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Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 22 JUNE 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 – Indian society – salient features

1) Dalit women in India face the double whammy of caste based and gender based violence. Critically analyze this statement and suggest measures to improve the status of Dalit women?(250 words)


Why this question

Incidents of caste and gender based violence are on the rise with several incidents coming into the limelight in recent months. In this regard, analyzing the status of Dalit women in India who have to bear the brunt of much discrimination becomes important.

Key demand of the question

The question expects us to analyze the status of Dalit women in India, whether they are still bearing the brunt of both caste and gender based violence or whether their status has improved to a certain extent. We are also expected to suggest steps to improve their status.

Directive word

Critically analyze – When asked to analyze, you  have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. You need to conclude with  a fair judgement, after analyzing the nature of each component part and interrelationship between them.

Structure of the answer

Introduction – Highlight the growing incidents of caste and gender based violence and the effort by coalition of Dalit women activists.


  • Give arguments and illustrate with recent examples that highlight the plight of Dalit women in India suffering under both caste and gender based violence. Bring out the fact that despite many promises, their status has not seen substantive improvement. Highlight the forms of economic, social, physical, mental violence that they have to suffer from.
  • Give arguments showing that not all hope is lost. Bring out the aspects which have seen improvement in their status
  • Suggest steps that could led to their empowerment – you may divide your suggestions under various heads like social, economic etc

Conclusion – Provide a fair and balanced view based in arguments made above.



  • Dalit women constitute a vast section of India’s population. They have been socially excluded and humiliated for a long period of time.
  • Government through ‘Positive interventions’, ‘affirmative measures’ have consistently developed policies for their economic, social and political empowerment. Though these policies have brought some positive change, however, the process of transformation has been extremely slow.

Caste based and gender based violence in Dalit women :-

  • International reports note that discrimination begins early, and is evident in factors such as a mother’s access to healthcare and an infant’s access to adequate nutrition. This continues into the education system.
  • Failure of policies:-
    • The policies are inadequate to minimize the handicaps and disabilities of the past and in reducing the gaps between them and the rest of the Indian society.
    • Dalit women continue to suffer from a high degree of poverty, gender discrimination, caste discrimination and socio-economic deprivation.
  • Violence:-
    • Girls face violence at a younger age and at a higher rate than women of other castes. According to the National Family Health Survey by the age of 15, 33.2% scheduled caste women experience physical violence. The figure is 19.7% for “other” category women.
    • The violence continues, largely due to a sense of impunity among dominant castes.
  • Political power does not help:-
    • Even when Dalit women acquire political power, as when they are elected as sarpanches, there is often no protection against the social power that sanctions violence and discrimination against them.
    • In a village with a Dalit woman sarpanch, a Dalit woman was burned, but no action was taken.
  • Attitude of dominant castes:-
    • There is a mind-set among the dominant castes that make them feel that they can do anything they want with dalit girls and that they will get away with it. 
    • The discrimination faced by Dalit women at the cost of the Brahmanical obsession with “purity and pollution” has had a detrimental effect on all the dimensions of development.
    • Even today Dalit women along with their families are commonly clustered in segregated hamlets at the edge of a village or mohallas in one corner of the village, devoid of civic amenities, drinking water, health care, education, approach roads etc.
    • In urban areas their homesteads are largely found in slum bases normally located in very unhygienic surrounding.
    • The exploitation of them under the name of religious such as “Nude Worship,” practice of devdasi system and such other similar types of practices make them more submissive to violence, and discrimination.
    • The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has noted that Dalit women face targeted violence, even rape and murder, by the state actors and powerful members of the dominant castes used to inflict political lessons and crush dissent within the community.
  • Cases withdrawn and lack of justice:-
    • Very often cases are withdrawn and witnesses turn hostile because of pressure outside the system without adequate protection given to them.
    • Sanctioned impunity on behalf of offenders is a major issue in India, and the police often deny or purposefully neglect and delay Dalit women’s right to legal aid and justice. There is a consistent pattern of delay in report filing and irregularities regarding criminal procedures, which leads to 
      widespread impunity and creates serious barriers to justice for Dalit women.
  • Workplace violence:-
    • The risky workplaces compounded with a lack of labour rights protection measures render migrants dalit women more vulnerable to occupational injury.
    • Further, the emerging problem of sub-contracting short-termed labour makes it more difficult for them to claim compensation when they are injured at work places. 
    • Dalit women are most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by employers, migration agents, corrupt bureaucrats and criminal gangs.
    • The enslavement trafficking also contributes to migration of large proportion of dalit women.


Aspects which improved so far :-

  • Majority of educated Dalit women pursuing public sector jobs were only able to access temporary, low paid, work which lacked social security and labour rights.
  • Most of them were employed in typically female jobs, with 50% in New Delhi being employed as teachers in government schools, often below their own skill level. 
  • In the private sector, liberalisation did result in increased employment for educated Dalit women. These women, over 70% of whom were between 20-30 years, and 80% of whom were single, had accessed education through the reservation policies.
    • They were improving their technical and computer skills to meet the needs of the business that had started, especially in the growing services sector, and working for sub-contractors of larger companies. 
  • Some of the Dalit women employees did gain some respect from their families and communities, even if patriarchal norms continued their subordination to male authority within the household. 

Measures to improve :-

  • Sensible labour laws reforms to give exit options to Dalit women trapped in a system.
  • Integrating social and cultural transformation with an economic alternative is critical.
  • Huge investments will be needed in upskilling and educating womenand government needs to create an abundance of new jobs within the formal sector and lowering barriers to job creation
  • Increased availability of stable-wage jobs for women is critical to preventing their socio-economic exploitation
  • With bridging the deep-rooted biases through sustained reconditioning:-
    • It is only possible by promoting the idea of gender equality and uprooting social ideology of male child preferability.
  • They should be given decision-making powers and due position in governance. Thus, the Women Reservation Bill should be passed as soon as possible to increase the effective participation of women in the politics of India.
  • Bridging implementation gaps:
    • Government or community-based bodies must be set up to monitor the programs devised for the welfare of the society.
  • Dalit women need group and gender specific policies and programmes  to address the issue of multiple deprivations.
  • Dalit women require comprehensive policies on health, especially on the maternal and child health
  • Make credit available by pooling the women to form self help groups. The example of Kudumbashree model of Kerala can be emulated.


General Studies – 2

TopicIssues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

2) How far do you agree with the view that healthcare expenditure is a major cause of poverty in India? Critically examine the steps taken in recent years to reduce the burden of expenses related to healthcare?(250 words)

Indian express

Why this question

The government has introduced several schemes and taken executive actions which would reduce Out of pocket expenditure on healthcare. One of the objectives is also to address poverty caused due to costly healthcare. Hence this question.

Key demand of the question

The question expects us to examine the interrelationship between poverty and healthcare related costs. Thereafter it expects us to enlist the steps taken by the government and critical analysis of whether or not they would be helpful in addressing this issue.

Directive word

Critically examine – When you are asked to examine, you have to probe deeper into the topic,  get into details, and find out the causes or implications if any. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, all you need to do is look at the good and bad of something and give a fair judgement.

Structure of the answer

Introduction – Highlight the key steps taken by the government to reduce cost of healthcare and the overall objective.

Body – Bring out how high cost of healthcare is a major reason for poverty in India. Post that, discuss the steps taken by the government in recent times to address this issue – Ayushman Bharat, capping of stent prices, national health policy etc. Assess how far these measures would help in bringing down healthcare cost.

Conclusion – Summarize your view and discuss the importance of success of these steps.


  • Indian healthcare system can reasonably be characterised as low-cost by global standards, but it still is unaffordable to a majority of the Indian population. 
  • India accounts for over half of the estimated 100 million people pushed into poverty worldwide every year due to out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare, a joint report on universal health coverage by the World Health Organisation and World Bank has revealed.

Healthcare expenditure is a major cause of poverty in India:-

  • Approximately 63 million people fall into poverty each year due to lack of financial protection for healthcare needs.
  • With a 22 per cent shortage of primary health centres and 32 per cent shortage of community health centres, it is estimated that 50 per cent of beneficiaries travel more than 100 kms to access quality care. 
  • Household out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenditure in India is one of the highest in the world and constitute 71.1 per cent of the total expenditure on health while the public health expenditure remain low hovering around 1 per cent of the GDP.
    • Out of pocket expenditure constitutes more than 60 per cent of all health expenses, a major drawback in India where a large segment of the population is below the poverty line. 
    • High out-of-pocket health expenditure is a major source of inequity in financing health care and its effect on households impoverishment varies across states and sub-groups.
    • High OOP payment for health care and lack of comprehensive insurance coverage has exposed vulnerable households to the risk of impoverishment. The OOP health care expenditure and its implication on impoverishment is a reflection of multifaceted interface of health system, economic structure, risk pooling mechanism, income distribution, living standard, financial coping strategies and disease burden.
    • Due to high out of pocket healthcare expenditure, about 7% population is pushed below the poverty threshold every year.
  • With an estimated per capita income of less than $3 a day, private healthcare service is beyond the reach for almost 80% of the population. 
  • Despite the enhanced share of states in central taxes after the 14th finance commission the increase in health budgets by some states has been marginal.


Steps taken recently to reduce the burden of expenses related to healthcare:-

  • Rashtriya swasthya Bhima yojana:-
    • Of the 59 million households eligible, over 36.3 million (61%) were covered by RSBY. However, it needs to cover a large proportion of the poor for its impact to be noticeable.
    • Issues with this are:-
      • Low enrolment, inadequate insurance cover and the lack of coverage for outpatient costs.
      • An insurance cover of Rs 30,000 is inadequate for a family of five.
      • The cost of hospitalisation increased 10.1% in rural areas and 10.7% in urban India in the decade ending 2014, but the RSBY insurance amount has remained the same over the nine years of the scheme’s existence.
    • The Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana is an accident insurance scheme, which offers a one-year accidental death and disability cover, which can be renewed annually. 
    • Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) is a one-year life insurance scheme, renewable from year to year, offering coverage for death. 
    • The Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY)was announced in 2003 with objectives of correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/ reliable tertiary healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country.
    • National health policy 2017:-
      • These include the formulation of the National Health Policy, 2017, enforcing a ceiling on the prices of cardiac stents and knee implants, financial aid to expecting mothers and a renewed focus on nutrition.
    • The Ayushman Bharat (AB) Scheme is another most significant of these programmes :-
      • Under the aegis of Ayushman Bharat, the National Health Protection Mission (NHPM) is envisaged as a game-changer for India’s healthcare system.
      • It will add weight to the government’s healthcare reforms and help it fulfill the country’s SDG commitments.
      • AB-NHPM has evolved a structure that accommodates the unique features of state schemes while also providing flexibility to states to exercise their choice on the mode of implementation. It will merge the existing schemes into one large pool, remove inefficiencies and bring in economies of scale.
    • Generic medicine :-
      • By promoting generic drug consumption, the government safeguards the health of its generic drug manufacturing industry one of the largest suppliers of low-cost medicines in the world.
      • The Government has launched ‘Jan Aushadhi Scheme’ to make available quality generic medicines at affordable prices to all, especially the poor, throughout the country, through outlets known as Jan Aushadhi Stores (JASs).



  • Health insurance mandatory:-
    • Currently, only around four per cent of the country’s population has health insurance coverage. This has essentially led to a situation where out of pocket healthcare spending constitutes 86 per cent of total healthcare spends. The reason for the low penetration of health insurance is because currently, it is optional.
  • The GST factor :-
    • The sale of healthcare equipment, devices and services to healthcare service providers, such as hospitals and diagnostic clinics, is chargeable to indirect taxes. However, the final sale of patient care /diagnostic services by the hospitals/clinics  is exempt from indirect taxes (such as VAT and service tax). This results in accumulation of indirect taxes at the level of hospitals and clinics.
    • Since healthcare providers are unable to pass on these taxes to the patient, they will have no option but to pay these taxes into their fees/charges that they charge to the patient. This will lead to an increase in healthcare costs for the patient.
  • Indian private healthcare system has a similar Diagnosis-Related Group(DRG)-based cost structure called ‘package’.
    • While the ‘package’ model promotes low-cost healthcare since hospitals can gain competitive advantage by offering a lower-rate package for the same DRG, negative externalities sometimes overrun its positive aspects.
    • In an attempt to keep the cost of the ‘package’ low and homogenous, ‘package’ charges are typically not adjusted for age or pre-existing co-morbidities that may drive up the cost of the procedure.
  • The focus of the National health protection scheme Mission seems to be on hospitalisation (including pre and post hospitalisation charges). However, most of the out of the pocket expenditure made by consumers is actually on buying medicines (52%) as seen earlier. Further, these purchases are mostly made for patients who do not need hospitalization.
  • There are three fundamental areas of concern for generic medicine :-
    • The first relates to the efficacy of Indian-made drugs. Often times, such drugs have been found to contain less than the required amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), rendering them ineffective.
    • Closely linked to the issue of efficacy is the lack of data integrity. The poorly managed documentation practices of Indian generic firms featured as the primary criticism flagged by foreign regulatory authorities.
      • The lack of reliable and complete data on the test results of specific drug batches, along with inconsistencies in the records presented, meant that inspection and verification of drug quality was extremely difficult.
    • Another aspect relates to the hygiene standards of the manufacturing plants. Individuals suffering from illness are especially susceptible to infections, and inspections of generic drug plants reveal pest infestations and dilapidated infrastructure.

Way forward:-

  • Reducing cost of healthcare services needs to be given top priority if the country aims to achieve UHC by 2030:-
    • India needs a holistic and balanced approach to bring down the cost of healthcare services through rational policies, health schemes, innovations and solutions.
    • Apart from price control measures, India needs to explore other mechanisms to ensure affordable services through overall asset management by taking innovative ‘digital health’ initiatives and systematically focusing on ‘prevention and wellness’.
  • The Government can also explore making health insurance coverage mandatory for all citizens in a phased manner, initially covering the organised sector.  
  • Domestic manufacturing :-
    • To help encourage domestic manufacture of MRI devices, as a part of the ‘Make in India’ strategy and make technology more accessible and affordable, there is a need to lower the existing rate of customs duty as it would take around 2-3 years for domestic manufacturers to introduce this technology to India, given the need for investments.
    • It is also important to create an environment supportive of domestic manufacture of essential items, but care must be taken to import high-tech medical equipment, like Linear Accelerator, PET-CT, MRI, heavy duty blood testing automated analysers and their reagents, at nominal rate of import duty so that high quality diagnostics and treatment are available to the masses at affordable prices.
  • Engaging private sector network’s capacity :-
    • The private sector can play an effective role in supporting this endeavour. While unethical profiteering is deplorable, it has been proved that new solutions and innovations offer enough scope for the private sector to cut down prices to a reasonable level, which can help achieve accessibility and affordability without compromising on the minimum standards of quality.
    • With proper asset management, activity-based costing and new IT-driven solutions in admission, transfer and discharge and focus on other areas can bring in the desired reduction in costs.
  • GST on sale of healthcare equipment/devices, healthcare insurance and other services be put under 0 to five per cent slab and the process to avail input credit should also be simplified. Currently, products and services offered by the healthcare sector mostly fall under the 12 per cent or 18 per cent GST slab.
  • International lessons:-
    • India can look into Vietnam’s compulsory, state-run health insurance policy. It covers both inpatient and outpatient costs after the policy was reformed in 2002 to include outpatient costs. The change resulted in lower out-of-pocket expenditure even though it led to longer hospital stays. It also resulted in fewer days of missed school and work.
    • Experts also recommend the strengthening of primary care in order to bring down out-of-pocket expenditure. Neighbouring nations Sri Lanka and Thailand have both strengthened their primary health care system to provide better coverage.
  • States:-
    • The number one priority must, thus, be the replication of the Tamil Nadu/Rajasthan model of free medicines in all states, and pharmaceutical PSUs must be re-energised and reinvented instead of the government disinvesting in them.

Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments,
significant provisions and basic structure.

3) Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India, 1980 case is a landmark case which helped in strengthening the fundamental rights we enjoy. Examime. (250 words)


Key demand of the question

The question expects us to highlight the shifts that took place in the fundamental rights jurisprudence post Maneka Gandhi case and the impact it had on the fundamental rights we enjoy.

Directive word

Examine – When you are asked to examine, you have to probe deeper into the topic,  get into details, and find out the causes or implications if any. Here we have to bring out the changes in jurisprudence as a result of the judgment in this case and the impact it had on the fundamental rights regime in our country.

Structure of the answer

Introduction – Give a brief overview of the Maneka Gandhi case.


  • Bring out the changes – seeing fundamental rights as an integrated whole, Emphasising the need to read Part III of the Constitution in a holistic manner, due process of law is enshrined in procedure established by law as far as article 21 is concerned.
  • Also examine how the stand of judiciary changed from Golak Nath case
  • Thereafter, bring out how the judent expanded the scope of fundamental rights in our country

Conclusion – mention the significance of the case.


Background :-

  • Supreme Court’s ruling in the Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India case was a turning point in the interpretation of the right to life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. 
  • The court moved from a pedantic to a purposive approach in construing the sweep of the right to life under the Constitution. The judgment became a springboard for the evolution of the law relating to judicial preservation of human rights.

It’s a landmark case because :-

  • The case is considered a landmark case in that it gave a new and highly varied interpretation to the meaning of ‘life and personal liberty’ under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Also, it expanded the horizons of freedom of speech and expression to the effect that the right is no longer restricted by the territorial boundaries of the country.
    • With respect to the relationship between Art. 19 and Art. 21, the Court held that Art. 21 is controlled by Art. 19, i.e., it must satisfy the requirement of Art. 19.
    • The expression personal liberty in Article 21 is of widest amplitude and it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man and some of them have raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights and given additional protection under Article 19.
  • In Maneka Gandhi, the Supreme Court departed from the straitjacketed interpretation of fundamental rights in Gopalan (A.K. Gopalan vs State of Madras) and held that the fundamental rights form an integrated scheme under the Constitution. 
  • Most striking aspect of the Supreme Court’s introduction of substantive due process was that it empowered courts to expand the limited phraseology of the right to life under the Constitution, to include a wide range of un-enumerated rights.
  • Derived from Article 21, these rights cover areas such as the rights of prisoners, protection of women and children, and environmental rights.
  • The court held that the right to travel abroad fell within the sweep of the right to personal liberty under Article 21.
  • Maneka Gandhi’s case also gave an entirely new viewpoint to look at the Chapter III of the Constitution. Prior to Maneka Gandhi’s decision, Article 21 guaranteed the right to life and personal liberty only against the arbitrary action of the executive and not from the legislative action. Broadly speaking, what this case did was extend this protection against legislative action too.

Conclusion :-

  • Maneka Gandhi’s case, gave the term ‘personal liberty’ widest possible interpretation and gave effect to the intention of the drafters of the Constitution. This case, while adding a whole new dimension to the concept of ‘personal liberty’, extended the protection of Art. 14 to the personal liberty of every person and additional protection of Art. 19 to the personal liberty of every citizen.
  • Thus the case saw a high degree of judicial activism, and ushered in a new era of expanding horizons of fundamental rights in general, and Article 21 in particular.

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

4) The UN SDG 2018 report calls for accelerated actions and a profound change that goes beyond business as usual. Analyze.(250 words)

The hindu

Why this question

The UN SDG form an important development agenda for all the countries of the world. Their progress is important as far as need for revision/ evaluation and UPSC exam is concerned. The issue is related to GS -2 syllabus under the following heading-

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Key demand of the question.

the question wants us to discuss the findings of the UN SDG report, 2018 and bring out the need therefrom, of accelerated action in order to successfully achieve all the SDGs by 2030.

Directive word

Analyze- we have to identify all the key aspects of the question- what are the findings of the report and why there is a need for accelerated actions and profound change that goes beyond business as usual. We have to discuss the issues individually while maintaining a coherence between them.

Structure of the answer

Introduction– Mention that The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action ( in the form of 17 goals)  to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.


  1. Discuss in points the findings of the  UN SDG report, 2018. E.g rise in hunger, rising water stress, environmental pollution, climate change and land-use associated land degradation, decreased child marriage incidence in India etc.
  2. Discuss the associated goals with the findings- e.g eliminating hunger and poverty, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, climate action etc.

Conclusion– mention the need for accelerated actions and closer cooperation between countries and stakeholders under the purview of goal 17 of SDG- partnership for goals.

Background :-

  • SDG Report presents an overview of progress toward achieving the Goals, which were unanimously adopted by countries in 2015.

Report findings:-

  • A fast-changing climate, conflict, inequality, persistent pockets of poverty and hunger and rapid urbanization are challenging countries efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 found that conflict and climate change were major contributing factors leading to growing numbers of people facing hunger and forced displacement, as well as curtailing progress towards universal access to basic water and sanitation services.
  • Hunger:-
    • For the first time in more than a decade, there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.  According to the report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries.
  • Better lives:-
    • Report found that more people are leading better lives than they were just a decade ago. The proportion of the world’s workers living with their families on less than 1.90 per person a day declined significantly over the past two decades, falling from 26.9 per cent in 2000 to 9.2 per cent in 2017.
  • Electricity:-
    • The under-five mortality rate dropped by almost 50 per cent and in the least developed countries, the proportion of population with access to electricity has more than doubled between 2000 and 2016.
  • Sanitation:-
    • However, in 2015, 2.3 billion people still lacked even a basic level of sanitation service and 892 million people continued to practice open defecation.
  • Child marriages:-
    • Rates of child marriage have continued to decline around the world. 
    • South Asia, which includes India, has seen child marriage rates plunge, with a girl’s risk of getting married in childhood dropping by 40% from 2000 to 2017.
  • Land degradation threatens the livelihoods of over one billion people
  • Water scarcity:-
    • On the other hand, water stress levels for many countries in the region are above 70%, indicating fast-approaching water scarcity.
  • Pollution:-
    • More than nine out of 10 people living in urban areas around the world are breathing polluted air, with southern Asia scoring the worst in this area.

UN SDG 2018 report findings and goals :-

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere:-
    • While extreme poverty has eased considerably since 1990, pockets of the worst forms of poverty persist.
    • Way forward:-
      • Ending poverty requires universal social protection systems aimed at safeguarding all individuals throughout the life cycle. It also requires targeted measures to reduce vulnerability to disasters and to address specific underserved geographic areas within each country.
    • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
      • After a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again. Conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change are among the key factors causing this reversal in progress.
    • Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages 
      • Many more people today are living healthier lives than in the past decade. Nevertheless, people are still suffering needlessly from preventable diseases, and too many are dying  prematurely.
      • Way forward:-
        • Overcoming disease and ill health will require concerted and sustained efforts, focusing on population groups and regions that have been neglected.
      • Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
        • More than half of children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. Refocused efforts are needed to improve the quality of education. Disparities in education along the lines of gender, urban-rural location and other dimensions still run deep, and more investments in education infrastructure are required, particularly in LDCs.
      • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
        • While some forms of discrimination against women and girls are diminishing, gender inequality continues to hold women back and deprives them of basic rights and opportunities.
        • Way forward:-
          • Empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes as well as developing progressive legal frameworks that promote equality between women and men.
        • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all:-
          • Too many people still lack access to safely managed water supplies and sanitation facilities.
          • Way forward:-
            • Water scarcity, flooding and lack of proper wastewater management also hinder social and economic development. Increasing water efficiency and improving water management are critical to balancing the competing and growing water demands from various sectors and users.
          • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
            • Ensuring access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all has come one step closer due to recent progress in electrification, particularly in LDCs, and improvements in industrial energy efficiency.
            • Way forward:-
              • However, national priorities and policy ambitions still need to be strengthened to put the world on track to meet the energy targets for 2030.
            • Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
              • Globally, labour productivity has increased and the unemployment rate has decreased. 
              • Way forward:-
                • However, more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, especially for young people, reduce informal employment and labour market inequality, promote safe and secure working environments, and improve access to financial services to ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth.
              • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
                • Way forward:-
                  • Steady progress has been made in the manufacturing industry. To achieve inclusive and sustainable industrialization, competitive economic forces need to be unleashed to generate employment and income, facilitate international trade and enable the efficient use of resources.
                • Reduce inequality within and among countries 
                  • Efforts have been made in some countries to reduce income inequality, increase zero-tariff  access for exports from LDCs and developing countries, and provide additional assistance  to LDCs and small island developing States (SIDS). However, progress will need to accelerate to reduce growing disparities within and among countries.
                • Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
                  • Many cities around the world are facing acute challenges in managing rapid urbanization from ensuring adequate housing and infrastructure to support growing populations, to confronting the environmental impact of urban sprawl, to reducing vulnerability to
                • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
                  • Decoupling economic growth from resource use is one of the most critical and complex  challenges facing humanity today.
                  • Doing so effectively will require policies that create a conducive environment for such change, social and physical infrastructure and markets, and a profound transformation of business practices along global value chains.
                • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
                  • Analysis by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the five-year average global temperature from 2013 to 2017 was also the highest on record. The world continues to experience rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.
                  • Way forward:-
                    • This calls for urgent and accelerated action by countries as they implement their commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate
                  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
                    for sustainable development 
                    • Advancing the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans continues to require effective strategies and management to combat the adverse effects of overfishing, growing ocean acidification and worsening coastal eutrophication.
                    • The expansion of protected areas for marine biodiversity, intensification of research capacity and increases in ocean science funding remain critically important to preserve marine resources.
                  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss 
                    • Protection of forest and terrestrial ecosystems is on the rise, and forest loss has slowed. 
                      That said, other facets of terrestrial conservation continue to demand accelerated action to protect biodiversity, land productivity and genetic resources and to curtail the loss of species.
                  • Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
                    • Many regions of the world continue to suffer untold horrors as a result of armed conflict or other forms of violence that occur within societies and at the domestic level. Advances  in promoting the rule of law and access to justice are uneven.
                    • However, progress is being made in regulations to promote public access to information, albeit slowly, and in strengthening institutions upholding human rights at the national level.
                  • Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership
                    for Sustainable Development 
                    • Goal 17 seeks to strengthen global partnerships to support and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda, bringing together national governments, the international community, civil society, the private sector and other actors.
                    • Way forward:-
                      • Despite advances in certain areas, more needs to be done to accelerate progress. All stakeholders will have to refocus and intensify their efforts on areas where progress has been slow.

Way forward:-

  • As the global community moves forward to achieve the SDGs and address existing challenges, reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data is critically needed. This requires technology and innovation, increased resources and political commitment to build strong data and statistical systems in all countries.
  • Achieving the 2030 Agenda requires accelerated actions by countries along with collaborative partnerships among governments and stakeholders at all levels.
    • Sustainable and resilient societies will also require the establishment of strong national frameworks for sustainable consumption and production, environmentally sensitive business practices and consumer behaviour, and adherence to international norms on the management of hazardous chemicals and wastes.

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

5) Critically examine whether India should sign the COMCASA agreement.(250 words)

The hindubusinessline


Why this question

The issue is related to GS – 2 syllabus under the following heading

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Key demand of the question.

The question wants us to bring out and discuss the implications of signing the COMCASA and form a personal opinion on the issue.

Directive word’

Critically examine- We have to dig deep into the issue and bring out the causes/ implications of signing the agreement and then take an ultimate call on the issue.

Structure of the answer

Introduction– Expand the abv COMCASA and describe the nature of the agreement briefly.


  1. Discuss the need to sign the agreement with US. e.g getting access to obtain critical, secure and encrypted defence technologies for precision armament, air-to-air missiles, space systems and navigation systems that are critical components in platforms like fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial systems etc.
  2. Discuss the negative implications of signing the agreement. E.g loss of operational independence, fall in interoperability, need to upgrade whole weapon system suite/ machinery, estrangement with Russia etc.

Conclusion– based on the above discussion, form a fair, balanced and a concise opinion on the overall issue of signing COMCASA. If signed what precautions should be taken and what should be ensured etc.


  • COMCASA is one of three foundational agreements that guide US high technology cooperation in defence sector with other countries.
  • It was earlier called Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) before name was changed to reflect its India-specific nature.
  • Other two agreements are Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA.
  • It will enable Indian military to obtain critical, secure and encrypted defence technologies from the other country.

India needs to sign this agreement because:-

  • It is imperative for India to sign the mandatory three foundational pacts which allows greater interoperability between critical technologies and smooth facilitation of classified information.
  • Furthermore, not signing COMCASA also means that certain things such as high-precision GPS or the latest guidance packages for US-origin air to air missiles will not be available to India,
  • While Logistics security agreement gave both militaries access to each other’s bases, Comcasa would allow them to be the same communication network
  • India has faced problems in fully exploiting the potential of US-sourced platforms because of restrictions in using compatible communication equipment. By signing the agreement this obstacle can be tackled.
  • COMCASA is meant to facilitate use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India by US to fully exploit their potential.
  • It essentially provides legal framework for transfer of communication security equipment from US to India that will facilitate interoperability between armed forces of both countries and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.
  • Interoperability in this case means that there will be access to encrypted and secret technologies or communications. India is currently dependent on commercially available and less secure communication systems on high-end US defence platforms like C-130Js and P8I maritime surveillance aircraft
  • COMCASA creates the conditions for the Indian military to receive modern secure and net-enabled weapons systems such as precision armament, air-to-air missiles, space systems and navigation systems that are critical components in platforms like fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. Hitherto India has had to purchase more expensive commercial communications equipment, raising the overall acquisition price of a platform,

Why India should not sign :-

  • The US, however, tightly controls COMSEC technology and provides access to only those countries that have signed a CISMOA / COMCASA with it. The current denial of this COMSEC equipment to Indian military forces means that they cannot really exchange tactical information with even friendly regional forces that might use CISMOA/COMCASA covered communication systems.
  • COMCASA and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) are the two remaining pacts that were not signed due to severe criticism from within the government. It was feared that signing these agreements would mean compromising India’s age-old military ties with Russia and access to their weaponry systems.
  • Besides this, the agreement, which is largely operational with traditional US allies, does require granting periodic access to US personnel to inspect the equipment and ensure they remain secure. 
  • From an Indian perspective, COMCASA has the potential to compromise India’s operational security while protecting that of the US.
  • COMCASA may also increase pressure on India to source all of its COMSEC equipment from US vendors in the future.
  • COMCASA requires that US operators perform functions such as keying for the encryption. Indian operators will not be allowed to even participate in the maintenance of these systems. So, India might not be comfortable with the presence of US designated personnel on Indian-procured US platforms for long durations of their operational life.
  • In the COMCASA scheme of things, the US might basically end up controlling the entire communications and message flow for the sake of ‘interoperability’. Long term analysis of the message flow could end up revealing tactical doctrines adopted by Indian forces in combat.
    • Since communication devices and links currently in use with Indian Forces cannot interact with US-provided systems, it implies that any attempt to establish interoperability between a part of India’s inventory and participating US forces could actually lead to reduced ‘intra-operability’ within India’s own military.
  • COMCASA-covered equipment/platforms might become incompatible with the rest of India’s inventory. This could lead to calls to ‘overhaul’ the Indian military’s entire network to COMCASA-compliant standards through wholesale import of US systems.  
  • The fact that COMCASA could lead to the secrecy of tactical doctrines getting compromised besides imposing greater complexity costs on India’s communication systems demands that a detailed study of the ground realities and practical implications of signing COMCASA be made prior to deciding on a course of action.

General Studies – 3

Topic – Indian Agriculture

6) What is Zero Budget Natural Farming? Considering India’s food needs, examine the impact of its implementation at a national level?(250 words)

The hindu

Why this question

In the past two years, questions on agricultural techniques have been asked. This technique being used in Andhra Pradesh is significant because it is green, sustainable and can help improve agriculture in other parts of the country where the soil is ravaged by chemicals.

Key demand of the question

The question is quite straightforward in its demand. It expects us to explain what ZBNF is and how prudent would it be to implement this at a national level in light of the food security requirements of the country.

Directive word

Examine – When you are asked to examine, you have to probe deeper into the topic,  get into details, and find out the causes or implications if any .

Structure of the answer

Introduction – highlight the achievements of Andhra Pradesh government in ZBNF and mention that the idea has potential.

Body – Explain ZBNF. Highlight how it has been implemented in Andhra Pradesh. Examine the potential of this technique if implemented on a nation wide scale, especially in light of productivity. Examine what lessons can be learnt from the Andhra Pradesh experiment.

Conclusion – Give your view on how important ZBNF can be for Indian agriculture.

Background :-

  • Resilient food systems are the need of the day given the variability of the monsoons due to global warming and declining groundwater in large parts of India. The drought-prone Rayalaseema region (Andhra Pradesh) is reportedly seeing promising changes already in farms with the ZBNF.
  • To feed the global population of 9.6 billion by 2050, as projected by a United Nations report, scaling up food production is important. But ensuring food security, producing more with less resources and building the resilience of smallholder farmers are also important in creating a food-secure future.

Zero budget natural farming :-

  • ‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs. ‘Natural farming’ means farming with 
  • It is considered ‘zero budget’ because the costs of the main crop are offset by the income that farmers earn from intercrops during the agricultural season

The four-wheels of zero budget natural farming

  • Water vapour condensation for better soil moisture
  • Seed treatment with cow dung and urine based formulations
  • Mulching
  • Ensure soil fertility through cow dung and cow urine based concoctions

Implementation of ZBNF:-

  • Considering its impressive scale, an effective shift to a 100% natural farming state with 8 million hectares free of chemical contamination will achieve transformative impacts in India.
  • With successful pilot programmes that were initiated in 2015 and partners who brought experience in different aspects needed to carry out such a transformation, Andhra Pradesh has become the first State to implement a ZBNF policy.
    • The Government of Andhra Pradesh has launched a scale-out plan to transition 6 million farms/farmers to 100% chemical-free agriculture by 2024.This is an unprecedented transformation towards sustainable agriculture at such a massive scale.
    • Besides reduced input cost, farmers practising ZBNF gets higher yields. In Anantapuram district, there has been a 136 per cent higher yield in groundnuts under natural farming. 
  • The scale-out of ZBNF will promote regenerative agriculture, improve soil biodiversity and productivity, and ensure decent livelihoods to smallholder farmers, who grow so much of the food people consume but receive so little reward for their labour
  • Higher yield:-
    • Besides reduced input cost, farmers practising ZBNF gets higher yields.
    • In AP, Yields of five crops (paddy, groundnut, black gram, maize and chillies) have increased by 8-32 per cent for ZBNF farmers.
    • Farmers are able to get five quintals of red gram under ZBNF compared to three quintals under non-ZBNF.
    • Farmers use bio fertilizers and that make the soil fertile, thus giving higher yields.
    • It has the ability to solve the food and farm crisis in the countryby cutting the cost of production and doubling productivity and production
    • In ZBNF, yields of various cash and food crops have been found to be significantly higher when compared with chemical farming. For example, yields from ZBNF plots in the (kharif) 2017 pilot phase were found on average to be 11% higher for cotton than in non-ZBNF plots. The yield for Guli ragi (ZBNF) was 40% higher than non-ZBNF.
  • Low input cost:-
    • Agriculture in its prevailing form requires farmers to rely heavily on inorganic external chemical inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides. Zero budget’ farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers
  • Tenant farmers and day labourers are also being trained, to ensure that through the ZBNF, livelihoods for the rural poor will be enhanced.
  • Net income raised:-
    • There will be increase in net income for farmers and will improve the cash flow of poor and vulnerable farmers, and may enhance their ability to deal with economic shock
    • Crop cutting experiments from 2016 and 2017 indicate that ZBNF farmers in AP earn better net incomes and can raise their disposable incomes. Farmers vulnerable to economic shocks have an important safety net against short-term shocks.
  • Food and nutritional security:-
    • As a result of increased crop yields, ZBNF farmers may be able to improve food and nutritional security for their families.
    • The practice of intercropping growing multiple crops in proximity to each other  is encouraged under ZBNF as it ensures vulnerable communities access to a suite of nutritional sources and income generating crops throughout the year
  • In the long-run, due to the use of local inputs, the project is likely to contribute to maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds and crops.
  • Environmental benefits:-
    • The planting of multiple crops and border crops on the same field has provided varied income and nutrient sources. As a result of these changes, there is reduced use of water and electricity, improved health of farmers, flourishing of local ecosystems and biodiversity and no toxic chemical residues in the environment.
    • Programme can have a positive effect on many of the sustainable development goals through improvements in soil, biodiversity, livelihoods, water, reduction in chemicals, climate resilience, health, women’s empowerment and nutrition.
    • Climate change:-
      • Model ZBNF farms were able to withstand drought and flooding, which are big concerns with regard to climate change.
    • In addition, it will provide a blueprint for an inclusive agricultural model, which takes into account diversity of people along with agro-climatic conditions and can be adapted to varying global contexts to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change.
    • Moreover, as 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are dependent on the status of natural resources, the health of communities, access to secure nutrition, and empowerment of women, ZBNF constitutes an effective cross-sectoral strategy for achieving SDGs targets.
    • It is free from health hazards, as no chemical or organic materials are used for farming
    • Prevailing agricultural practices such as mono-cropping decrease soil moisture content, causing tremendous stress on water resources . Zero budget natural farming requires only 10 per cent water and 10 per cent electricity than what is required under chemical and organic farming.
    • It utilises only natural resources as inputs. It also increases the fertility of the soil.
    • Fertilisers and pesticides have been shown to have adverse impacts on farmers as well as consumers. Farmers are exposed to contaminants when applying chemical inputs to their crops. By replacing such external inputs with locally made natural concoctions, inoculums, and decoctions, the project could help in reducing the incidence of non-communicable diseases
    • ZBNF can help prevent over-extraction of groundwater, enable aquifer recharge, and eventually contribute to increasing water table levels.
    • ZBNF might help farmers build resilience against extreme climate events by improving the fertility and strength of the soil.
    • By reducing the need for irrigation and eliminating external chemical inputs, ZBNF could reduce the material footprint per capita and material footprint per unit of value added in agriculture.
    • Wide-scale adoption of ZBNF would help reduce the release of harmful chemicals to the air, water and soil.
    • Zero budget natural farming eliminates chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and would help reduce ocean acidification and marine pollution from land-based activities. It might help to reduce the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil into groundwater or surface water, and eventually into rivers and oceans.
    • By restoring the quality of soil and water-related ecosystems, it decouples agricultural productivity and growth from ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. This decoupling of growth and resource-use provides a sustainable livelihood to farmers and allied value chain actors
    • Globally, as few as 30 crops constitute 90 per cent of the calorie intake of people. ZBNF may improve the potential of crops to adapt to and be produced for evolving climatic conditions.


Lessons to be learnt:-

  • Farmer’s collectives such as Farmer Producer Organisations need to be established and these would be critical to sustaining the programme. 
  • Policy support needed in the following areas:
    • There are no other official policies to promote ZBNF.
    • A particular challenge is marketing. Many farmers sell their natural produce as if were chemically grown, to private traders or at government wholesale yards, with no price differential. Other farmers rely on their own local marketing networks, such as to some organic shops and individual customers, but policy support in this area is crucial.
  • The agriculture ministry plans to offer cash incentives to farmers who take up ‘yogik’ farming, ‘gou mata kheti’ and ‘rishi krishi’is right step in promoting Zero budget natural farming in India.


General Studies – 4

Topic: Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

7) The ethics of the Vedic Hindus is primarily a god-oriented ethics while the  Upanishadic ethics is primarily intellectualistic.. Comment.(250 words)



Why this question

The question is related to GS-4 syllabus under the following heading-

Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

Key demand of the question.

the question wants us to express our understanding of the vedic ethics and present our opinion on the given statement- whether the ethics of the Vedic Hindus are primarily a god-oriented ethics or not. Similarly we have to discuss the Upanishad ethics and their intellectual foundation.

Directive word

Comment -We have to express our knowledge and understanding on both the aspects of the question and give arguments in support of our stand.

Structure of the answer

Introduction – mention that the beginning of Indian ethics can be traced to Vedas and introduce the concept of, rta which gave rise to the concept of karma and dharma .


  1. Discuss  how the vedic ethics was primarily God oriented ethics.E.g explain the meaning of the karma and dharma, According to Vedic ethics, moral order or law is reflected in the right performance of sacrifices and so one who performs these sacrifices and the ceremonial duties laid down in the scriptures, would achieve the goal of eternal happiness in heaven.
  2. Discuss why the Upanishad ethics is primarily intellectualistic. E.g they propound that the Vedic sacrifices are totally irrelevant for the realization of moksa. And so man is constantly exhorted to seek his individual liberation and not worry about other social, moral obligation; etc.

Conclusion– form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue based on your discussion.




The Indian term for morality and ethics is ‘dharma’. Dharma comes from the root ‘dhr’, which means to hold together. And thus the function of dharma is to hold the human society together for its stability and growth. Right conduct is essential if the human society is to survive.

When Indian ethics is thought of , its early beginnings have to be traced from the Vedas, particularly the Rig Veda. One of the central ethical concepts of the Rig Veda is ‘rta’, a conception of unifying order or moral law, pervading all things. The concept ‘rta’ has given rise to two other important concepts, the concept of Dharma and the concept of Karma 

More important and essential element in the Vedic ethics is that of love and worship offered to the gods in complete submission. Moral order or law is reflected in the right performance of sacrifices and so one who performs these sacrifices and the ceremonial duties laid down in the scriptures, would achieve the goal of eternal happiness in heaven. So the ethics of the Vedic Hindus is primarily a god-oriented ethics.

The highest goal of life for the Upanishads is no longer happiness as in the Rig Veda, but liberation from bondage to the transitory existence and the re-attainment of the inner essence of the soul. The Upanishadic ethics is primarily atman-centric and intellectualistic.

The Upanishads declare that the Vedic sacrifices are totally irrelevant for the realization of moksa. And so man is constantly exhorted to seek his individual liberation and not worry about other social, moral obligation. 
This kind of philosophical individualism definitely undermines the values of social morality. For the Upanishads, the identification and the realization of the self with Brahman is very important. Good conduct is very much necessary for the  attainment of man’s metaphysical good (identification of the self with Brahman).
And man who is wise is morally a good man whose nature approximates to the divine model. So the Upanishads are clear in saying that the man who has wisdom does not sin. He ceases to do evil and

through his wisdom he annuls the evil of his former life.