.
Reforms needed are:-
- In terms of curbing dust pollution from roads and construction work, there is a need for action plan for the creation of green buffers along the traffic corridors.
- Experts suggested mechanised vacuum sweeping of roads as well especially in urban areas.
- With commitments under Paris climate change agreement, India focussing on solar energy the fruits are to bear in the years to come.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
7) It is said that the strides that are being made in the areas of machine learning, image processing, and natural language processing are on a scale that resembles the moon landing. Discuss the implications of these technologies for racism, gender biases and other forms of discrimination. (150 Words)
- The technological revolution impacting the world right now in the form of artificial intelligence, Big data analytics has huge ramifications for multiple aspects of the society .
- It is moving at such a fast pace that Google photos is able to positively identify a person in photos which humans might not be able to, a Tesla car by making its own calculations can apply brakes foreseeing a collision between the two cars in front etc
Latest strides made are:-
- Artificial intelligence has significant impact in software development. The process of programming and testing will become increasingly automated.
- Google’s machine-learning programme generated machine-learning programmes that were better than what human programmers could code.
- These programmes can study X-ray images for doctors and legal documents for lawyers.
- Companies, government agencies and hospitals are increasingly turning to machine learning, image recognition and other AI tools to help predict everything from the credit worthiness of a loan applicant to the preferred treatment for a person suffering from cancer.
Implications of these technologies on gender bias, racism and discrimination:-
- From simple AI pieces to more complex problem-solving uses, the technology has multiple benefits that can help make employees more productive, efficient and error-free.
- By adding AI into the mix, HR professionals can significantly improve and streamline operations, whether by reducing administrative work or by supporting assessments and corrective actions in a bias-free manner.
- Artificial intelligence will unequivocally work as an advocate to HR. AI will help eliminate human bias by identifying potential bias in job descriptions and HR communication.
- Not only will it further protect the company from discrimination litigation, but it also improves the balance of gender and demographics within the workplace
- In 2016, research paper described how two massive image collections can be used to train programmes to process images that had gender biases, like associating images of cooking with women. These collections passed on the biases to their ‘students’, who not only reproduced the bias but even amplified them.
- Other research shows that AI also picks up racial bias from online text content, and gender bias from general news.
- A ProPublica report found that a computer program widely used to predict whether a criminal will re-offend was discriminated against people of colour.
- In a AI beauty contest predominantly white faces were chose as winners
- In May 2017, a report claimed that a computer program used by a US court for risk assessment was biased against black prisoners and wrongly flagged them at almost twice the rate as white people (45% to 24%)
- As machines are getting closer to acquiring human-like language abilities,machine learning algorithms are picking up deeply ingrained race and gender prejudices concealed within the patterns of language use.
- Some more troubling implicit biases seen in human psychology experiments are also readily acquired by algorithms. The words “female” and “woman” were more closely associated with arts and humanities occupations and with the home, while “male” and “man” were closer to maths and engineering professions.
- And the AI system was more likely to associate European American names with pleasant words such as “gift” or “happy”, while African American names were more commonly associated with unpleasant words.
- These biases can have a profound impact on human behaviour
General Studies – 4
The modern world is witnessing many incidents of violence, discrimination against minority communities, equating money for social status etc. This brings into light the importance of social virtues like egalitarianism, equality, equity and efficiency.
Social virtue, makes reference to the active roll of all members within society, in the adhering to the principle of moral fairness in relation with all matters of the economy, such as commerce and trade.
Egalitarian doctrines tend to rest on a background idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. In modern democratic societies, the term “egalitarian” is often used to refer to a position that favours a greater degree of equality of income and wealth across persons than currently exists. The quality of treating someone of lower social status as equal to oneself is becoming rare in the current societal context so egalitarian approach thrives to put forward that all are equal.
Equality is an ideal focussed in an egalitarian society where people are treated with respect and without any undue favour. It is because of the virtue of equality that humans are respecting each other irrespective of their economic, social and political status. The intitatives like right to education,right to life with dignity make for an equalitarian as well as egalitarian society.
Equity is a concept in which positive discrimination is allowed to keep people of different levels on an equal footing. In India based on the concept of equity ,socio-economic backward communities are given reservation and to provide them social mobility. Schemes like Public distribution system, Janani suraksha yojana are also brought in based on this concept itself.
Efficiency is ability to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort. This shows the competency in performance. To achieve the other social virtues mentioned above efficiency is very necessary .The initiatives like e-governance, implementation of programmes effectively at the ground level will ensure that other social virtues are established successfully.