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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 2 June 2020


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


 

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

1. Do you think introduction of unconditional regular pay checks at maximum universality, at least till the economy normalizes is the need of the hour? Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why This Question:

The article talks about the utility of universal basic income concept and its relevance amidst current situation.

Key Demand of the question:

Answer must analyse in what way the option of offering unconditional regular pay checks at maximum universality, at least till the economy normalizes is the need of the hour.

Directive:

AnalyzeWhen asked to analyse, 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.

Structure of the Answer:

Introduction

Explain the context of the economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Body

The lockdown in place to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in economic misery to a large section of the population. The migrant laborers have been adversely affected by the lockdown measures.

With almost 90% of India’s workforce in the informal sector without minimum wages or social security, the economic circumstances will be worse in India than compared to developed countries.

Explain slowing world growth, discuss the employment woes in the country and suggest how the idea of universal basic income can be of great help to tackle the situation.

Conclusion

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

The ongoing crisis is creating changes that could end up dividing society into pre- and post-COVID-19 days. These changes are also likely to exacerbate the novel challenges accompanying the fourth industrial revolution. Many consider a universal basic income (UBI) programme to be a solution that could mitigate the looming crisis caused by dwindling job opportunities.

Body:

Need for UBI in India during the current Pandemic:

  • Lockdowns in some format are expected to be the norm till the arrival of a vaccine.
  • With almost 90% of India’s workforce in the informal sector without minimum wages or social security, micro-level circumstances will be worse in India than anywhere else.
  • By adopting the Universal Basic Income, the India’s huge capacity and infrastructure-building requirements will support plenty of hands in the foreseeable future.
  • The frequent sight of several thousands of migrant labourers undertaking perilous journeys on foot in inhumane conditions is a disgraceful blight on India.
  • One way to ensure their sustenance throughout these trying times is the introduction of unconditional regular pay checks at maximum universality, at least till the economy normalises.
  • UBI in its true sense would entail the provision of an unconditional fixed amount to every citizen in a country.
  • UBI is also deliberated as an effective poverty-eradication tool.
  • Supporters of this scheme include Economics Nobel Laureates Peter Diamond and Christopher Pissarides, and tech leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
  • A universal programme would not only be more appropriate but it will also reduce the burden of the bureaucracy as it is engaged in identifying the deserving beneficiaries of any targeted programme.
  • It aims to ensure in reduction of distress due to migration.
  • The minimum income security would enable individuals to plan their lives better and undertake more meaningful activities rather than be trapped in distress-driven activities in search of subsistence.

Challenges in Implementing Universal Basic Income in India:

  • There is a growth of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence are ushering in productivity gains that we have never seen before and are also steadily reducing human capital requirements, making jobs a premium.
  • The high cost involved in implementing UBI is a major factor contributing towards lack of political will in working towards the universal basic income in India.
  • With over 90% of the India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector without minimum wages or social security.
  • It is viewed as a means to demolish complex welfare bureaucracies while recognizing the need for some social transfer obligations in a way that doesn’t weaken incentives significantly.
  • It would reduce the motivation for work and might encourage people to live off assured cash transfers and it is simply unaffordable.

Measures to successfully implement Universal Basic Income in India:

  • The Economic Survey (2016-17) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had proposed quasi-basic income schemes that leave out the well-off top quartile of the population as an effective means of alleviating poverty and hunger.
  • QUBRI (quasi-universal basic rural income):
    • It is targeted only at poorer people in the rural areas.
    • The scheme is no longer universal.
    • It excludes the not-so-poor in rural areas as morally it should.
    • All the schemes, rural and urban, could be cash transfer schemes, which Aadhar and the digitisation of financial services will facilitate.
  • Strengthening of institutions of the state to deliver the services the state must (public safety, justice, and basic education and health), which should be available to all citizens regardless of their ability to pay for them.
  • The institutions of the state must be strengthened also to regulate delivery of services by the private sector and ensure fair competition in the market.
  • A better solution to structural inequality is universal basic capital (UBC). People own the wealth they generate as shareholders of their collective enterprises. Amul, SEWA, Grameen, and others have shown a way.

Conclusion:

The 2017 Economic Survey had flagged the UBI scheme as “a conceptually appealing idea” and a possible alternative to social welfare programmes targeted at reducing poverty. The universal basic income could increase the agricultural wages and the subsequent welfare schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). UBI is a powerful idea whose time even if not ripe for implementation, is ripe for serious discussion.

 

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

2. Has the American civil rights movement lost relevance with Black citizens facing multiple pandemics in the country? Critically analyse. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Why This Question:

The article talks about the recent race tragedy that occurred in America and how Race shows up pathology of its ideals and policies in the country.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the situation in America with respect to the black citizens facing multiple pandemics.

Directive:

Critically analyze – When asked to analyse, 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. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.

Structure of the Answer:

Introduction

Start by explaining that the explosion of protest, violence, rioting, curfews and brutal police crackdowns in the wake of George Floyd’s suffocation by police in Minneapolis is another chapter in the long history of American democracy.

Body

Explain American civil rights movement, mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s. This movement had its roots in the centuries-long efforts of African slaves and their descendants to resist racial oppression and abolish the institution of slavery. Discuss the sufferings of the blacks in the country. Take hints from the article and explain the ills of the situation and suggest what the need of the hour is.

Conclusion

Conclude with suggestions as what needs to be done.

Introduction:

The recent explosion of protest, violence, rioting, curfews and brutal police crackdowns in the wake of George Floyd’s suffocation by police in Minneapolis is another chapter in the long history of a democracy whose self-image often cloaks its more sordid realities. It is a cliché about American democracy that its original sin, “race”, shows up the pathology of each one of its ideals and its policies: Everything from gun control, voting procedures, federalism, and the politics of welfare is coloured by the shadow of race.

Body:

The Civil Rights Movement

  • It is an umbrella term for the many varieties of activism that sought to secure full political, social, and economic rights for African Americans in the period from 1946 to 1968.
  • Civil rights activism involved a diversity of approaches, from bringing lawsuits in court, to lobbying the federal government, to mass direct action, to black power.
  • The efforts of civil rights activists resulted in many substantial victories, but also met with the fierce opposition of white supremacists.

Emergence of the movement:

  • The Civil Rights Movement did not suddenly appear out of nowhere in the twentieth century. Efforts to improve the quality of life for African Americans are as old as the United States.
  • By the time of the American Revolution in the late eighteenth century, abolitionists were already working to eliminate racial injustice and bring an end to the institution of slavery.
  • After the Civil War, during the period known as Reconstruction, the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments established a legal foundation for the political equality of African Americans.
  • Despite the abolition of slavery and legal gains for African Americans, racial segregation known as Jim Crow arose in the South.
  • The twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement emerged as a response to the unfulfilled promises of emancipation, partly as a result of the experiences of black soldiers in the Second World War.
  • African Americans fought in a segregated military while being exposed to US propaganda emphasizing liberty, justice, and equality.
  • After fighting in the name of democracy in other countries around the world, many African American veterans returned to the United States determined to achieve the rights and prerogatives of full citizenship.
  • The Civil Rights Movement involved many different strategies and approaches, including legal action, nonviolent civil disobedience, and black militancy.

Reasons why the racial discrimination still exists in the USA:

  • Even as the Civil Rights Movement struck down legal barriers, it failed to dismantle economic barriers. Even as it ended the violence of segregation, it failed to diminish the violence of poverty.
  • The first is, clearly, a president who has a political investment in polarisation, and many would argue, racism. Incitement is in his nature. The Republican Party and its supporters have, tacitly, made their peace with the white nationalism.
  • The second is a deeper disenchantment in politics. There is a more energised Left, which has two challenges. It is not clear that many Democratic governors or mayors have shown greater capability in managing the politics or the institutional fallout from this crisis. This kind of violence also seems to reflect a pervasive disenchantment with normal politics.
  • Third, the general intellectual and social climate speaks to an even more pervasive and frenzied breakdown of trust than ever.
  • Finally, there is the enduring dilemma of race politics in the US. The Martin Luther King strategy of civil disobedience, whose task is to expose racial violence, not indulge in it, ends up with his assassination.
  • Any protest is easily hijacked by the forces of violence; and the violence becomes the pretext for denying the legitimacy of the underlying cause, and unleashing more repression.
  • Even at this distance, it seems it has taken barely a couple of days for the narrative to shift from police brutality to the fear of violence.

Conclusion:

The goal of full social, economic, and political equality still has not been reached. African Americans continue to be incarcerated at a rate greatly disproportionate to their percentage of the population. Black men are the most frequent victims of police brutality, while poverty rates among black children and families are higher than among either whites or Latinos. Stereotypical portrayals of African Americans remain prevalent in popular culture. Many black Americans suffer from poor access to social services and from systemic inequalities in institutions like public education. As successful as the Civil Rights Movement was, there still remains unfinished business in the struggle for full equality.

 

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

3. The Indian healthcare system needs to go through a radical overhauling, to become more sustainable as well as responsive. Examine (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Why This Question:

The article talks about the necessary reforms required in the health system that have been exposed by the Covid crisis.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the radical overhauling that is required in the health care system of the country to ensure it becomes more sustainable and responsive.

Directive:

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the Answer:

Introduction

Discuss the current situation that has exposed the lacunae in the Indian health care system.

Body

One must remember that the question is not pertaining only to the pressures posed by the corona crisis on the healthcare system, and its about the loopholes in the system that have been prevalent over decades. Give suitable examples of the past that has repeatedly hinted at the lack of physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, doctors etc. List in detail the issues. Discuss suggestions to address these problems such as role of private sector, NGOs etc. role of the government.  

Conclusion

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

Post-Independence there has been a significant improvement, in the health status of people. Public health and health services have been synonymous in India. This integration has dwarfed the growth of a comprehensive public health system, which is critical to overcome some of the systemic challenges in healthcare. Poor strata of population have denied proper health care due to lack of universal healthcare.

Body:

The major challenges faced by healthcare system in India are:

  • Finance: At about 1.3% of the national income, India’s public healthcare spending between 2008 and 2015, has virtually remained stagnant. This is way less than the global average of 6 per cent. It is a herculean task to implement a scheme that could potentially cost Rs 5 lakh per person and benefit 53.7 crore out of India’s 121 crore citizenry, or roughly about 44% of the country’s population. Over 70 per cent of the total healthcare expenditure is accounted for by the private sector.
  • Crumbling public health infrastructure: Given the country’s crumbling public healthcare infrastructure, most patients are forced to go to private clinics and hospitals. There is a shortage of PHCs (22%) and sub-health centres (20%), while only 7% sub-health centres and 12% primary health centres meet Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms.
  • Approximately 70 per cent of the healthcare services in India are provided by private players. If private healthcare crumbles due to economic constraints or other factors, India’s entire healthcare system can crumble.
  • High Out of Pocket Expenditure: Reports suggest that 70% of the medical spending is from the patient’s pockets leading to huge burden and pushing many into poverty. Most consumers complain of rising costs. Hundred days into the PMJAY, it remains to be seen if private hospitals provide knee replacement at Rs 80,000 (current charges Rs 3.5 lakh) bypass surgery at Rs 1.7 lakh (against Rs 4 lakh).
  • Insurance: India has one of the lowest per capita healthcare expenditures in the world. Government contribution to insurance stands at roughly 32 percent, as opposed to 83.5 percent in the UK. The high out-of-pocket expenses in India stem from the fact that 76 percent of Indians do not have health insurance.
  • Doctor-Density Ratio: India has a doctor-to-population ratio well below the level recommended by the WHO — 1:1,445, which adds up to a total of roughly 1,159,000 doctors. The WHO says the ideal ratio is 1:1,000.
  • Shortage of Medical Personnel: Data by IndiaSpend show that there is a staggering shortage of medical and paramedical staff at all levels of care: 10,907 auxiliary nurse midwives and 3,673 doctors are needed at sub-health and primary health centres, while for community health centres the figure is 18,422 specialists.
  • Rural-urban disparity: The rural healthcare infrastructure is three-tiered and includes a sub-center, primary health centre (PHC) and CHC. PHCs are short of more than 3,000 doctors, with the shortage up by 200 per cent over the last 10 years to 27,421. Private hospitals don’t have adequate presence in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities and there is a trend towards super specialisation in Tier-1 cities.
  • Social Inequality: The growth of health facilities has been highly imbalanced in India. Rural, hilly and remote areas of the country are under served while in urban areas and cities, health facility is well developed. The SC/ST and the poor people are far away from modern health service.
  • Poor healthcare ranking: India ranks as low as 145th among 195 countries in healthcare quality and accessibility, behind even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  • Commercial motive: lack of transparency and unethical practices in the private sector.
  • Lack of level playing field between the public and private hospitals: This has been a major concern as public hospitals would continue receiving budgetary support. This would dissuade the private players from actively participating in the scheme.
  • Scheme flaws: The overall situation with the National Health Mission, India’s flagship programme in primary health care, continues to be dismal. The NHM’s share in the health budget fell from 73% in 2006 to 50% in 2019 in the absence of uniform and substantial increases in health spending by States.

Steps taken up currently:

  • The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 advocated allocating resources of up to two-thirds or more to primary care as it enunciated the goal of achieving “the highest possible level of good health and well-being, through a preventive and promotive healthcare orientation”.
  • A 167% increase in allocation this year for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) — the insurance programme which aims to cover 10 crore poor families for hospitalisation expenses of up to ₹5 lakh per family per annum.
  • The government’s recent steps to incentivise the private sector to open hospitals in Tier II and Tier III cities.
  • Individual states are adopting technology to support health-insurance schemes. For instance, Remedinet Technology (India’s first completely electronic cashless health insurance claims processing network) has been signed on as the technology partner for the Karnataka Government’s recently announced cashless health insurance schemes.

Measures needed to strengthen the existing state of Health infrastructure in the country are:

  • There is an immediate need to increase the public spending to 2.5% of GDP, despite that being lower than global average of 5.4%.
  • The achievement of a distress-free and comprehensive wellness system for all hinges on the performance of health and wellness centers as they will be instrumental in reducing the greater burden of out-of-pocket expenditure on health.
  • there is a need to depart from the current trend of erratic and insufficient increases in health spending and make substantial and sustained investments in public health over the next decade.
  • A National Health Regulatory and Development Framework needs to be made for improving the quality (for example registration of health practitioners), performance, equity, efficacy and accountability of healthcare delivery across the country.
  • Increase the Public-Private Partnerships to increase the last-mile reach of healthcare.
  • Generic drugs and Jan Aushadi Kendras should be increased to make medicines affordable and reduce the major component of Out of Pocket Expenditure.
  • The government’s National Innovation Council, which is mandated to provide a platform for collaboration amongst healthcare domain experts, stakeholders and key participants, should encourage a culture of innovation in India and help develop policy on innovations that will focus on an Indian model for inclusive growth.
  • India should take cue from other developing countries like Thailand to work towards providing Universal Health Coverage. UHC includes three components: Population coverage, disease coverage and cost coverage.
  • Leveraging the benefits of Information Technology like computer and mobile-phone based e-health and m-health initiatives to improve quality of healthcare service delivery. Start-ups are investing in healthcare sector from process automation to diagnostics to low-cost innovations. Policy and regulatory support should be provided to make healthcare accessible and affordable.

Conclusion:

India needs a holistic approach to tackle problems in healthcare industry. This includes the active collaboration of all stakeholders viz. public, private sectors, and individuals. Amore dynamic and pro-active approach is needed to handle the dual disease burden. A universal access to health makes the nation fit and healthy, aiding better to achieve the demographic dividend.

 

Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.

4. What are the reformative steps taken by the government to make food grain distribution system more effective? (250 words)

Reference: Previous Year UPSC CSE question

Key Demand of the question:

The question is straightforward and aims to discuss the reformative steps taken by the government to make food grain distribution system more effective.

Structure of the Answer:

Introduction

The Public Distribution System (PDS) under Food Security Act is one of the major initiatives taken by the government to address one of basic needs of the citizens. Over the years various steps have been taken to make the initiative more efficient.

Body

One can directly start by explaining steps taken by the government to make PDS efficient. Explain the policies of linking of Aadhaar, Biometric system integration, Portable ration card, Home delivery system etc. Explain the importance of making the distribution system more effective, its impact on overall economy.

Conclusion

Conclude with significance.

Introduction:

The Public Distribution System (PDS) is an Indian food security system which evolved as a system for distribution of food grains at affordable prices and management of emergency situations. It distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. This scheme was launched in June 1947. It functions through a network of Fair Price Shops at a subsidized price on a recurring basis.

Body:

Importance of PDS:

  • Food grains to the poor, at prices lower than the price of food grains at private shops.
  • Food grains are directly purchased from farmers, assuring farmers with a greater price.
  • Make goods available to consumers, especially the disadvantaged /vulnerable sections of society at fair prices.
  • Rectify the existing imbalances between the supply and demand for consumer goods. Check and prevent hoarding and black marketing in essential commodities.
  • Ensure social justice in distribution of basic necessities of life.
  • Even out fluctuations in prices and availability of mass consumption goods.
  • Support poverty-alleviation programmes, particularly, rural employment programmes, (SGRY/SGSY/IRDP/ Mid-day meals, ICDS, DWCRA, SHGs and Food for Work and educational feeding programmes.

Challenges faced by PDS:

Procurement:

  • Open-ended Procurement: All incoming grains accepted even if buffer stock is filled creating a shortage in the open market.
  • The recent implementation of Nation food security act would only increase the quantum of procurement resulting in higher prices for grains.
  • The gap between required and existing storage capacity.
  • The provision of minimum support price has encouraged farmers to divert land from production of coarse grains that are consumed by poor, to rice and wheat.

Storage:

  • Inadequate storage capacity with FCI.
  • Food grains rotting or damaging on the CAP or Cover & Plinth storage.
  • The storage of foodgrains inculcates high carrying costs on the government.

Allocation of food grains:

  • Identification of poor by the states is not fool proof. A large number of poor and needy persons are left out and a lot of fake cards are also issued.
  • Illicit Fair Price shops: The shop owners have created a large number of bogus cards or ghost cards (cards for nonexistent people) to sell food grains in the open market.

Transportation:

  • Leakage and diversion of food grains during transportation.
  • Uneven distribution of Food generations, procurement and distribution. For example: north eastern states are very far from Punjab and Haryana, from where wheat is procured. To transport food grains from Punjab to far flung areas in North east will entail cost and time both.

Other issues:

  • Many times, good quality food grains are replaced with poor quality cheap food grains.
  • Public distribution system includes only few food grains such as wheat and rice, it does not fulfil the requirement of complete nutrition.
  • Fair Price Shop owner gets fake Ration cards and sell the food grains in the open market.

PDS Reforms undertaken by Government:

  • Aadhaar Linked and digitized ration cards: This allows online entry and verification of beneficiary data. It also enables online tracking of monthly entitlements and off-take of foodgrains by beneficiaries.
  • Computerized Fair Price Shops: FPS automated by installing ‘Point of Sale’ device to swap the ration card. It authenticates the beneficiaries and records the quantity of subsidized grains given to a family.
  • DBT: Under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, cash is transferred to the beneficiaries’ account in lieu of foodgrains subsidy component. They will be free to buy food grains from anywhere in the market. For taking up this model, pre-requisites for the States/UTs would be to complete digitization of beneficiary data and seed Aadhaar and bank account details of beneficiaries. It is estimated that cash transfers alone could save the exchequer Rs. 30, 000 crore every year. Direct benefit transfer in the account of female member of house so that benefit could directly reach to beneficiary without any discrimination.
  • Diversification of commodities: The list of items which are distributed under PDS system have been extended to meet the day-to-day requirements of the ordinary man.
  • Door-to-door delivery: Provisions of door-to-door delivery are being made to ensure that right amount of material reaches the beneficiary at the right time, a the right place.
  • Automation of the supply chain management (delivery orders, release orders, truck chalans, gate passes, receipts and issuance of foodgrains, monitoring of stock positions, payments and SMS alerts when opted for) as seen in 20 states and/or UTs.
  • Use of GPS technology: Use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track the movement of trucks carrying foodgrains from state depots to FPS which can help to prevent diversion.
  • SMS-based monitoring: Allows monitoring by citizens so they can register their mobile numbers and send/receive SMS alerts during dispatch and arrival of TPDS commodities
  • Use of web-based citizens’ portal: Public Grievance Redressal Machineries, such as a toll-free number for call centers to register complaints or suggestions.
  • Innovative schemes: Innovative schemes like use of electronic Cash Transfer, Food Coupons, smart cards, and last-mile tracking have further increased the relevance of this scheme in the present scenario.
  • Panchayats, self-help groups and cooperative societies to play an important role while registering any fair price shop and they need to keep a watch upon them.

Way forward:

  • Primacy should be given to ensuring that the functioning of FCI is streamlined and fast paced as per recommendations of the Shanta Kumar Committee.
  • For subsidised grain, there are 186.6 million ration cards, 23 million AAY and 163.5 million PHH. If these are digitised and seeded with Aadhaar numbers, duplication is reduced; ghost ration cards are eliminated.
  • 100 lakh ton silo storage capacity must be created in the country. For this, RITES has been assigned the task of changing the silo model and they will give their recommendations in 90 days to FCI.
  • End to end digitalization using ICT will try to minimise the bureaucratic influence and enhances the transparency in the system.
  • At present, there are 3 types of labourers in FCI namely Departmental, Daily Payment System (DPS) and No work no pay workers along with contractual labour. Government of India is deliberating to finish the 3 different arrangements and bring all workers of FCI under a single, uniform system which will bring stability of tenure and secured wages for all.
  • To improve the usage of Information Technology in FCI, a Human Resource Management System (HRMS) must be implemented.
  • Support to local public distribution models and grains banks should be provided.

Conclusion:

PDS has helped bring about the socio-economic justice by helping alleviate hunger, malnutrition, anaemia among poorest of the poor, BPL citizens, women and children. The use of ICT to reduce the touch-points will further increase the efficiency of PDS.

 

Topic:  role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges . Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

5. Many of the ills of social media today can be tackled by inculcating right behavior in the people and by bringing awareness of right attitude. Discuss. (250 words)

Reference: Live Mint 

Why This Question:

The article very well talks about the current issues being faced and posed by the social media and the role of attitude and behaviour in dealing with the ills of it.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain how ills of social media today can be tackled by inculcating right behaviour in the people and by bringing awareness of right attitude.

Directive:        

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the Answer:

Introduction:

Information and communication technology has changed rapidly over the past 20 years with a key development being the emergence of social media.

Body

First explain how Social media is being used in ways that shape politics, business, world culture, education, careers, innovation, and more. Discuss the impact of social media in general; explain how attitude and behaviour of people often shape the ideologies through these mediums. Explain that responsible behaviour online could be inculcated by generating awareness across India.

Conclusion

Conclude with need to recognise the importance of generating awareness and inculcating right attitude and behaviour in the people to overcome these ills.

Introduction:

The term “social media” refers to internet-based applications that enable people to communicate and share resources and information. While they have enabled faster communication, there are many challenges, of which information hygiene is the most important.

We live in an age of infodemic, where there is a lot of data to consume; but at the same time the veracity of claims made by the information is not factually true. This leads to fake news and mass hysteria.

Body

Challenges posed by social media and its content:

There are more than 500 million internet users in India and today social media is not only a subset of internet rather the internet itself.

  • Weakens the democracy: Fake news poses a serious challenge to this proposition as it misleads the consumers of information, poses a threat to a democratic society as it can give a handle to the state to interfere with the functioning of media.
    • For instance, Facebook took a hammering over Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
    • It conceded the following year that up to 10 million Americans had seen advertisements purchased by a Russian agency.
  • Affecting choices and behaviours: These platforms are predominant source of news and a critical mass of misinformation leads to mis-directed behaviours filled with fake news and disinformation aimed at influencing choices ranging from day to day life to political choices made during the Indian elections.
  • Creating fear and Panic: A small indiscretion of forwarding an unverified message can lead to loss of life or cause a serious disturbance of public order.
    • With governmental and public resources pushed to limits, it is incumbent upon the general public to perform diligence in their interactions with reference to the Pandemic.
    • On April 16, a group of villagers in Palghar district of Maharashtra dragged out three men out of their car and beat them to death on suspicion that they were thieves. The attack on the three took place amid a nationwide lockdown.
  • Communalizing the issues: The Tablighi incident during the coronavirus pandemic added fuel to already tense environment in Delhi and elsewhere. News regarding the same circulated widely on social media, unabated, further giving the pandemic a communal color.
  • False remedies such as distributing unchecked concoctions, medicines and herbs at egregious prices to unsuspicious innocent people online. It may lead to worsening the underlying conditions in people and endanger their lives.
  • Accountability issues: Challenges with respect to fixing the liability of intermediaries. It is also difficult to trace the origin of fake news circulation.
  • Jurisdictional challenges: Complications in jurisdiction as Facebook, twitter etc. operate as subsidiaries of foreign internet companies with their servers located outside India.
  • Anonymity: Police officers have expressed concern over multiplicity of fake profiles. There is no accountability of a crime.
  • Encrypted Message: Use of WhatsApp to send and receive messages, concerns the government because the communications sent via such devices and applications are encrypted.
  • Spread hatred and mistrust: False information propagated through fake news have helped people developing racist and xenophobic sentiments against people of Asian origin around the world, as we saw in the case of Corona epidemic. Such messages can often be a means of reinforcing existing prejudices.

Citizens’ actions to curb the social media ills: 

  • Responsible citizenry: Consumers who play the central role in the spread of misinformation, are also the most efficient and effective in debunking the various myths and fake news. This skill can be taught via:
    • Creating awareness on television and social media.
    • Innovative initiatives like ‘Fake News Classes’ introduced in government schools in Kerala, where they teach students how to identify and spot misinformation.
    • By asking questions like “What is the source of that (post/forward)?” before sending it to other people.
    • Use fact-checking services, there are many reputed factchecking sites, which help people to verify claims made on social media or messages which have gone viral.
    • This can be done simply by a quick search on Google, or checking for that information or visiting the official websites to verify the accuracy of the data.
    • In case of any claims made in the message one has received, conduct secondary checks on google or other sites before disseminating it.
  • Promoting the culture of authenticity:
    • The people who consume the data on an everyday basis educate themselves and acquire the skills to tackle it.
    • There is a need to shift towards a system where self- verification of information is an ‘internet skill’ and an important duty.
  • Ascertaining the source and origin of the message. If one is not sure of the authenticity and correctness of the message or its content, one may make attempts to be sure of the veracity of the matter before forwarding it to others.
  • If the message incites strong emotions, it is likely to be sent for such purposes. Any shocking or outrageous claim made needs to be verified before it is sent to others who may believe it completely.
  • In case of the message containing videos or pictures, there is a possibility of them being edited or used out of context to mislead unsuspecting recipients. A simple reverse image search on google can reveal the original source and context of the picture. Any harm resulting from such forwarding can make the person doing so liable to legal consequences.

Governmental measures:

  • Strict Law enforcement: Section 505(1) of Indian Penal Code, 1860: The punishment for making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which may cause fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public.
    • Section 66D of Information Technology Act: Whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating. Punishment includes imprisonment of for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
    • Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005: Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic. Punishment is Imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.
  • Proactive web monitoring: The Mumbai Police has launched a project called “Social Media Lab” to check explosive content on various platforms and quell fake news.
    • Initiatives such as ‘WhatsApp’s Checkpoint Tipline’, ‘The Logical Indian’ should create user awareness regarding fake news.
  • Crisis Protocols: Creating a crisis protocol for responding to emerging or active events, on an urgent basis, so relevant information can be quickly and efficiently shared, processed, and acted upon by all stakeholders with minimal delay.
  • Global cooperation: Christchurch Call of Action outlined voluntary commitments from governments, ISP’s to address issue of violent extremist content online. India is a signatory to this plan.

Conclusion:

The state and its different enforcement apparatus have to remain ever vigilant in the online and virtual worlds to protect individuals and society from the lurking dangers of an Infodemic. This entails timely detection of content before it goes viral and causes widespread damage, taking it down with the help of social media platforms and intermediaries and tracing the sources of such mischief. Media outlets and the press also have an enhanced responsibility to make people aware and increase literacy about the menace of fake news and misinformation

 

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.

6. The fate of the earth depends upon our collective consciousness, Discuss the importance of collective consciousness amidst the Covid situation. (250 words)

Reference: Economic Times 

Why This Question:

The author talks about importance of collective consciousness.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the concept of collective consciousness and its implications in general on a society and world at large in multiple dimensions.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the Answer:

Introduction

Explain the current situation and in what way it has exposed the whole world to pandemic.

Body

Start by explaining the concept of collective consciousness, French sociologist Emile Durkheim says collective consciousness means a set of beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes common as per social norms of the times. The fate of the earth depends upon our collective consciousness. All life forms have interactive roles to play. What an individual creature thinks or acts has a bearing on itself and others. Take hints from the article and elaborate on the necessary dimensions.

Conclusion :

Conclude with importance of collective consciousness.

Introduction:

Actions bring equal and opposite reactions. Nature restores its balance through these laws. Nature can choose any means to bring forth that change. The present Covid-19 pandemic situation is no exception. Fear and anxiety are so widely prevalent today. We need to change gears at our conscious levels first and then the rest will fall in place. Then our insights will guide us to follow the right path in the right direction.

Body:

Collective consciousness (sometimes collective conscience or conscious) is a fundamental sociological concept that refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a social group or society. The collective consciousness informs our sense of belonging and identity, and our behavior. Founding sociologist Émile Durkheim developed this concept to explain how unique individuals are bound together into collective units like social groups and societies.

According to Durkheim, collective consciousness means a set of beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes common as per social norms of the times. The fate of the earth depends upon our collective consciousness. All life forms have interactive roles to play. What an individual creature thinks or acts has a bearing on itself and others.

Today, there are umpteen number of challenges faced across the globe ranging from the climate change effects, global warming, pest attacks like locusts, loss of jobs and livelihoods due to COVID lockdown, civil wars, terror attacks etc.

Importance of collective consciousness amidst the Covid situation:

  • There may be some people who think that Covid-19 is an act of God. That He has sent the virus as a message to humans to give up their wanton ways.
  • And there are others who think that the virus may be part and parcel of Mother Earth’s self-regulating mechanism.
  • There may be some people who think that Covid-19 is an act of God. That He has sent the virus as a message to humans to give up their wanton ways. And there are others – and I am prone to this belief – who think that the virus may be part and parcel of Mother Earth’s self-regulating mechanism.
  • As humans cannot control themselves and, consequently, are destroying the earth, viruses have developed that weaken humans and reduce the harm that we are doing.
  • Whether we believe in God or Mother Earth, if we are to overcome the virus and, perhaps even save the planet, we need to think and act collectively as human beings.
  • We need to begin to see and understand ourselves not as members of families, not as belonging to some group or nation, but as members of the human race.
  • We will not overcome the virus or save the planet unless we develop a collective consciousness as a species.
  • Wherever you want to achieve success in the social or economic line, only when you feel in tune with the whole group, only when you fall in tune with the collective consciousness, will you be able to achieve what you want to achieve. For instance, India’s efforts in eradicating polio is a good example of how collective conscience helped. Programmes like SBM, BBBP, Ujjwala are few other where collective conscience is seen.
  • Collective efforts lead to building more consensus driven approach leading to better coordination and cooperation among countries and people. For e.g. A global effort in finding a vaccine towards COVID or distribution of medicines like HCQ to countries facing shortage.
  • International collaborations help in chalking out strategies and mobilization of resources.
  • In the networked age, our collective consciousness doesn’t emanate on high from God or the ancients.
  • It isn’t carefully curated and vetted by a status quo-supporting elite. In the networked age, our consciousness is co-authored by everyone who participates on a minute-by-minute basis.
  • Experts and non-experts communicating via the network sleuthed out death rates by age, built a cultural consensus on the importance of social distancing, and promoted the #FlattenTheCurve concept to give the call for collective sacrifice a brand. This came from the network, not from government direction, market forces, or business self-interest.
  • Some of the efforts like WHO’s “One Health” principle, UNFCCC’s Paris treaty, India led International Solar Alliance are few examples of collective efforts to fight the global issues.

Challenges:

  • But the divisions in human society are enormous and deeply entrenched.
  • The problem is that when humans began to divide into groups, clans and tribes, they saw others not just as different but as morally inferior.
  • And with moral superiority came a belief among tribes that they deserved more wealth and resources.
  • Seeds of violence are created whenever we feel we are individuals, unconnected or unrelated to others. We become selfish, dogmatic and violent. When we live with only individual consciousness, we dissect, we cut things into pieces and analyse. Such logic always destroys things.

Conclusion:

It’s tempting to consciously or unconsciously exploit a crisis, whether it be the media looking for clicks and eyeballs, politicians scoring points, legislators adding pork to relief bills, experts seeking the limelight, business people protecting assets, or even writers like myself wanting an audience.  What may really be needed at some point is a sober re-evaluation of the appropriate role for all of us in constructively weaving the collective socioeconomic fabric to its optimal use — knowing that mortality is afoot not just today, but at all times.