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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 22 July 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.


General Studies – 1


 

Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

1. What do you mean by “faults” in the context of Plate Tectonics? Discuss its types, significance and implications for India. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu  

Why this question

Data from an oil and gas exploration company has now helped geologists discover a series of faults at the foot of the Himalaya. The international team notes that this fault system in the southeastern region of Nepal has the potential to cause earthquakes in the densely populated country.

Directive word

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.

Key demand of the question.

The question wants us to explain in detail the faults, its types, significance in the context of Plate Tectonics. One must also discuss the positive and negative implications of the same for India.

Structure of the answer

Introduction:

Define the term faults.

A fault is a fracture or zone of fractures between two blocks of rock. Faults allow the blocks to move relative to each other. This movement may occur rapidly, in the form of an earthquake – or may occur slowly, in the form of creep. Previously unknown faults at the foot of the Himalaya discovered.

Body-

Discuss in points the various types of faults.

  • Three kinds of faults: Strike-slip, Normal fault and Thrust (reverse) faults.

Now explain the significance of faults and the process in Plate Tectonics.

Finally, explain the positive and negative implications of the same.

Conclusion:

Give a way forward with how we can be earthquake prepared as most of the Himalayan region is in seismic Zone 5.

Introduction

Data from an oil and gas exploration company has now helped geologists discover a series of faults at the foot of the Himalaya. The international team notes that this fault system in the south-eastern region of Nepal has the potential to cause earthquakes in the densely populated country.

Body

Faults: Definition

A fault is a fracture or zone of fractures between two blocks of rock. Faults allow the blocks to move relative to each other. This movement may occur rapidly, in the form of an earthquake – or may occur slowly, in the form of creep.

Faults are fractures in Earth’s crust where rocks on either side of the crack have slid past each other. Sometimes the cracks are tiny, as thin as hair, with barely noticeable movement between the rock layers. But faults can also be hundreds of miles long, such as the San Andreas Fault in California and the Anatolian Fault in Turkey, both of which are visible from space.

Types of Faults

Boundaries between plates are made up from a system of faults. Each type of boundary is associated with one of three basic types of fault, called normal, reverse and strike-slip faults.

fault_1

  • Strike-slip faults indicate rocks are sliding past each other horizontally, with little to no vertical movement. Both the San Andreas and Anatolian Faults are strike-slip.
  • Normal faults create space. Two blocks of crust pull apart, stretching the crust into a valley. The Basin and Range Province in North America and the East African Rift Zone are two well-known regions where normal faults are spreading apart Earth’s crust.
  • Reverse faults, also called thrust faults, slide one block of crust on top of another. These faults are commonly found in collisions zones, where tectonic plates push up mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the Rocky Mountains.

Strike-slip faults are usually vertical, while normal and reverse faults are often at an angle to the surface of the Earth. The different styles of faulting can also combine in a single event, with one fault moving in both a vertical and strike-slip motion during an earthquake.

Significance of faults in plate tectonics

  • The Indian subcontinent is among the most seismically active regions of the world and has a highly diverse seismotectonic set-up, ranging from the tectonically stable cratonic regions to the orogenic and subduction belts.
  • Its northern boundary represented by the Himalaya, which is a product of continent–continent collision and holds enormous strains in its folds since the Neogene times, while the Indo-Burmese-Andaman Arc in its eastern margin has a hybrid subduction–collision origin and is a seat of high convergent stresses.
  • Four great earthquakes (Mw > 8) occurred since last century, along its northern and north-eastern boundaries, while the recent great tsunamigenic earthquake in 2004 (Mw 9.3) occurred along its eastern boundary, which are active faults.
  • The vast extent of Indo-Gangetic plains has developed on the southern front of the rising Himalaya which is characterized with some of the major transverse faults.
  • The continental interior, i.e. the stable peninsular shield, is an assemblage of a number of Archaean nuclei welded by the Proterozoic mobile belts.
  • Several passive and failed rifts which formed during the break-up of the Gondwana supercontinent in Mesozoic period dissect the Indian shield linearly and are the sites of higher stress concentrations of the intraplate region.
  • These paleorifts are also comparatively active and show varying degree of seismicity. The region is also characterized with the most intriguing site of reservoir triggered seismicity, at Koyna.
  • Some faults show frequent displacements and can be the source of high seismic hazard; therefore, identification and characterization of the active faults/seismic source zones and assessing their role in seismic processes are considered to be very important for any exercise related to earthquake hazard assessment and risk mitigation.

Implications for India

  • Positives
    • Faults can control the movement of groundwater.
    • They can exert a strong influence on the distribution of mineralisation. The kinds of minerals and their texture, exposure depends on the faults and plate tectonics.
    • They also influence subsurface accumulations of hydrocarbons.
    • And they can have a major influence on the shaping of the landscape.
    • Movement on faults, with earthquakes, shatters rocks. In some places these new materials are economically important as ready-made mineral/rock aggregates.
    • For effective seismic hazard assessment and its mitigation, demarcation of the areas, having similar earthquake threat, is essential, which in turn requires detailed and accurate data on active faults, i.e. their location, spatial extent, past earthquake activity, recurrence intervals, slip rate, etc.
  • Negatives
    • Almost all the major faults/fault zones in India are considered to be active and thus have the potential to generate large earthquakes
    • Moreover, many faults have their extension through urban centres which emphasize the urgent need for better characterization of active faults to mitigate the impact of future earthquakes.
    • It is also observed that most of the faults have very long recurrence intervals, i.e. thousands to tens of thousands of years, whereas the seismic records are available only for few hundreds of years.
    • Therefore, identification, characterization and mapping of active faults attain importance, especially, for seismic hazard zonation and other seismotectonic studies.

Conclusion

All faults are related to the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates. The biggest faults mark the boundary between two plates. Seen from above, these appear as broad zones of deformation, with many faults braided together. Plate boundaries are always growing and changing, so these faults develop kinks and bends as they slide past each other, which generates more faults.

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

2. India achieved “food security” decades ago, it’s now time to plan for “nutritional self-reliance”. Analyze. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express

Why this question

Overflowing granaries give us the smug satisfaction of having solved the food security problem — it is actually a momentary cereal surplus phase. It appears so only because India’s per capita consumption of protein, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables is amongst the lowest in the world, limited by the still appallingly low purchasing capacity of the majority.

Directive word

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.

Key demand of the question.

The answer must discuss how India has already the overflowing granaries indicating the achievement of food security. However, the need of the hour is nutritional security of the people as we have few of the highest indicators of stunting, wasting etc. One must provide the necessary steps needed to ensure the nutritional security which could help people as well as the farmers in becoming self-reliant.

Structure of the answer

Introduction:

Start by showing that we have been having a cereal surplus phase leading to overflowing granaries, wastage of grains due to rotting etc. However, India’s per capita consumption of protein, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables is amongst the lowest in the world, limited by the still appallingly low purchasing capacity of the majority.

Body-

Discuss a few points about the India’s nutritional status and argue that we are still talking of “food security” which was achieved decades ago, it’s time to plan for “nutritional self-reliance”..

Now, discuss the measures that are needed to make Indian people and the farmers nutritionally self-reliant.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a balanced way forward.

Introduction

Though India has achieved food security, there are glaring inequity in distribution across the geographic landscape. The Global Nutrition Report 2020 stated that India is among 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025. It also identified the country as one with the highest rates of domestic inequalities in malnutrition.

Body

Food security in India

  • The country went through a Green Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s, enabling it to overcome productivity stagnation and to significantly improve food grain production.
  • Subsidies for agricultural inputs, such as fuel and fertilisers, have enhanced food security.
  • Since the mid-1990s it has consistently been able to ensure that there is enough food (in terms of calories) available to feed its entire population.
  • It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets, and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruit and cotton.
  • In 2017-18, total food grain production was estimated at 275 million tonnes (MT). India is the largest producer (25% of global production), consumer (27% of world consumption) and importer (14%) of pulses in the world.

Nutrition status in India

  • India, currently has the largest number of undernourished people in the worlde. around 195 million.
  • Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India do not meet their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.
  • 9% of children under 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively.
  • Rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise, affecting almost a fifth of the adults, at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.
  • Inequities in food and health systems increase inequalities in nutrition outcomes that in turn can lead to more inequity, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Measures taken

  • The government has also taken significant steps to combat under- and malnutrition over the past two decades, through the introduction of mid-day meals at schools.
    • It is a Centrally-Sponsored Scheme which covers all school children studying in Classes I-VIII of Government, Government-Aided Schools.
    • Anganwadi systems to provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers, Subsidised grain for those living below the poverty line through a public distribution system.
    • Food fortification to ensure essential micro nutrients reach the body.
  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, legally entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
  • Poshan Abhiyaan: POSHAN stands for Prime Minister’s Overreaching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment. The POSHAN Abhiyaan is a multi- ministerial convergence mission with a targeted approach by 2022.
    • It aims at achieving improvement in nutritional status of children up to 6 years of age, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Rashtriya Poshan Maah was conducted in September 2019. This initiative is aimed at sensitising public on healthy eating, addressing twin issues of malnutrition and undernutrition and obesity in some sections and also intensifying existing nationwide campaign for ‘malnutrition-free India ‘.
  • Eat Right Movement: It is voluntary and collaborative movement built on two broad pillars – “Eat Healthy and “Eat Safe”. It is collective effort to encourage people towards making right food and dietary choices.

Conclusion

Having attained food security, India must now take up nutrition self-sufficiency on war footing. Increasing incomes of farming households, diversifying production of crops, empowering women, strengthening agricultural diversity and productivity, and designing careful price and subsidy policies that should encourage the production and consumption of nutrient rich crops is the right way forward.

 

Topic:Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

3. A formal revival and re-invigoration of the Quad is called for to maintain peace and tranquillity and to ensure observance of the UN Law of the Seas. Examine. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why this question:

The time for ambivalence is over and while India will have to fight its own territorial battles with determination, this is the moment to seek external balancing. It is also time to seek an enlargement of this grouping into a partnership of the like-minded.

Key demand of the question:

The question wants us to dig deeper into the lacunae of public healthcare in India and provide solutions as to how the current crisis can be turned into an opportunity.

Directive word:

Critically analyze-  here we 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. based on our discussion we have to form a concluding opinion on the issue.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

write a few introductory lines on what is the QUAD.

Body:

Discuss in points the need for revival of QUAD for India and the other like-minded nations.

  • given Chinese intransigence and our misreading of their imperialist-expansionist intent, Sino-Indian tensions are likely to persist.
  • If India is not to cede ground physically or diplomatically, it must muster all elements of its “comprehensive national power”, including the maritime, and create a strong negotiating position.
  • Apart from the balance of forces on land favouring China, there is also the Beijing-Islamabad Axis that awaits activation.
  • Keeping tensions confined to the Himalayan arena is, therefore, not only militarily advantageous to China but a continental focus also helps to keep India contained in a “South-Asia box”.
  • If Exercise Malabar and the Quadrilateral concept are at long last going to be leveraged to make common cause in the maritime domain, the provenance of both needs to be seen in perspective.

Now discuss the challenges in organizing the multi-country group like QUAD.

Discuss the possible solutions and how India can incorporate other like-minded countries to join QUAD.

Conclusion:

Based on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue.

Introduction

The past year has seen the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a mechanism which enables dialogue between four major democracies within the Indo-Pacific region, Australia, Japan, India, and the US, on issues of regional security. Known more colloquially as “the Quad”- its revival signals an important development within the Indo-Pacific, and reflects a convergence of strategic interests between four major democracies of the region.

Body

Quad: Significance

  • The Quad first emerged as a cooperative response to the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, with the navies of India, Australia, Japan, and the US engaged in the coordinated delivery of humanitarian and disaster relief.
  • In 2007, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an early advocate of the Indo-Pacific, took steps to formalise the grouping through an initial summit and joint naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Underscored by principles of openness, freedom of movement, and respect for the rules-based international order, the Quad builds on a complex and overlapping web of bilateral and trilateral alliances and partnerships between the four nations.
  • Its revival, albeit at officials level only, offers a constructive platform for embedding core principles into the narrative of the emerging regional order, while building the trust and confidence needed to support cooperative initiatives between the nations involved, and others.

Formal revival and re-invigoration of the Quad is the need of the hour

  • In the current scenario, given Chinese intransigence and our misreading of their imperialist-expansionist intent, Sino-Indian tensions are likely to persist.
  • If India is not to cede ground physically or diplomatically, it must muster all elements of its “comprehensive national power”, including the maritime, and create a strong negotiating position.
  • Apart from the balance of forces on land favouring China, there is also the Beijing-Islamabad Axis that awaits activation.
  • Keeping tensions confined to the Himalayan arena is, therefore, not only militarily advantageous to China but a continental focus also helps to keep India contained in a “South-Asia box”.
  • It is also time to seek an enlargement of this grouping into a partnership of the like-minded.
  • Other nations feeling the brunt of Chinese brawn may be willing to join an “Indo-Pacific concord” to maintain peace and tranquillity and to ensure observance of the UN Law of the Seas.
  • News of Australia being re-invited to participate in the Quad deserves a conditional welcome, given Canberra’s past inconsistency and political flip-flops.

Way forward

  • Any ambition to formalise the Quad as a substantive manifestation of a free and open Indo-Pacific is likely to encounter difficulties. The future of the Quad beyond its current consultative format is not certain.
  • Given the complex array of interests at play across the dynamic region, key partners are more likely to preference loose coalitions based on dialogue and cooperation over more fixed, institutionalised formats.
  • The opportunity to discuss emerging regional issues, from piracy to maritime pollution and disaster management, through such a platform should be seen as a positive.
  • At the same time, assuring ASEAN of its role and relevance to Indo-Pacific, including through established dialogue mechanisms like the EAS, could reinforce notions of inclusivity, build support for the key rules shaping behaviour, and mitigate against the threat of strategic drift within the region.
  • Engaging others, including China, in dialogue about the Indo-Pacific project through such mechanisms will be integral to realising the long-term vision for a stable and inclusive region.

Conclusion

The time for ambivalence is over and while India will have to fight its own territorial battles with determination, this is the moment to seek external balancing. It is also time to seek an enlargement of this grouping into a partnership of the like-minded.

 

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

4.The Economic Survey for 2019-20 has pointed out that generally Free Trade Agreements have been beneficial for India. Explain the underlying reasons and discuss what should be the way ahead to change this experience into a positive outcome. (250 words)

Reference: The Print

Why this question:

The Economic Survey for 2019-20 has pointed out that generally FTAs have been beneficial for India. Between 1993 and 2018, India’s exports of manufactured products grew at an annual average of 13.4% to partners with which it has trade agreements and such imports grew 12.7%, it says. In comparison, its overall goods exports grew at an average of 10.9% and imports 8.6% during this period.

Speaking at an online interaction, the External Affairs Minister said era of multilateralism is over, and there are ways of engaging with the world that are not FTA-centric.

Key demand of the question:

India signed a series of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) in Asia that came into force in the 2000s. Across industry and policy-makers, a view has emerged that these FTAs have not served India well, and even actively damaged Indian industry. Thus one has to analyse in detail the aspects of FTAs with respect to Indian economy.

Directive word:

Explain – Clarify the topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

  • In brief define what FTAs are and present the views of the Economic Survey 2019-20 about the same.

Body:

Explain in what way the success of an FTA should be judged against its objective of enhancing trade.

Discuss the factors responsible for such an effect and also suggest what steps should be taken to ensure better realization of the FTAs.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them. Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.

Body

Free Trade Agreements

How FTA’s have been beneficial for India

  • The Economic Survey for 2019-20 has pointed out that generally FTAs have been beneficial for India. From the perspective of trade balance, India has gained in terms of 0.7 per cent increase in the trade surplus per year for manufactured products and of 2.3 per cent increase in trade surplus per year for total merchandise
  • Between 1993 and 2018, India’s exports of manufactured products grew at an annual average of 13.4% to partners with which it has trade agreements and such imports grew 12.7%, it says.
  • In comparison, its overall goods exports grew at an average of 10.9% and imports 8.6% during this period.
  • At least seven of the fourteen trade agreements with partners including Bhutan, Singapore, Chile, Nepal, the ASEAN, the MERCOSUR and Afghanistan have benefited exports of manufactured products from the country.
  • Four of the agreements including ones with Sri Lanka, Thailand, SAFTA and BIMSTEC have not affected exports. It is only in the case of Japan and South Korea that exports of manufactured goods have suffered.

Future prospects of Free Trade Agreements

  • The government is very clear that ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is neither protectionist nor isolationist. It’s about getting our act together to improve domestic production of finished goods, gain from better integration with the global value chain and ensure fair trade.
  • After its pull-out from the China-dominated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in November last year, New Delhi had decided to step up talks for a slew of “balanced and fair” trade pacts, in contrast with earlier FTAs that “worsened India’s trade deficit”.
  • India had aimed at a “limited” deal with the US, which had been in the works for several months, and a broader free trade agreement (FTA) after the presidential elections there in November. Recently the commerce minister suggested that India and US were close to closing the limited trade deal.
  • Similarly, India wanted to clinch a trade deal with Australia—an RCEP member—this year and revive stalled talks with the EU. New Delhi wants to speed up talks with European Free Trade Association members – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – for a separate trade pact in parallel to its discussions with the EU.
  • It had also planned to launch or fast-track bilateral talks for FTAs with the UK, South Africa and Mexico.

Conclusion

India’s tactical shift from multilateralism to bilateral engagements comes at a time of heightened uncertainties in global trade, as countries world-over increasingly resort to protectionism to help local industries. It’s also seeking to rework its existing FTAs with Asean, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea to trim its trade deficit with these nations. With the above negotiations in place, India hopes to have a greater foothold in the world trade and pull the economy further.

 


General Studies – 3


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

5. The extent of financial relief measures does not seem to be commensurate with the economic disruption and dislocation caused by the severity of the lockdown. Critically Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu , Indian Express

Why this question:

India has surpassed almost all others in the stringency of its containment measures. Consequently, the relief measures do not seem to be commensurate with the economic disruption caused by the lockdown. Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Egypt, all while averaging less stringent measures than those in India, have announced stimulus measures that are as large or more substantial, as a share of GDP.

Key demand of the question:

One must define case fatality rate and talk about the importance of the same. Discuss the various factors that have led to low Case fatality rate. One must also provide the measures for further reduction of the same.

Directive:

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. 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 judgement.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Give a brief introduction about the economic situation of India and similar countries in the wake of the pandemic. Also, brief about the challenges in enhancing the fiscal responses.

Before the announcement of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, India lagged significantly behind comparable developing countries that are similar in GDP per capita, state capacity, and structure of the labour force. As of early July, the gap seems to have narrowed.

Body:

Discuss the various measures taken by the government to extent the relief measures to revive the economy.

Now taking the support of article, discuss how the measures are not sufficient.

On the other hand, one must also argue about how Fiscal deficit must be kept in mind during such measures and the law in India for the same.

Provide measures to strengthen the fiscal conditions keeping in mind the continuing situation of pandemic.

Conclusion:

Based on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue.

Introduction

India has surpassed almost all others in the stringency of its containment measures. Consequently, the relief measures do not seem to be commensurate with the economic disruption caused by the lockdown. Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Egypt, all while averaging less stringent measures than those in India, have announced stimulus measures that are as large or more substantial, as a share of GDP.

Body

Government’s relief measures

  • The total Atmanirbhar package is billed at 10% of GDP. The headline number for India’s fiscal response in international databases is around 4% of GDP.
  • The one significant demand-side intervention in the Atmanirbhar Bharat package was ₹40,000 crore of additional outlay for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • The measures (reforms to amend ECA, APMC, Contract framing, etc) announced for the agricultural and allied sectors are particularly transformative.
  • These reforms are steps towards the One Nation One Market objective and help India become the food factory of the world.
  • Given the importance of MSMEs for Indian economy, the Rs 3 lakh crore collateral-free loan facility for MSMEs under the package will help this finance-starved sector and thereby provide a kickstart to the dismal state of the economy.

Are these measures sufficient?

  • The lockdown has lowered aggregate demand, and a fiscal stimulus is needed. However, the package, by relying overwhelmingly on credit infusion to boost the economy, has failed to recognise that investment will pick up only when people across income segments have money to spend.
  • Unless the rest of the domestic economy is revived, the MSME sector may face a shortage of demand, and its production may soon sputter to a close.
  • Demand-side interventions announced by other developing countries could provide lessons for additional measures in India. Unsurprisingly, cash transfers constitute the largest category of support.
    • Eg: Indonesia’s cash schemes now cover more than 158 million people (or 60% of the population).
  • India could take these actions into account in decisions about expanding existing transfer programmes or even creating new ones.
  • Majority of the package is liquidity measures that are supposed to be transmitted by RBI to Banks and Banks to Citizens. This transmission wouldn’t be as smooth owing to inefficient transmission of monetary policy.

Concerns regarding fiscal stability

  • Government claims that the stimulus package is around 10% of India’s GDP. However, financing it would be difficult as the government is worried about containing the fiscal deficit.
  • In India, one reason for the subdued fiscal response and the resort to monetary measures is likely a concern with the debt-to-GDP ratio, which is higher than for most countries in our set.
  • The government seeks a disinvestment to mobilise the finances for the plan.
    • However, the majority of Indian industries are already a bit debt-laden to take up the stake in PSUs.
    • Further, it is difficult to borrow the foreign markets, as rupee with respect to dollar is all time low.
  • In India, the debate continues over whether the Indian government should invoke the “escape cause” in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, to enable the central bank to directly finance the deficit.

Conclusion

Additional fiscal outlay, in the form of cash and in-kind transfers and expanded public works schemes, would save lives and jobs today and might prevent a protracted slowdown. Not spending more now, therefore, might only worsen the debt-to-GDP ratio if growth remains depressed. Thus, while fiscal prudence is necessary, it must not inhibit the immediate measures needed to revive the battered economy.

 

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

6. Critically examine as to how the planned privatisation of some services of the Indian Railways could impact maintenance, operations and welfare. (250 words).

Reference: The Hindu

Why this question:

The Indian Railways is the lifeline of India. With its vast network across the length and breadth of India, it is not just a mere transporter of passengers and goods but also a social welfare organisation. While the addition of more trains with high technology coaches to meet passenger expectations is a welcome feature, it is the way of privatising these trains that is the problem. The question seeks to examine the aspects of privatizing the Indian Railways services.

Demand of the question:

One must discuss in detail the opportunities and obstacles that the idea of privatizing Railways pose.

Directive word:

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.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction

Start by explaining in what way the decision is both ideal and inclusive but a challenge on the other hand.

The Railway Board says the “objective of the initiative was to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers, and also reduce demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector”. But this is a step which will lead to dual control and split responsibility, resulting in higher fares, depriving the common man of travel by these trains, and repercussions in terms of maintenance and operations.

Body

Discuss the act of introducing private players in the Indian Railways.

Explain in what way such a move can be a game changer, discuss the possible prospects in detail. Bring out the associated challenges; suggest in what way such challenges and concerns can be tackled.

Define the efforts of the government in this direction in the past.  Talk about the policy measures that are already in place in this direction.

Conclusion

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

Indian Railways (IR) has the fourth-largest rail network in the world, behind only the US, China and Russia. It is a network of 70,000km, spanning 29 states, three Union territories and 8,500 stations. It runs about 21,000 trains, two-thirds of which are passenger trains, carrying 23 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight per day.

The Centre’s move to open up 109 route pairs in 12 clusters to 150 ‘modern, world-class’ private trains could set off a major transformation in passenger rail travel.

Body

Need for privatisation of railways

  • Low Quality of Service, Catering and Punctuality: CAG report noted that, at present the focus is mainly on improving the façade and passenger facilities, rather that removing bottlenecks to ensure timely movement of trains.
    • The rolling stock is in need of upgradation, on par with the European nations.
  • Low Internal Revenue: The problem of cross-subsidization has severely affected the internal revenue generation of the Indian Railways.
    • Cross subsidization: Money earned through freight traffic is diverted to meet the shortfalls in passenger revenue, and thus the development of freight traffic infrastructure suffers.
  • Lack of fiscal space: The working of Indian Railways is caught up between making it a self-sufficient organisation and serving it as a transport system for the poor.
    • The result being no rise in passenger fares and new trains and routes being decided on non-commercial reasons.
    • The passenger fares usually remain static for years, burdening the Union Budget.
    • In order to keep finances in check, freight charges have been raised in the past.
    • But the discrepancy between freight charges and passenger fares seem to distort the Railways’ performance.
    • The recent decision of surge pricing of tickets in premium trains is a move in a correct direction.
  • Operating Efficiency: Indian railways has a huge employee base of 1.3 million, which includes powerful workers’ unions.
    • Operating ratio of Railways is at nearly 99%, meaning there is no revenue left for making improvements.
  • Increasing Number of Accidents: Repeated railway accidents have further raised questions on government ownership of railways.

How can privatisation help?

  • Improved Infrastructure: Privatisation will lead to better infrastructure which in turn would result in improved amenities for travellers.
    • Currently, Indian Railways is marred by mismanagement in the form of stinking washrooms, lack of water supply and dirty platforms, it is expected that a private company will ensure better amenities.
  • Normalization of prices due to the competition: Improvement in quality of services has to be matched up by a rise in charges paid by the travellers.
    • However, the issue of price rise will be solved when private players are allowed to enter the sector since the move would foster competition and hence lead to overall betterment in the quality of services.
  • Improved Security: Private participation can lead to better accountability and monitoring, which can keep a check on rising accidents in railways.
  • Better Technological Innovation: Private participation can lead to the infusion of modern technology and capacity building of Indian railways.
  • Better customer service: In houses services as per demand of customers. Eg: Entertainment on demand, food and beverages, amenities etc.

Problems of privatisation

  • Limited Coverage: An advantage of Indian Railways being government-owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit.
    • Privatisation of railways would mean the railways will become a profit-making enterprise, this would lead to the elimination of railways routes that are less popular.
    • Thus, the privatisation of railways can have a negative impact on connectivity and further increase the rural-urban divide.
  • Not Inclusive: Hike in fares can render the railways out of reach for lower-income groups.
  • Issue of Accountability: The privatisation of Indian Railways is not easy, as it covers every part of India and runs for 24×7 hours.
    • The whole railway system cannot be handled by a single party or coordination will be very difficult if area wise given to private parties.
  • Economic impact: Indian Railways is the backbone of India, it provides low fare transportation to agricultural and industrial trade.
    • Therefore, privatisation of Indian railways shall definitely affect the Indian economy at large.

Bibek Debroy Committee made following recommendations for Privatisation of some components of the railways in India.

  • Need for Modernisation: It is important to modernize the railways, so measures must be taken to reimburse the social costs speedily so that resources of the railways is better allocated and facilities are upgraded from time to time.
  • Delegation of functions: The peripheral function of railways (cleanliness, ticket disposal, traveller’s amenities), must be privatized.
  • The non-core function of railways must be privatized: These activities include running hospitals and schools, catering, real estate development, including housing, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, manufacturing locomotives, coaches, wagons and their parts.
  • Expansion of Indian Railways Manufacturing Company: According to Debroy, wagons are already produced by the private sector. Coaches and locomotives could follow. Unless they are freed from 59 their constraints, the existing production units will be unable to face this competition.
  • Encouraging private entry: Private entry into running both freight and passenger trains in competition with Indian railways should be allowed and private participation.

Conclusion

India should learn from its mistakes in opening up telecom and aviation, and ensure that the social goals of the rail network do not suffer. The opening up of rail services can usher in modernisation and efficiency, provided it is managed well.

 


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.

7. “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.” Comment. (250 words)

Reference 1

Reference 2

 

Why this question:

COVID-19 continues to spread – but it’s bringing out the best in people across the globe. Volunteers are looking out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Across Europe, people are singing to one another to keep spirits up, as social distancing and self-isolation become the norm.

Key demand of the question:

The question wants us to express our knowledge and understanding about solidarity in ethics. We have to express our opinion as to how and why a sense of solidarity is the first step in the evolution of ethics.

Directive word:

Comment- here we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon. 

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

 Write a few introductory lines about the solidarity.

Solidarity highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights and the common path of individuals and peoples towards an ever more committed unity.

Body:

Discuss the importance of solidarity in ethics in detail.

  • Solidarity must be seen above all in its value as a moral virtue that determines the order of institutions.
  • Solidarity is also an authentic moral virtue, not a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far.
  • On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all
  • Solidarity rises to the rank of fundamental social virtue since it places itself in the sphere of justice. It is a virtue directed par excellence to the common good.
  • The principle of solidarity requires that men and women of our day cultivate a greater awareness that they are debtors of the society of which they have become part.

Substantiate using examples as seen across the globe during the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, talk about why we need solidarity the most during such testing times of pandemic.

Conclusion:

Based on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue.

Introduction

Solidarity, in the social sense, can be described as a kind of voluntary union or fellowship amongst people (e.g. groups, classes, nations etc.) based on a community of feelings, purposes, responsibilities and/or interests, whereby in the spirit of cooperation, people are concerned about those who are less fortunate or vulnerable and strive for equity and justice for all. This may result in specific action to help people who are disadvantaged or vulnerable such as policies to counter social discrimination.

Body

Solidarity is an awareness of shared interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies creating a psychological sense of unity of groups or classes. It refers to the ties in a society that bind people together as one.

Importance of solidarity

  • Sensitization: Solidarity in human beings leads to their sensitization towards others. Such changes make them more and more accountable and responsible for their actions. Accountability and responsibility, when coming from inside of an individual, can transform the face of the society.
    • Eg: The #BlackLivesMatter protests spread like a wildfire after the death of George Floyd, which was a result of racial discrimination against black.
  • Empowerment: Solidarity among the community and locally and internationally will help aide those in extreme humanitarian crisis.
    • For instance, millions fleeing Syrian Civil war were accommodated in several parts of Europe. Germany stood steadfast in its commitment to host the refugees.
  • Countering discrimination: Dalits in India, Adivasis still face discrimination and oppression. This cannot be overcome by activism from the oppressed section alone. The whole nation and the communities within must stand in support to end the suppression of voices and people.
    • One cannot fight oppression with oppression same way fire cannot be extinguished with more fire.
    • This is also what Gandhiji meant, when he said an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Hence, solidarity is rather the strength of support we show for a good cause.
  • Building a cohesive society:A hand fought best when it made a fist” –This shows importance of unity and fraternity to overcome the challenges of humankind. In other words, united we stand, divided we fall. But care must be taken to ensure that the cause for which we display solidarity is a moral one.

Conclusion

The formation of the value system of the society is due to the contribution by members of society. Presence of a sense of solidarity is needed to form a societal group which is a basic requirement for ethics to exist. India’s Preamble also upholds solidarity through unity and fraternity and a feeling of brotherhood amongst all of citizens.


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