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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 22 September 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: Role of women and women’s organization.

1. With the focus on boosting domestic capabilities, women should be brought to the centre of a new work ecosystem as a way for women to emerge from the pandemic undiminished in both social and economic aspects. Elaborate. (250 words)

Reference: Hindustan Times

Introduction:

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the globe leaving behind a trail of destruction, most countries are implementing different versions of lockdowns to facilitate social and physical distancing. The basic assumption underlying almost all these policy decisions during a crisis like this is that the effect of the pandemic is gender neutral. As the lockdowns impose stricter control on one’s mobility, they put women in abusive relationships at extremely high risk of damage from physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Body:

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 says men and women will have pay equality in 257 years. Of the 153 countries studied for the report, India ranks 112th on the overall Global Gender Gap Index. The economic gender gap runs particularly deep and has gotten significantly wider.

Issues faced by women:

Gender gap in India: Current Scenario amidst pandemic

  • Globally, female participation in the labour force is about two-thirds that of men. That number had hardly changed between 2014 and 2019.
  • But, in India, where women made up just 20% of the workforce, going by data from the International Labour Organization, there was a slight decrease in female labour-force participation in that period.
  • Against this backdrop, covid-19 has been a gender-regressive shock. Women’s jobs and livelihoods have been more vulnerable to the pandemic.
  • Globally, the covid-related job loss rate for women is about 1.8 times higher than that of men, at 5.7% versus 3.1%, by our estimates.
  • In India, women’s share of job losses, considering only the covid impact on the industries in which they work, would have been 17%, but unemployment surveys suggest that they actually account for 23% of overall job losses.
  • India scores quite low in when it comes to gender inequality, according to latest UNDP Human development report, India is ranked 125 of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index (GII).
  • Wage gap: Research from India’ leading diversity and inclusion consulting firm Avtar Group shows that women are paid 34% less than men for performing the same job with the same qualifications.

Reasons for the same:

  • A major factor is that coronavirus has significantly increased the burden of unpaid care.
  • According to one survey, covid-19 has increased by 30% the time women in India spend on family responsibilities.
  • Unsurprisingly, therefore, women have dropped out of the workforce at a higher rate than is explained by market dynamics alone.
  • Lack of Economic Empowerment: Women are underrepresented in senior managerial position and overrepresented in low paying jobs. Oxford Survey shows that globally only 19% firms have a female senior manager.
  • Financial inclusion: with reduced capital available to support the micro-enterprises that are so often a pathway to work for women.
  • Access to productive capital: It is harder for women to access funds and capital for farming, starting a business or for other developmental works.
  • Secondary Education for women is lower than man in majority of countries while this stands at less than 80% in India.
  • Social norms and stereotypes: Classifying men as “bread winners” and women pursuing jobs as “career women” was reported by Oxford University Survey. It also highlighted that most of the unpaid work is seen as a women’s job.
  • Over half the respondents to a World Values Survey in many South Asian countries agreed that men have a greater right to a job than women when jobs are scarce—far higher than the one in six respondents who said the same in developed countries.

Measures to be taken:

  • One way to boost income for women and make them economically productive would be to push and motivate women entrepreneurs. Resources, again perhaps not enough, have been allocated to the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Programme (ESDP), Stand-Up India, and Mahila-E-Haat to promote entrepreneurial activities among women.
  • The initiative by Niti Aayog to create the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) in 2018 could be further energised to play a greater role in creating awareness and enabling women to access the resources on offer.
  • Women in India, as the experience with rural self-help groups shows, are remarkably prompt at repaying loans and the government should step up the amounts and ease loan disbursement for women who want to set up their own businesses.
  • While policies that support gender equality need to be tailored to national contexts, there are tried and tested measures that can be considered.
  • Policy measures could include addressing or reducing the amount of unpaid work and rebalancing it between men and women, supporting employer or state-funded provision of childcare, and interventions to address digital and financial inclusion.
  • Any drive for gender parity arguably starts with efforts to change entrenched, widespread attitudes about women’s role in society.
  • The family needs to adjust to the changing role of women and volunteer to share household work.
  • Unrealistic expectations can be detrimental to their physical and mental well-being.
  • Workplaces can do their bit by introducing part-time and flexi-time work facilities and work from home opportunities to avoid their burnout.
  • Policies that provide services, social protection and basic infrastructure, promote sharing of domestic and care work between men and women, and create more paid jobs in the care economy, are urgently needed to accelerate progress on women’s economic empowerment.
  • Ensuring basic infrastructure such as piped drinking water, LPG cylinders to all rural areas have helped reduce the burden of domestic responsibilities on women.

Conclusion:

This pandemic is not only challenging global health systems, but our commitment to equality and human dignity. With women’s interests and rights front and centre, we can get through this pandemic faster, and build more equal and resilient communities and societies that benefit everyone.

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

2. In the quest to protect democracy from the hands of elected parliamentary representatives, it is unacceptable to place it entirely in the hands of an unelected judiciary. Critically analyze. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Introduction:

The Kesavananda Bharati judgment introduced the Basic Structure doctrine which limited Parliament’s power to make drastic amendments that may affect the core values enshrined in the Constitution like secularism and federalism. The verdict upheld the power of the Supreme Court to judicially review laws of Parliament. It evolved the concept of separation of powers among the three branches of governance — legislative, executive and the judiciary.

Body:

Doctrine of basic structure:

  • The crux of the doctrine lies in fixing the extent of amendatory powers exercised by Parliament. The doctrine holds that there are certain implied limitations on Parliament’s amending power although these are not explicitly mentioned.
  • It was held that Parliament cannot touch certain parts of the Constitution that are fundamental to democracy, even with the consent of electoral supermajorities at the Centre and states as also by following the procedure established by law.
  • In the absence of any certainty as to what the “basic structure” consists of and only vague parameters to deduce the same, it is left to the wisdom of the SC judges to decide upon it on a case to case basis.
  • The aim of the judiciary behind propounding this doctrine was understandably to save democracy from the hands of a tyrannical few and pre-empt a dictatorial onslaught on fundamental rights.
  • This laudable aim was defeated within two years of the judgement when Indira Gandhi pulled India into an abyss by suspending all fundamental rights. The judiciary that was expected to save democratic ideals, by applying weapons such as the doctrine of basic structure, failed the citizens completely.

Critical Analysis of Basic structure:

  • The basic structure doctrine was coined in 1973 — it has been applied prospectively — by which time crucial elements of the original Constitution had already been compromised.
  • In the intervening period of the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 and the country’s first election in 1951, several crucial fundamental rights were ravaged with a tearing urgency vide the First Amendment — the rights to property and free speech and expression were heavily diluted.
  • Since the basic structure has now frozen Part III of the Constitution as it stood on its date of delivery, these valuable aspects of democracy cannot now be debated by Parliament, let alone be altered while the doctrine prevails in the judicial books.
  • Even after the birth of the doctrine, the structure of the Constitution has been regularly tweaked to accommodate judicial ideology and morality. Newer features have been constantly added to this premium list that is “basic”, giving them the immunity that the basic structure enjoys.
  • The Right to Education was introduced by the 86th amendment in the form of Article 21A. A policy decision such as this involves significant public expenditure and has serious political and electoral ramifications such as the financial viability of running low-cost private schools.
  • The provision may require discussions regarding certain modifications and consequent amendments to suit the country’s changing needs. However, its position in the Fundamental Rights chapter has placed it out of Parliament’s reach.
  • The amendment of Article 15 in 2006 was another major jolt to the Fundamental Rights chapter that surprisingly passed the Supreme Court’s basic structure review. The introduction of Article 15(5) necessitated even private unaided educational institutions to implement reservations. However, it exempted minority institutions, even if government-aided, from the policy.
  • This was certainly not the intention of the framers of the Constitution. All this begs the question: Which static constitutional principles is the basic structure doctrine trying to protect when the Constitution has been amended 104 times?
  • The Court fairly recently relied on the basic structure to strike down the 99th constitutional amendment act, which sought to set up a National Judicial Accountability Commission to replace the appointment of judges by the Collegium system. This, despite the Bill being passed by two third majorities of both Houses of Parliament and 20 state legislatures
  • The doctrine has put the judiciary in the exact position of unlimited power that it sought to prevent Parliament from occupying. It is certainly important for the Constitution to have certain non-negotiable principles but the same must be narrow and comprehensively identified. In the quest to protect democracy from the hands of elected parliamentary representatives, it is unacceptable to place it entirely in the hands of an unelected judiciary.

Conclusion:

The sovereign, democratic and secular character of the polity, rule of law, independence of the judiciary, fundamental rights of citizens etc. are some of the essential features of the Constitution that have appeared time and again in the apex court’s pronouncements. One certainty that emerged out of this tussle between Parliament and the judiciary is that all laws and constitutional amendments are now subject to judicial review and laws that transgress the basic structure are likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court. In essence Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is not absolute and the Supreme Court is the final arbiter over and interpreter of all constitutional amendments.  This was the inherent and implied limitation on the amending power of Parliament. This basic structure doctrine, as future events showed, saved Indian democracy and Kesavananda Bharati will always occupy a hallowed place in our constitutional history.

Topic: mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

3. The scourge of manual scavenging continues in India despite the most stringent penal provisions in the law against. Critically discuss the provisions of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in light of the above statement.  (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Introduction:

Manual scavenging is the degrading practice of manually removing human excreta from “dry latrines”, i.e., latrines without the modern flush system. Manual scavenging as a practice got entrenched in the society under the British rule at the time when urbanisation began to thrive. This practice has continued till today is a ‘blot on our society.’ It is the worst form of violation of human rights despite protection against such practice is guaranteed by the supreme document of our land, i.e. the Constitution of India under Articles 17 , 21 and 23.

Body:

Penal provisions against manual scavenging:

  • The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955: 
    • The first Act which sought to abolish this dehumanising practice was The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 under Section 4.
    • However, the punishment under the Act was extremely lenient and it couldn’t successfully stop the practice of manual scavenging.
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1977: 
    • The Parliament then came up with the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1977 (by amending the previous Untouchability Offences Act) which identified the practice of ‘scavenging’ on the ground of untouchability under Section 7A of the Act and made it punishable.
    • This Act too failed to provide stringent punishment resulting in no mitigation of the practice.
  • Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act of 1993: 
    • As both the Acts failed to eradicate scavenging, the Parliament made another effort to curb manual scavenging by passing the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act of 1993.
    • Under Section 317 of the aforesaid Act it prohibited anyone from employing another to carry human excreta. The punishment under the Act was up to 1 year or imprisonment and/or fine.18
    • This Act also turned out to be inefficient primarily because of two reasons. It did not criminalize cleaning of gutters, septic tanks, manholes, etc. and also did not empower an aggrieved individual to file a complaint rather left it to certain authorities to do the same.
  • Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: which penalises this practice and also provides measures for rehabilitation of the scavengers. Despite this this inhuma practice has continued.

The failure of the existing legilsations:

  • According to the figures provided by the Houselisting and Housing Census of 2011, there were around 7.94 lakh latrines in India including urban and mofussil towns from which excreta was removed by manual scavengers.
  • The total number of manual scavengers employed in the business as per data provided by the The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment was 6.76 lakhs in 2002-03.13 However, as per data provided by state governments, the total number of scavengers yet to be rehabilitated were over 3 lakhs by the end of the year 2005.
  • This speaks volumes about our failure towards striving for a classless society with dignity for all. It is appalling to note that so many people are forced into this business despite there being penal laws prohibiting this practice. The legislations have no doubt been half-hearted.

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020:

  • Proposes to completely mechanise sewer cleaning and provide better protection at work and compensation in case of accidents.
  • Currently, engaging any person for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks by any person or agency is punishable with imprisonment of up to five years or a fine up of to Rs 5 lakh or both.
  • The bill proposes to make the law banning manual scavenging more stringent by increasing the imprisonment term and the fine amount.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 prohibits construction or maintenance of insanitary latrines, and employment of any person for manual scavenging or hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
  • The bill comes under the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry’s National Action Plan which aims at complete elimination of hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, a more serious, stringent and focused strategy framework.
  • The plan aims to modernise existing sewage system and coverage of non-sewered areas; setting up of faecal sludge and septage management system for mechanised cleaning of septic tanks, transportation and treatment of faecal sludge; equipping the municipalities, and setting up of Sanitation Response Units with help lines.
  • Measures for the protection of manual scavengers in terms of provision of safety gears.
  • Stricter enforcement of compensation regulations in cases of sewer deaths.

Issues with the bill:

  • The non-availability of a holistic draft for any form of public consultation through the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry’s National Action Plan is against established procedures.
  • The nature and type of mechanization is not clear.
  • The roadmap for complete eradication needs to be laid out in detail with measurable indicators of improvement.
  • Lacks measures to regulate the contractual system.

Way forward:

  • There is a need for integration between various ways of rehabilitation that is not tailored towards mere numbers. The focus on availing loans through different schemes of NSKFDC, in fact, increases the vulnerability of the manual scavengers. Therefore, the rehabilitation schemes totally fail in restoring the lives of workers.
  • Even, compensation varies after the death of a sewer worker without any concrete explanation of the estimation of the provided compensation. There is no provision of legal consultation, pension provisions or insurance cover in these schemes making the restoration and rehabilitation procedure more fractured than ever even after the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers Act, 2013 that focused more on rehabilitation than the previous Acts.
  • It is a sad commentary on the working conditions of these workers and their healthcare that they do not even reach the age of retirement. The important thing is these Acts and schemes should also focus on all other categorisation of sanitation workers like the faecal sludge handlers, sewage treatment plant sanitation workers, toilet sanitation workers (community, public, school, domestic household further classified into dry/wet handling), public transportation site sanitation Workers (railway, roads), sewer and drain sanitation workers, septic tank workers, waste recovery workers (household-community-landfill further classified into resource recovery sanitation workers), operational sanitation workers, sanitation-waste intersection workers. The mere inclusion of sanitation employees working on the railway platforms in the definition of manual scavengers is not enough.
  • The “contractual employment system” that perpetuates unregulated contractual hiring fails the existing Acts because unless there is a clear cut reassessment of this system, the number of cases of sewer deaths will keep increasing. This is why there is a sharp increase in sewer deaths as contractors force sanitation workers to enter septic tanks for manual cleaning.
  • The lack of licensing, accountability and enforcement of the punishment of the third parties make the movements to eradicate manual scavenging in India weak. Unless we revisit this system, no Act or Scheme will help in the absolute eradication of manual scavenging in India.
  • Moreover, the sanitation policies emphasise only on sanitation infrastructure which is in direct conflict with the rights of the workers employed in these infrastructures. The lack of mechanisms of maintenance and proper water supply within the Toilets force the sanitation workers to “manually scavenge” human excrements and throw piles of it on nearby dumping grounds. 

Conclusion:

Dignity is as important as food, water or air. For without it we are nothing but animals. The practice of manual scavenging has been an assault on human dignity. The practice has even got acquiescence from some segments of the society. We must admit that this practice is still prevalent because there has never been much opposition to it. The opposition has been rather shameful. Otherwise it would not have taken so many legislations to ban this practice. On one side India claims to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world and boasts of launching rockets to Mars, but on the other hand it practices the worst form of discrimination.

Manual scavenging has perpetuated inequality which already exists in our class-conscious country. The workers have been the most exploited individuals. This practice is tantamount to slavery in today’s world. It makes a mockery of human rights. It must be stopped at once. The scourge of manual scavenging has been forced upon individuals belonging to lower strata of the society who have not been able to fully realize their rights. They have been victims of social and cultural abuse and alienation since time immemorial. Every effort therefore must be made to eradicate this practice – the first being proper implementation of the law.

 

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

4. India’s approach towards the UN and other multilateral organizations in writing the new rules and reshaping the global order needs more dynamic coalition building rather than traditional approach. Analyse (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express Hindustan Times 

Introduction:
India faces a defining period. As the world’s biggest democracy with an economy among the world’s ten largest, India’s status as a reemerging global power is being not just recognized but increasingly institutionalized, with a seat on the G-20, increasing clout in the international financial institutions, entry into the club of nuclear-armed states, impending membership in the various technology and supply control regimes, and impressive peacekeeping credentials under the United Nations.

Body:

Changing global order:

  • At the UN the coronavirus has exposed the structural weakness of the system that was set up amidst the ruins of the Second World War. Put simply, the UN has been unable to respond effectively to the once-in-a-century global crisis triggered by the coronavirus.
  • At the UN Security Council, China blocked a serious discussion on the origin and sources of the crisis.
  • While the World Health Organisation did move a bit in that direction, the US was not satisfied with the outcome and walked out of the forum.
  • Critics argue that the collectivist rhetoric of the UN, it was meant, by design, to be a concert of great powers who had a permanent seat in the Security Council.
  • In other words, cooperation among the great powers was the precondition for its success in the security arena.
  • Barring a brief decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, collective security has been hard to come by. During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow were at each other’s throats and the UNSC was deadlocked.
  • During the brief unipolar moment of the 1990s, post-Soviet Russia was willing to acquiesce to the sweeping US agenda for global security. China, which was getting its internal act together after the Tiananmen uprising of 1989, was feeling its way around multilateral institutions and avoided any challenge to the US and West.
  • All that began to change in the first decade of the millennium, when Russia and China began to offer resistance to US dominance. By the dawn of the third decade, the conflict between the US on the one hand and China and Russia on the other has become full-blown.
  • To make matters more complicated, the West itself is divided. Despite the enduring post-War alliances, there is a growing divergence between Washington and its European partners on many global issues.
  • Some of the differences between the US and the other powers will be very visible this week on the Iran question. Although he has walked out of the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump wants to continue the UN sanctions on Iran. Other powers, including the US’s allies in Europe, are not willing to follow the American lead on this.
  • The discord between the US and its European partners underlines the problem with viewing the world through the traditional East-West prism. Nor is it useful to think of the debates in the UN as a contest between the US and the rest. The US has never been more divided within itself on global issues as it is today.
  • Rejection of post-War multilateralism and post-Cold War globalism is at the heart of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. Trump’s Democratic rival in this year’s presidential election, Joe Biden, wants to put multilateralism at the very heart of his administration’s foreign policy.
  • If Trump argues that multilateral institutions have not served America’s interests, Biden insists that multilateralism is the most sensible means to pursue US interests. Biden has promised to re-join the nuclear agreement with Iran, albeit with new conditions, put the US back in the global coalition to limit climate change, and return to the WHO.

The current political fragmentation augurs poorly for India’s two-year tenure at the UNSC starting next January. This is an opportunity to restructure India’s traditional approach to the UN. There are huge possibilities for enhancing India’s multilateral standing.

India’s approach – dynamic coalition building:

  • India should shed the illusion, cultivated since the 50th anniversary of the UN in 1995, that the expansion of the permanent membership of UNSC, with or without veto, is within reach. UNSC reform is unlikely to happen soon.
  • India’s own experience during the Cold War points to the fact that the UN is a lot more than the Security Council. While the UNSC was dysfunctional, India developed a multilateral agenda of its own — from decolonisation and disarmament to a new international economic order — and mobilised considerable political support for it. Not all of India’s efforts were successful during the Cold war, but the past underlines the possibilities for shaping the global discourse in the present.
  • while promoting big ideas is exciting, Delhi can’t lose sight of the basic relationship between national interest and multilateralism. The primary objective of India’s present multilateralism must be to ensure its territorial integrity, especially at a time when China and Pakistan have mounted a massive effort to internationalise the Kashmir question.
  • The question is not merely about playing defence, but also leveraging multilateralism to serve India’s interests. In the last few years, Delhi has worked mechanisms like FATF to mount pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting cross-border terrorism in India.
  • On both the issues of terrorism and Kashmir, China, once viewed as India’s natural partner in the multilateral arena, has turned out to be the problem. The US and the West, traditionally viewed as part of the problem, are now helping India fend off the security challenges in the multilateral arena.
  • Beyond the issues of peace, there is the big challenge of protecting India’s prosperity amidst the unfolding economic, technological and environmental disruptions. The rules governing all these areas are now up for a significant overhaul. As India learnt from its 1970s experience with the nuclear non-proliferation regime, once the rules are set, it is rather hard to change them.
  • In writing the new rules and reshaping the global order, India needs to strengthen its recent turn to a more dynamic coalition building. While reclaiming its role in the Non-Aligned Movement, Delhi has also joined the European alliance for multilateralism. India also knows that much of the new rule-making is likely to take place outside the UN. That is where India’s new engagement with the US on building like-minded coalitions acquires much significance.
  • Delhi can’t hope to expand its international influence on the cheap. India’s share in the UN budget stands at 0.7 per cent. The shares of China, Japan and the US are at 8, 10 and 22 per cent respectively. Raising Delhi’s contribution to at least one per cent might convince its partners that India is serious about pursuing a more vigorous multilateralism.

Conclusion:

                The last time thinking about the multilateral order was cemented was at a time when India did not independently partake in the thought process. It resulted in our being confined to the category of “ruler takers” for 75 years and counting. Challenges that transcend borders are of cardinal importance to India’s well being. It is, therefore, time to conceptualise, in concrete terms, pathways to address them. This will need to include our envisaging the new order and India’s own role in it as well as who our partners in this venture are to be. Others are already working on their game plans. The here and now is important. So, too, is looking beyond the horizon. If we want to be “rule shapers” rather than being “rule takers”, then we need to start working in partnership at blueprints for change. It is never too early to plan for the future.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

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

5. Privatisation is often considered a solution for poor management in public sector banks. Critically analyze. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Introduction:

                Due to the pandemic, India cannot afford to fund its banks. The dimension of credit growth and management of loans — the assets side of the banks’ balance sheet is considerably worrying. Therefore, the prescriptions is the often repeated agenda of Big Capital, which is the privatisation of Indian banks and handing over the banking system to investors.

Body:

Privatisation as a solution:

 

  • Re-privatisation of select PSBs can then be undertaken, bringing in private investors who have both financial expertise as well as technological expertise.
  • Government is granted enormous power from controlling bank lending but that ‘winding down the department of financial services in the ministry of finance is essential, both as an affirmative signal of the intent to grant bank boards and management independence and as a commitment not to engage in ‘mission creep’ when compulsions arise to use banks for serving costly social or political objectives.
  • Creation of a holding company structure that incentivises senior management with better pay and lengthened tenure.
  • Dilution of the government’s stake in PSBs to below 50 per cent, and the importance of attracting fresh private investment into them. It will help the health of the banks.
  • Private banks tend to be run more productively with revenue per employee and cost per employee ratios that imply net revenue per employee is 50 per cent higher than those of government banks.
  • Private banks are constantly concerned over whether they may need to raise capital on the stock markets, they are incentivised to set up a proper system of checks and balances such that the stock price remains healthy.
  • Many countries have privatised their nationalised banks, including some from the erstwhile Eastern bloc countries. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Egypt etc.
  • Privatising loss-making PSBs will have a deterrent effect on the staff and management of such banks.
  • Also, privatising a few loss-making PSBs will ensure that market discipline forces them to rectify their strategy, and this will have a ripple effect on other PSBs.
  • Better financial performance is ensured when a strong financial institution is involved as a significant shareholder in privatisation.
  • The government’s liabilities will also decrease and it could invest resources released by this exercise into welfare schemes.
  • The government needs money and selling its shares in the banks it owns will help it raise funds.
  • Government banks are saddled with loans which are unlikely to be paid back. It means that at some point, the government might have to ‘recapitalise’ them. Pundits say taxpayers will end up paying for mismanagement by government banks. So, privatise them and everything will be fine.
  • It will be another step towards reducing the fiscal deficit and financing revenue expenditure through revenue receipts in the long term.
  • This move is along the lines of minimum government and maximum governance and proactive, people-centric, people friendly, transparent and sustainable governance.

Privitisation is not a panacea:

  • Private players in the financial sector are prone to failure:
    • The world felt the shock waves as the financial markets collapsed in 2008, caused by over-reaching private players. In what has been documented copiously as the subprime mortgage crisis, this resulted in the biggest economic downturn since the great depression of the 1930s hurting millions of people.
    • A deeper crisis was averted only with the US Federal government, and other governments, providing the bailout. What is remarkable about this crisis is this — not one banker or executive of a financial organisation went to jail for this extraordinary level of fraud imposed on the world. Rajan and Acharya are advocating that Indian banks should be handed over to investors and private players with a similar DNA.
  • Private banks fail all the time:
    • The website of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — an independent body created by the US Congress to maintain stability and public confidence in financial system — carries this information prominently. In the 20 years from 2001 to 2020, as many as 559 private banks with assets of $721 billion failed in the US.
  • The principle followed by private banks is this. When they make profits, it goes to shareholders. When they make losses, it gets socialised and falls in the lap of the government to make good the deposits either through insurance or taxpayer bailout. This has happened again and again.
  • Big private banks can fail any time:
    • There is a myth that if a bank gets large enough, it will not fail. Wrong. While one can agree that the larger the bank, the greater its ability to absorb losses, this does not mean it cannot fail. The axiom “Higher you go, harder the fall” applies best to private banks. This year we were all witness to the failure and subsequent reorganisation of YES Bank.
  • Before bank nationalisation, a few corporate houses controlled all funds, credit flowed into speculation and the agriculture sector had virtually no access to credit. Nationalisation ensured that a large chunk of India’s population could access banking facilities, farmers got loans and the state could direct the flow of credit to priority sectors.
  • Public sector banks, therefore, have a social role which is larger than their quarterly profit & loss statements. Selling them amounts to diminishing this social role and public control of the flow of capital.
  • Public sector banks are created out of public money. These entities are therefore duty-bound to extend all types of services to customers across categories. Privatisation will impact this very root purpose.
  • The loosening of government’s control over economy might make is the economy fragile in testing conditions.
  • Private profiteering and drain of nation wealth through revenues accruing from FDI are also major concerns.
  • Private sector banks don’t share the government’s social responsibilities. Even in matters of recruitment, they don’t follow the government’s reservation policy or don’t show any enthusiasm in giving education loans to needy students. Thus, we can see that privatisation is not the solution for problems facing PSBs. The solution lies in making the public sector more robust, not pawning it in the hands of a few powerful individuals.

Conclusion: 

Privatisation of PSBs is not going to be easy, as it would involve building consensus amongst various stake holders, including unions and parliamentarians. The decision to privatise inefficient PSBs, consistently delivering negative returns, would require wide debate. As the Planning Commission was a vestige of the socialist era, so is social banking. It is time to reconsider whether PSBs, are really required to serve the purpose of social banking in our country and at what cost. Therefore, it would be useful to have a high-powered, government-appointed committee, to devise exact criteria, modus operandi, the type of privatisation model to be adopted, and engage with the social ramifications before privatisation is actually undertaken.

 

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

6. Hydrogen fuel cells technology is considered as the panacea for carbon-free transport of future. Critically discuss. Also evaluate India’s preparedness to adopt it. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu Hindustan Times 

Introduction:

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is a device that uses a source of fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant to create electricity by an electrochemical process. Put simply, the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate an electric current, water being the only by-product. Supreme Court has asked government to look into the feasibility of hydrogen-based tech to deal with vehicular air pollution in capital. India is looking closely at Japan, which has made progress in this field.

Body:

Hydrogen-Fuel Cells:

  • Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy in fuels into electrical energy directly.
  • A fuel cell produces electricity, water, and heat using fuel and oxygen in the air.
  • An electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, catalysed by platinum, to produce energy.
  • Water is the only emission when hydrogen is the fuel.

How it works:

Advantages:

  • A fuel cell operating on pure hydrogen emits zero emissions at the source.
  • Fuel cells provide a much longer operating life than a battery, and since fuel cells have a higher energy density, they are lighter than an equivalent battery system.
  • Fuel cells create energy electrochemically, and do not burn fuel, they are fundamentally more efficient than combustion systems.
  • They do not require recharging and is a renewable source of energy.
  • Hydrogen can be produced from domestic resources, eliminating the need to import foreign oil. It gives energy security.
  • Fuel cells are modular, and can be scaled up depending on the power needs of a facility. Larger fuel cells can be linked together to achieve multi-megawatt outputs

Challenges:

  • While widely available, hydrogen is expensive. it takes a lot of time to separate the hydrogen element from others.
  • The transport and storage of hydrogen is deemed impractical.
  • Since it is a very powerful source of fuel, hydrogen can be highly inflammable.
  • Other non-renewable sources such as coal, oil and natural gas are needed to separate hydrogen from oxygen. As a result, carbon dioxide is also emitted in the air and makes global warming worse.

Global scenario:

  • China, far and away the world’s biggest auto market with some 28 million vehicles sold annually, is aiming for more than 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) in service by 2030. That compares with just 1,500 or so now, most of which are buses.
  • Japan, a market of more than 5 million vehicles annually, wants to have 800,000 FCVs sold by that time from around 3,400 currently.
  • South Korea, which has a car market just one third the size of Japan, has set a target of 850,000 vehicles on the road by 2030. But as of end-2018, fewer than 900 have been sold.

Progress in India:

  • In India, so far, the definition of EV only covers BEVs; the government has lowered taxes to 12%.
  • At 43%, hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen FCEVs attract the same tax as IC vehicles.
  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, under its Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) programme, has been supporting various such projects in academic institutions, research and development organisations and industry for development.
  • Fourteen RD&D projects on hydrogen and fuel cells are currently under implementation with the support of the Ministry. Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, eight projects were sanctioned and 18 completed.
  • The Ministry of Science and Technology has supported two networked centres on hydrogen storage led by IIT Bombay and Nonferrous Materials Technology Development Centre, Hyderabad. These involve 10 institutions, including IITs, and IISc, Bangalore.

Conclusion:

The FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan whose main thrust is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies. India must however make a concerted attempt to incentivize both EVs and FCEVs.

 

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

7. State’s reluctance to follow green laws and conduct a rigorous project-approval process is not just dangerous for the country’s biodiversity but also endangers the fundamental right of citizens to a clean environment. Discuss (250 words)

Reference: Hindustan Times The Wire 

Introduction:

Failure to fully implement and enforce the environmental laws is one of the greatest challenges towards mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss and poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic engagement are the key factors behind the poor effectiveness and implementation of environmental regulations especially in regards to project approval in eco sensitive zones.

Body:

India’s performance in implementation of environmental safeguards:

  • Like the Water Act, which was implemented in 1974, a number of laws and regulations have been existing for more than four decades now, but are proving to be ineffective.
  • The systems of accountability have been weakened, so monitoring is a huge problem.
  • India is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Global Environment Performance Index (EPI) rankings for being unable to improve its air quality, protect its biodiversity, and cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Air pollution:-
    • India has highest number of cities which violate the threshold of healthy air limits
    • Coal-based power plants continue to be the major source of air pollution in the country as more than 300 coal thermal power plants still violate emission standards.
  • Wildlife:
    • Despite laws to protect wildlife protection, poaching and illegal trade of wild animals is a common practise till date. Also rise in man animal conflict is an indicator of lack of proper implementation of the laws.
    • The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), which Prime Minister heads, has not met even once in the past five years.
    • The standing committee of the NBWL considered 31 proposals in all, 16 of which related to highways, transmission lines and railway lines through national Parks, sanctuaries and tiger corridors. And all 16 proposals were approved. An array of other projects concerning nearly 3,000 acres of land located in eco-sensitive areas were also approved.
  • More than two-thirds of the states/union territories in the country have neither bothered to comply with the orders passed by the Supreme Court, nor complied with the directions given by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • The judiciary’s order failed to even curb illegal rat hole mining and miners in Meghalaya paid the price for that.
    • Acting on the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Meghalaya government in 2015, suspended rat hole mining and transportation of coal in the entire state. But four years later, illegal practices continue unabated in the state.
  • Draft EIA notification which reduced hortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days and increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects (50 years versus 30 years currently) and river valley projects (15 years versus 10 years currently) raises the risk of irreversible environmental, social and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.
  • Poor coordination and rampant corruption :-
    • Most of these laws either die in nascent or intermediate stage due to profit motives and lax in execution
  • Public awareness is poor
    • Lack of public hearings and social audit before implementing projects
    • Environmental impact assessment has often been neglected for projects. 

Impact of the above on biodiversity:

  • Human impacts on species occur across 84% of the earth’s surface, finds a study published in PLOS Biology, an international journal dedicated to biological science.
  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including India’s biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, Himalaya and the north-east — also fall in this category.
  • India ranks 16th in such human impacts, with 35 species impacted on average. It includes those in India’s Western Ghats, Himalaya and north-east — are among the ‘hotspots’ of threatened species.
  • The average number of species impacted in the South Western Ghats montane rainforests is 60 and in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, 53.
  • The maps show that roads and croplands are extensive in India and conversion of habitat for such activities could be a main threat.
  • From the recently-updated Human Footprint data, it was found that a staggering 1,237 species are impacted by threats in more than 90% of their habitat; 395 species are affected by threats across their entire range. While the impact of roads is highest (affecting 72% of terrestrial areas), crop lands affect the highest number of threatened species: 3,834.

Impact on clean environment:

  • Loss of biodiversity appears to affect ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress.
  • Studies over the last two decades demonstrated that more biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive.
  • As a result, there has been growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions–due to habitat loss, overharvesting and other human-caused environmental changes–could reduce nature’s ability to provide goods and services such as food, clean water and a stable climate.
  • scientific reports — such as the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 — that have warned that further destruction of flora and fauna will have serious effects of humans.
  • This will affect the fundamental rights of citizen to a clean environment. 

Way forward and conclusion:

  • There is a need to consider TSR Subramanian committee recommendations:
    • New bodies like National Environment Management Authority and State Environment Management Authority replacing CPCB and SPCB, to evaluate project clearance using technology and expertise.
    • Areas with 70% tree cover should be declared “no go zone”
  • strengthen green regulations, introduce a stronger system of checks and balances, and make the clearance process more transparent and inclusive
  • The active involvement of Central/State Ministries and Departments is needed. Public and private entrepreneurs and entities as well as the public need to come forward to mainstream biodiversity.
  • There is a strong case for a new look at the draft EIA notification and all relevant stakeholders must be consulted and arrive at a consensual assessment mechanism.
  • Positive attitude on the part of each citizen is essential for effective and efficient enforcement of these legislations.
  • Also institutional capacities must be strengthened which are currently filled with problems such as understaffing ,lack of financial resources and low skill levels of workers.
  • Speed of justice delivery must be increased through special courts which improve compliance.

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