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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 29 October 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 : Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).

1. Examine the biological significance of soil and give a bio-climatic classification of the soils found on the surface of the earth. (250 words)

Reference: fundamentals of physical Geography by G C Leong

Why the question:

The question is about the biological significance of soil and the bio-climatic classification of the soils found on the surface of the earth.

Key Demand of the question:

One is expected to explain the bio-climatic classification of the soils found on the surface of the earth while bringing out the biological significance of soil.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with the definition of Soil.

Body:

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life.

Discuss then the biological significance of it; as a medium for plant growth, as a means of water storage, supply and purification, as a modifier of Earth’s atmosphere, as a habitat for organisms.

Then move onto discuss the bio-climatic classification of the soils.

Conclusion:

Conclude with importance.

Introduction:

Soil is our prime natural and economic resource. Soils in India differ in composition and structure. In India, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has classified soils into 8 categories. Alluvial Soil, Black Cotton Soil, Red Soil, Laterite Soil, Mountainous or Forest Soils, Arid or Desert Soil, Saline and Alkaline Soil, Peaty and Marshy Soil are the categories of Indian Soil.

Body:

There are a variety of reasons for these variations in soil. Primarily soils are different from region to region due to the climatic conditions (like temperature, rainfall etc). The variety of flora and fauna of a region also has an influence on the soil profile. And there can even be a human influence.

Significance of Soil:

  • The fertile soil helps in the growth and development of the plants. The plants thus produced are healthy and provide food, clothing, furniture, and medicines.
  • It supports many life forms including bacteria, fungi, algae, etc. These microbes, in turn, maintain environmental balance by retaining the moisture and decaying the dead organisms.
  • The topsoil supports certain life activities such as reproduction, hatching, nesting, breeding, etc. of a few organisms.
  • The organic matter present in the soil increases the fertility of the soil which is responsible for the growth of the plants.
  • It also contains certain minerals and elements that are necessary for the plants to carry out their cellular activities.
  • Soil is used for making cups, utensils, tiles, etc. The contents in the soil such as gravel, clay and sand are used in the construction of homes, roads, buildings, etc.
  • Useful mineral medicines such as calcium, iron, and other substances such as petroleum jelly for cosmetics are extracted from the soil.
  • The soil absorbs the rainwater. This water is evaporated and released into the air during sunny days, making the atmosphere cooler.

india_majir_soil_type

Bio Climatic Classification of Soils in India:

  • Alluvial Soil:
    • These are formed by the deposition of sediments by rivers.
    • They are rich in humus and very fertile. These soils are renewed every year.
    • This soil is well-drained and poorly drained with an immature profile in undulating areas. This soil has potash deficiency.
    • The colour of soil varies from light grey to ash.
    • This soil is suited for Rice, maize, wheat, sugarcane, oilseeds etc.
    • They are found in Great Northern plain, lower valleys of Narmada and Tapti and Northern Gujarat.
    • This soil is divided into Khadar Soil (New) and Bhangar Soil (Old).
  • Black or Regur Soil:
    • These soils are made up of volcanic rocks and lava-flow.
    • It is concentrated over Deccan Lava Tract which includes parts of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
    • It consists of Lime, Iron, Magnesium and also Potash but lacks in Phosphorus, Nitrogen and Organic matter.
    • It has high water retaining capacity and good for the cotton cultivation, Tobacco, citrus fruits, castor, and linseed.
  • Red Soil:
    • These are derived from weathering of ancient metamorphic rocks of Deccan Plateau.
    • The presence of ferric oxides makes the colour of soil red. The top layer of the soil is red and horizon below is yellowish.
    • Generally, these soils are deficient in phosphate, lime, magnesia, humus and nitrogen.
    • This soil is good for the cultivation of wheat, cotton, pulses, tobacco, millets, orchards, potato, and oilseeds.
    • They cover almost the whole of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Orissa.
  • Laterite Soil:
    • These soft, when they are wet and ‘hard and cloddy’ on drying.
    • These soils are formed due to intense leaching and are well developed on the summits of hills and uplands.
    • They are commonly found in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and hilly areas of Orissa and Assam.
    • These are poor in organic matter, nitrogen, potassium, lime and potash.
    • These iron and aluminium rich soils are suitable for the cultivation of rice, ragi, sugarcane and cashew nuts.
  • Mountain Soil:
    • These soils are formed as a result of the accumulation of organic matter derived from forest growth.
    • They are found in Himalayan region and vary in different regions according to altitude.
    • Tea is grown in those areas which receive sufficient rainfall.
    • These soils are immature and dark brown in colour.
    • This soil has very low humus and it is acidic in nature.
    • The orchards, fodder, legumes are grown in this soil.
  • Desert Soil:
    • This soil is deposited by wind action and mainly found in the arid and semi-arid areas like Rajasthan, West of the Aravallis, Northern Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kachchh, Western parts of Haryana and southern part of Punjab.
    • They are sandy with low organic matter.
    • It has low soluble salts and moisture with very low retaining capacity. If irrigated these soil give a high agricultural return.
    • These suitable less water requiring crops like Bajra, pulses, fodder, and guar.
    • As evaporation is in excess of rainfall, the soil has a high salt content and saline layer forms a hard crust.
  • Peaty and Marshy Soils:
    • This soil originates from the areas where adequate drainage is not possible.
    • It is rich in organic matter and has high salinity.
    • They are deficient in potash and phosphate.
    • These mainly found in Sunderbans delta, Kottayam, and Alappuzha districts of Kerala, Rann of Kachchh, deltas of Mahanadi etc.
  • Saline and Alkaline Soils:
    • Theses also called as Reh, Usar, Kallar, Rakar, Thur and Chopan.
    • These are mainly found in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.
    • Sodium chloride and sodium sulphate are present in this soil.
    • It is suitable for leguminous crops.

Conclusion:

However, in south and central India, floods wash away rich, weathered soil, which are deposited in reservoirs or as sand bars along the river bed or in the sea. Any rehabilitation programme must consider this lost soil. Organic matter plays a key role in maintaining soil fertility by holding nitrogen and sulphur in organic forms and other essential nutrients such as potassium and calcium. The loss of organic matter is accelerated by frequent tillage. The need of the hour is to educate farmers in other regions as well about what they can do to improve the health of their nutrient-depleted soil by following practices such as crop rotation, and using organic manure boosters such as cow dung and dried leaves.

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic : India and its neighborhood- relations.

2. Discuss the significance of Myanmar for India while throwing light on the political logic that has shaped India’s Myanmar policy since the 1990s. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

Recently Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Manoj Naravane visited Myanmar. Thus the context of the question.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the significance of Myanmar for India while throwing light on the political logic that has shaped India’s Myanmar policy since the 1990s.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with a brief background of India-Myanmar relations from past to present.

Body:

Discuss first the significance of Myanmar to India. Explain in detail the factors such as Myanmar is an immediate neighbor, essential for the development of NES. Myanmar is strategically important to India as it is the only ASEAN country that shares a border with India. It is also the only country that can act as a link between India and ASEAN. Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and could be the required impetus to realize India’s Look East Policy. For India, Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and helping enhance its regional outreach etc.

Discuss India’s policy towards Myanmar.

Then explain the recent initiatives taken by India to strengthen ties with Myanmar.

Conclusion:

Conclude that India’s political engagement and diplomatic balancing seem to have worked so far in its ties with Myanmar. The new initiatives could mark a significant upturn in the bilateral relations as these help establish India’s presence in sectors where it ought to be more pronounced.

Introduction:

India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural, and religious ties. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar.

Body:

Background of India Myanmar relation:

  • India and Myanmar signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951. The visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 laid the foundations for a stronger relationship between India and Myanmar.
  • Myanmar became a member of ASEAN in July 1997. As the only ASEAN country which shares a land border with India, Myanmar is a bridge between India and ASEAN.
  • BIMSTEC: Myanmar became a member of BIMSTEC in December 1997. Myanmar is a signatory to the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement. Myanmar is the lead country for the energy sector. Myanmar trades mostly with Thailand and India in the BIMSTEC region.
  • In 2002, Indian Consulate General in Mandalay was re-opened and the Consulate General of Myanmar was set up in Kolkata.
  • In May 2008 following the cataclysmic cyclone ‘Nargis’ India also provided assistance of US $1 million for humanitarian relief and rehabilitation in the areas affected by the severe earthquake in Shan State in March 2011.
  • Mekong Ganga Cooperation:Myanmar has been a member of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) since its inception in November 2000. MGC is an initiative by six countries for cooperation in the fields of tourism, education, culture, transport, and communication.

Significance of Myanmar to India:

Strategic Significance:

  • India and Myanmar share a long 1,643 km geographical land border and maritime boundary. Myanmar shares borders with 4 Indian states –Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Myanmar is India’s gateway to South-East Asia.
  • India – Myanmar border is highly porous, poorly guarded and located along a remote,underdeveloped, insurgency-prone region and proximate to opium producing area.
  • The border is also vulnerable to the activities of insurgents and drugs and arms traffickers.
  • Myanmar is also important from the security point of view as the influx of sizable numbers of Rohingyafrom Myanmar’s Rakhine state continues.

Trade and Economy:

  • The success of India’s Act East Policy, Neighbourhood first policy largely depend on its relations with Myanmar.
  • Bilateral trade has grown from $12.4 million in 1980-81 to $2.18 billionin 2016-17.
  • Myanmar is also the beneficiary of a duty-free tariff preference scheme for least developed countries (LDCs).
  • Some of the Indian companies such as Essar, GAIL, and ONGC Videsh Ltd. have invested in Myanmar’s energy sector.
  • Cooperation in the banking sector, United Bank of India and EXIM Bank have representative offices in Myanmar.
  • Indian firms engage in manufacturing, services (banking, insurance, dry port), power sector etc.

Connectivity:

  • India is building the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport,a road-river-port cargo transport project, to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east.
  • India, Myanmar, and Thailand are building the Asian Trilateral Highway,which will connect India to ASEAN.

Development Assistance:

  • India has already extended $2 billion in soft loans provide development assistance to Myanmar.
  • India is providing assistance in setting up institutions for higher learning and research.
  • A new Indian proposal suggests the setting up of infrastructure and socio-economic projects jointly with Myanmar in the areas of education, health, agriculture, agro-processing, upgradation of roads, small power projects and livelihood activity.

Defence Cooperation:

  • India-Myanmar Bilateral Army Exercise (IMBAX) is aimed at building and promoting closer relations with armies.
  • Myanmar is a key partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s northeast.

Cultural Significance:

  • India and Myanmar share cultural ties in terms of Buddhist heritage and shared history of colonialism.
  • Building on this shared heritage, India is undertaking restoration of the Ananda Temple in Bagan.

Humanitarian Assistance:

  • India has given assistance following natural calamities in Myanmar like Cyclone Mora (2017), Komen (2015), earthquake in Shan State (2010).
  • India offered capacity building in disaster risk mitigation as well as in strengthening Myanmar’s National Disaster Response Mechanism.

Indian Diaspora:

  • There are varying estimates of 1.5-2 million people of Indian origin living and working in various parts of Myanmar.

Multilateral Partnership:

  • Myanmar is also a key component of India’s strategy to bridge South and South-East Asia through BIMSTEC.
  • Myanmar’s membership of ASEAN, BIMSTEC and Mekong Ganga Cooperation has significance in the context of our “Act East” policy.

The Rohingya Issue

  • India does not directly engage with the issue of Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority.
  • But India has condemned the recent terrorist attacks in northern Rakhine State. This is a measure of support to Myanmar.

Way Forward:

  • Both the countries are affected due to the misuse of open border by internal and external forces, the responsibility of border management and regulation depends on both.
  • It is also the only country that can act as a link between India and ASEAN.
  • Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and could be the required impetus to realize India’s Act East Policy.
  • Myanmar itself is an emerging consumer market of 60 million people who have demands for products ranging from personal care to beverages to smart phones. India should leverage these export opportunities.
  • Agriculture is another sector where India can substantially augment its cooperation with Myanmar in rice research activities, post-harvest technology, agriculture financing and articulating policies.
  • India’s Kaladan Multimodal Transit and Transport project and India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway have seen much delay over the past couple of years. Hence, it can be said that the success of India’s Act East Policy will now depend on India’s prompt action and pragmatic approach for completion of projects.
  • Enhancing economic partnership with Myanmar needs to be a priority in India’s Act East Policy which will benefit New Delhi in enhancing ties with Southeast Asia.

 

Topic : GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

GS-3: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, And Railways etc.

3. Examine the whys and wherefores for the poor performance of the Discoms in India and propose measures to overcome these weaknesses. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

The article analyzes the reasons for the poor performance of the Discoms in India and suggests measures to overcome these shortcomings.

Key Demand of the question:

Examine the poor performances outplayed by the Discoms in the recent times in the country and propose measures to overcome these weaknesses.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly state key facts suggesting the poor performance of Discoms in the country.

Body:

Distribution Companies (Discoms) play a critical role in the electricity supply chain. These utilities typically buy power from generators and retail these to consumers. India has done well in ensuring the adequate production of electricity in the country. However, the Discoms continue to perform badly.

List down the reasons for their bad performance. Bring out the challenges they have been facing such as inefficiency, lack of cost-reflective tariff structure, default of payments to Discoms etc.

Suggest suitable measures to address the situation.

Conclusion:

Conclude with both short term and long term measures.

Introduction:

Discoms are responsible for buying electricity from the generation companies and selling them to consumers. According to PRAAPTI (Payment Ratification and Analysis in Power procurement for bringing Transparency in Invoicing of generators) portal, the discoms’ total outstanding dues to power gencos (power generating companies) rose 48% to Rs 81,010 crore in October 2019.

Body:

Challenges of DISCOMS in India:

  • DISCOMS essentially purchase power from generation companies through power purchase agreements (PPAs), and then supply it to their consumers (in their area of distribution).
  • The key issue with the power sector currently is the continuing problem of the poor financial situation of state DISCOMS.
  • This has been affecting their ability to buy power for supply, and the ability to invest in improving the distribution infrastructure. Consequently, this impacts the quality of electricity that consumers receive.

Causes of the problems of DISCOMS:

  • Power Distribution Companies (DISCOMS) responsible for the supply and distribution of energy to the consumers (industry, commercial, agriculture, domestic etc.).
  • This sector is the weakest link in terms of financial and operational sustainability.
  • DISCOMS essentially purchase power from generation companies through power purchase agreements (PPAs), and then supply it to their consumers (in their area of distribution).
  • Due to the perennial cash collection shortfall, often due to payment delays from consumers, DISCOMS are unable to make timely payments for their energy purchases from the generators. This gap/shortfall is met by borrowings (debt), government subsidies, and possibly, through reduced expenditure.
  • This increases the DISCOMS cost of borrowing (interest), which is inevitably borne by the consumer.
  • There are two fundamental problems here:
  • One, in India, electricity price for certain segments such as agriculture and the domestic category (what we use in our homes) is cross-subsidized by the industries (factories) and the commercial sector (shops, malls).
  • This affects the competitiveness of industry.
  • So, industry continues to cross-subsidize these categories.
  • Two there is the problem of AT&C (aggregate transmission and distribution losses).
  • Underestimation of dues:The government’s PRAAPTI (or Payment Ratification and Analysis in Power procurement for bringing Transparency in Invoicing of generators) portal shows that Discom dues to generators are in range of one lakh crore rupees. The portal is a voluntary compilation of dues, and is not comprehensive.
  • Rise in Informal loans:Over the years, Discoms have delayed their payments upstream (not just to generators but others as well) — in essence, treating payables like an informal loan.

Way forward:

  • More Stimulus:There is a need a much larger liquidity infusion so that the entire electricity chain will not collapse
  • Improving AT&C lossesis important, but will not be sufficient. We need a complete overhaul of the regulation of electricity companies and their deliverables.
  • Rationalization of subsidieswhereby doling out of free electricity can be eliminated to those who do not deserve such support.
  • Realigning PPAs in the wake of renewable energy:In the interim, it may be prudent for the discoms to sign only medium-term PPAs, if at all, as most of the power transactions move to the power exchanges.
  • While there are regulatory bodies such as the Regulatory Commissions of the state (SERCs), which are largely responsible for ensuring that tariff revisions happen regularly and a DISCOMS recovers the money for the electricity that it supplies to each customer, this has not been that successful on the ground.
  • As a result, the DISCOMS are perennially short of funds, even to pay those supplying power to them, resulting in a cascading impact up the value chain.
  • DISCOMS must therefore, buy cost-efficient power for consumers, ensure supply reliability with quality by minimizing losses/leakages, accurately meter, bill, and collect payments from the consumers, and thereby, enable timely payments to the generators.
  • Measures for improving viability of distribution companies, including tariff rationalization and timely release of subsidies along with improved governance were also discussed.
  • Government’s announcement of the launch ofUDAY 2.0 which seeks installation of smart prepaid meters, prompt payment by discoms, making coal available for short term and reviving gas-based plants is a step in the right direction.
  • Formulation of pragmatic power tariff policy is the need of the hour because without a financially viable power sector and subsequently, socio-economic growth of India will suffer.

Conclusion:

The Indian government has vowed to provide 24X7 power supply to every village and every house in India. The fulfilment of this dream will rest upon a sustainable power sector. Therefore, the government should proactively address the concerns of these power distribution companies.

 

Topic: GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment

4. What are Micro finance Institutions? Discuss the impact of digitization on the growth of MFI sector while explaining the challenges associated with the sector. (250 words)

Reference: Financial Express 

Why the question:

The article explains the need for social impact monitoring of the MFIs in the country and the impact that digitization has had on their growth factor.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain what MFIs are and discuss the impact of digitization on the growth of MFI sector while explaining the challenges associated with the sector.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly explain what MFIs are; a microfinance institution is an organisation that offers financial services to low income populations.

Body:

Explain the role played by them; MFIs provide the much-needed aid to the economically underprivileged that would have otherwise been at the mercy of the local moneylender and high interest rates.

The model had its genesis as a poverty alleviation tool, focused on economic and social upliftment of the marginalized sections through lending of small amounts of money without any collateral to women for income-generating activities.

Then discuss the Digitalization and growth of MFI sector. Explain the challenges associated with MFI.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward that MFIs need to focus on creating a sustainable and scalable microfinance model with a mandate that is unequivocal about both economic and social good..

Introduction:

Micro Finance institutions are organisations who facilitate provision of thrift, credit and other financial services and products of very small amounts to the poor in rural, semi-urban and urban areas for enabling them to raise their income levels and improve their living standards.

Body:

Major Models of Microfinance initiatives

  • The Grameen Model:The Grameen model has been a case of exceptional success in Bangladesh. It turns out that many organizations in India have adopted the Grameen Bank model with little variations. Some of the notable examples are SHARE Microfinance Limited, Activists for Social Alternatives (ASA) and CASHPOR Financial and Technical Services Limited.
  • Self Help Groups (SHGs): An SHG is a group of five to 20 people from the same income category formed on principle of lending their own savings.  This model was popularized by NABARD’s SHG-Bank linkage programme.
  • Federated Self Help Groups (SHG federations):The Federation of SHGs brings together several SHGs. Compared to a single SHG; the federation of SHGs has more than 1000 members. Examples of Federated Self Help Group model in India are PRADAN, Chaitanya, SEWA and Dan Foundation.
  • Cooperative banks
  • Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAS). E.g.: Chit funds
  • Microfinance companies

Challenges of MFI:

  • Over-Indebtedness
    • The microfinance sector deals with marginalized sections of Indian society intending to improve their standard of living, and thus over-indebtedness poses a severe challenge to its growth.
  • Higher Interest Rates in Comparison to Mainstream Banks:
    • Microfinance Institutions charge a very high rate of interest (12-30%) when compared to commercial banks (8-12%). The regulatory authority RBI issued guidelines to remove the upper limit of 26% interest on MFI loans.
  • Widespread Dependence on Indian Banking System:
    • Because most microfinance institutions function as registered Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), they are dependent on financial institutions such as commercial banks for stabilized funding to carry out their own lending activities.
  • Inadequate Investment Validation
    • Investment valuation is a crucial capability for the healthy functioning of an MFI.
  • Lack of Enough Awareness of Financial Services in the Economy
    • A developing country in the making, India has a low literacy rate, which is still more moderate in its rural areas. A large chunk of the Indian population fails to understand the basic financial concepts.
  • Regulatory Issues
    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is the premier regulatory body for the microfinance industry in India. However, RBI more or less caters to commercial and traditional banks more than it helps MFIs. Most Indian MFIs follow the Self-Help Group model (SHG model) or the Joint Liability Group model (JLG model) of lending.

Impact of digitization upon MFI:

  • It allows MFIs to increase revenues and reduce costs: McKinsey estimate that financial institutions’ digital transformation could add 45% to their annual net revenues. The International Finance Corporation calculates that it reduces the annual cost to serve a customer by 80%, and an 18% reduction in the cost-to-income ratio.
  • Opportunity to leverage relationship banking in coordination with customers. For Eg: Effective grievance redressal of customers to promote citizen centric governance of MFI, through digital medium.
  • Allows MFIs to provide personalized customer experience. Traditional financial institutions need to be cognizant of the changing demographic and cultural context, namely the rise of millennials and mobile-first generation, to develop and deliver first-class personalized user-experience.
  • Provides the opportunity to deliver services with a stronger social purpose. For Eg: Equitable wealth distribution.

Conclusion:

Recent Development of Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN) which is credit protocol infrastructure, will mediate the interactions between loan service providers, usually fintech and mainstream lenders, including all large banks, NBFCs and MFIs. This will promote Transparency accountability and citizen centric governance.

 


General Studies – 3


 

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

5. Discuss the concept of climate feedback loops and critically examine their impact on future climate of the world. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

The question is premised on the concept of climate feedback loops and their impact on climate change.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the concept in detail while explaining its impact on climate change in the coming future.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Climate change feedback is important in the understanding of global warming because feedback processes may amplify or diminish the effect of each climate forcing, and so play an important part in determining the climate sensitivity and future climate state.

Body:

Climate feedback loops are “processes that can either amplify or diminish the effects of climate forcing.” (“Forcings” here are the initial drivers of our climate – things like solar irradiance, GHG emissions, and airborne particles like dust, smoke, and soot that come from both human and natural sources and impact our climate.)

Use examples from the article and explain the negative impact that such feedback loops can have on climate change in near future.

Conclusion:

Conclude with need to address the concerns with urgency.

Introduction:

Climate change feedback is feedback processes that may amplify or diminish the effect of each climate forcing, and so play an important part in determining the climate sensitivity and future climate state. Feedback in general is the process in which changing one quantity changes a second quantity, and the change in the second quantity in turn changes the first. Positive (or reinforcing) feedback amplifies the change in the first quantity while negative (or balancing) feedback reduces it.

Average surface air temperatures over India could rise by up to 4.4°C by the end of the century as compared to the period between 1976 and 2005.

Body:

Impact of Climate Feedback:

  • Arctic methane release: Warming is also the triggering variable for the release of carbon (potentially as methane) in the arctic.
  • Incidences of heat wave over the country could also increase by three to four times. Their duration of occurrence might also increase which was already witnessed by the country in 2019.
  • methane hydrate, is a form of water ice that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure. Extremely large deposits of methane clathrate have been found under sediments on the sea and ocean floors of Earth.
  • Abrupt increase in atmospheric methane:  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) have considered the possibility of future projected climate change leading to a rapid increase in atmospheric methane.
  • soils are likely to experience greater rates of respiration and decomposition, limiting the carbon storage abilities of tropical soils.
  • tropical rainforests, are particularly vulnerable to global warming. There are a number of effects which may occur, but two are particularly concerning.
  • IPCC Fourth Assessment Report predicts that many mid-latitude regions, such as Mediterranean Europe, will experience decreased rainfall and an increased risk of drought, which in turn would allow forest fires to occur on larger scale, and more regularly.

Desertification:

  • Desertification is a consequence of global warming in some environments. Desert soils contain little humus, and support little vegetation. As a result, transition to desert ecosystems is typically associated with excursions of carbon.
  •  chemical equilibrium of the Earth’s carbon cycle will shift in response to anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The primary driver of this is the ocean, which absorbs anthropogenic CO2.

At present this accounts for only about one third of the current emissions, but ultimately most (~75%) of the CO2 emitted by human activities will dissolve in the ocean over a period of centuries.

  • Chemical weathering over the geological long term acts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. With current global warming, weathering is increasing, demonstrating significant feedbacks between climate and Earth surface.
  • Biosequestration also captures and stores CO2 by biological processes. The formation of shells by organisms in the ocean, over a very long time, removes CO2 from the oceans.

Net primary productivity

  • Net primary productivity changes in response to increased CO2, as plants photosynthesis increased in response to increasing concentrations. However, this effect is swamped by other changes in the biosphere due to global warming.
  • Ice loss. Due to the strong positive feedback of the ice albedo, if enough ice melts, causing Earth’s surface to absorb more and more heat, then we may hit a point of no return. Shrinking ice sheets contribute to sea level rise. Many hundreds of millions of people live near a coast, so our ability to predict sea level rise over the next century has substantial human and economic ramifications.

Way Ahead: 

  • Increasing contributions from renewable sources and improvements in energy efficiencies would be a start but will not be sufficient.
  • Need for major changes in technological innovation, behaviour, values and governance as this is an unprecedented challenge for humanity.
  • Modifying the energy balance would be needed alongside developing ways for people to adapt to living in a warmer world.
  • Deep cuts in GHG emissions, increasing carbon sinks, removing atmospheric CO2 and even deflecting solar radiation could help in reducing temperatures.
  • Way Ahead -Increasing contributions from renewable sources and improvements in energy efficiencies would be a start but will not be sufficient.
  • There should instead be major changes in technological innovation, behaviour, values and governance as this is an unprecedented challenge for humanity.
  • Notably, modifying the energy balance would be needed alongside developing ways for people to adapt to living in a warmer world.
  • Deep cuts in GHG emissions, increasing carbon sinks, removing atmospheric CO2 and even deflecting solar radiation could help in reducing temperatures.

Conclusion:

Mitigation addresses the root causes, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while adaptation seeks to lower the risks posed by the consequences of climatic changes like sea-level encroachment, more intense extreme weather events or food insecurity. Both the measures are equally important to address the issue of climate change holistically.

 

Topic : GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

6. Examine the option of biofuel as a potential alternative to farm fires in the country. (250 words)

Reference: Financial Express 

Why the question:

The article brings to us the discourse on stubble burning and Biofuels as a potential alternative solution to address the issue.

Key Demand of the question:

One has to analyse the option of biofuel as a potential alternative to farm fires in the country.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

First discuss the issue at hand – the Farm fires.

Body:

Over the last 25 years, conservation cropping, which includes reduced soil cultivation and retention of crop stubble, has continued to evolve. More and more farmers recognise the benefits in terms of productivity and sustainability. Notwithstanding this, strategic burning of stubbles, based on sound agronomic principles, may occasionally be a valid option. Stubble management is one of many complex issues that farmers must contend with.

Discuss the ill-effects of stubble burning/farm fires. Take hints from the article and explain in what way bio-fuels are potential options.

Conclusion:

Conclude with potential and importance.

Introduction:

According to the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor, SAFAR, the farm fire count around Haryana, Punjab, and neighbouring border regions is very high. Any hydrocarbon fuel that is produced from an organic matter (living or once living material) in a short period of time (days, weeks, or even months) is considered a biofuel.

Body:

Need for Farm waste based Biofuels:

  • MNRE supported ‘pilot projects’ of manure to bio-CNG. Task forces made recommendations on farm waste to advanced biofuels.
  • mulching carbon-rich stubble impacts soil’s carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, necessitating proper nitrogenous fertiliser management, apart from potential surface accumulation of potassium (which is less mobile than nitrogen).
  • Processing to biofuels: The full spectrum of solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels would take time to implement, to commercialise technologies across the full value chain.

Biofuels can be developed through Farm Waste:

  • Solid biofuels: These comprise briquettes and pellets. Briquettes are fired in industrial boilers or combustors, but the demand in Punjab and Haryana is not high. Pellets can be co-fired in utility-range boilers, and the NTPC has issued Expression of Interest (EoI) for 5 million tonnes of pellets (at the rate of Rs 5,500-6,000 per tonne) for firing in 17 of their power plants.
  • Liquid biofuels: These encompass bioethanol, drop-in fuels, bio-oil and bio-methanol. The current focus is on 2G ethanol. Oil marketing companies (OMCs) have announced 12 2G ethanol projects, each rated at 100 kl per day, needing 1,50,000 tonnes/year stubble.
  • Gaseous biofuels: These encompass producer gas, biogas, green hydrogen, etc. The current focus is on biogas upgraded to bio-CNG, with the co-product being compost.
  • This matter requires serious consideration by the MoP&NG and the earliest revision of bio-CNG offtake rates as well as issuing ‘bankable’ offtake agreement for 15 years, to facilitate low-cost project financing. It’s imperative that India adopts a technology-agnostic policy for promoting advanced biofuels.

Challenges:

  • investor response has been muted, as the production of pellets is capital intensive, coupled with high energy and operation & maintenance costs, apart from stubble bale costs, for year-round operations.
  •  It’s also a moot point as to whether the NTPC can better deploy the Rs 2,000 crore annual incremental cost (for displacing grade E coal by 5 million tonnes of pellets).
  • Lack of Competitive market orientation in technology development.
  • Lack of Infrastructure development
  • Promotion of the use of biofuels can reduce stubble burning.
  • Reduce stubble burning lead to reduced air pollution.
  • Use of Farm based sources for biofuel, promotes efficient farm management, without affecting food security.
  • Promotion of the use of biofuels in transportation in the countries like India will help in reducing the crude import bill.
  • Biofuels can help in rural and agricultural development in the form of new cash crops.
  • Efforts for producing sustainable biofuels should be made by ensuring use of wastelands and municipal wastes that get generated in cities.
  • A properly designed and implemented biofuel solution can provide both food and energy.
  • A community-based biodiesel distribution programme that benefits local economies, from the farmers growing the feedstock to local businesses producing and distributing the fuel to the end consumer, can be tried.

Conclusion:

National Policy on Biofuels must allow the use of farm waste for production of Ethanol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee, to promote equitable and sustainable development.

 


General Studies – 4


 

Topic : Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information,

7. What is the objective of the Right to Information Act? Evaluate the ethics underlying the provisions of this Act.(250 words)

Reference: jstor.org

Why the question:

The question is about RTI and the underlying ethical perspectives.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the objectives of RTI and evaluate the ethics underlying the provisions of this Act.

Directive:

Evaluate – When you are asked to evaluate, you have to pass a sound judgement about the truth of the given statement in the question or the topic based on evidences.  You have to appraise the worth of the statement in question. There is scope for forming a personal opinion here.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start by explaining the background of RTI.

Body:

Explain briefly the provisions of RTI Act 2005. The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.

Discuss then the salient features of it.

Then discuss the underlying ethical perspectives, explain the benefits such as how it leads to greater good governance.

Conclusion:

Conclude with importance.

Introduction:

Right to Information Act was passed to empower citizens to obtain their fundamental and human right to information to abide by the essence of Social Contract.

Body:

Objectives of Right to Information Act:

  • To empower the citizens
  • To promote transparency and accountability
  • To contain corruption and
  • To enhance people’s participation in democratic process.

Reasons for Adoption of Information Act:

  • Corruption and scandals
  • International pressure and activism
  • Modernization and the information society

Ethicality of RTI:

  • RTI Act, 2005 did not create a new bureaucracy for implementing the law.Instead, it tasked and mandated officials in every office to change their attitude and duty from one of secrecy to one of sharing and openness.
  • Promoted for qualitative standards of Delivery
  • Right to information has been seen as the key to strengthening participatory democracyand ushering in people centred governance.
  • Access to informationcan empower the poor and the weaker sections of society to demand and get information about public policies and actions, thereby leading to their welfare. It showed an early promise by exposing wrongdoings at high places, such as in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, and the allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks.
  • Right to information opens up government’s records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable.
  • Improves decision making by public authorityby removing unnecessary secrecy.
  • Transparency: public records are now open to public scrutiny.
  • Accountability: Anyone can visit a public office and ask for any public information
  • Openness: Earlier public records were only for official purposes.
  • Informed citizenry: the preamble of RTI highlights the importance of informed citizenry for democracy
  • Check on corruption: RTI has acted as a strong deterrent against the corrupt practice due to increased public scrutiny of the acts of the bureaucrats.
  • Rule of Law: Upholding of Rule of Law by providing qualified standards of services as promised by government.
  • Democratize good governance: Promote participatory democracy.
  • Respect of Minority Rights: Development of Trust among masses, especially vulnerable sections.
  • Promote Equitability and inclusiveness.

Way Forward:

  • Open Data Policy:Government institutions should put all disclosable information on their respective websites.
    • Also, a system needs to be put in to weed out such duplicate cases.
  • Preventing Misuse of RTI:RTI misuse can be prevented by introducing the reason knowing provision for filing the petition.
  • Balancing with Privacy Right:Another right of a citizen protected under the Constitution is the right to privacy. This right is enshrined within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution.
    • Thus, the right to information has to be balanced with the right to privacy within the framework of law.
  • Increasing Public Awareness:This can be done by the launch of awareness campaigns through Radio, Television and Print Media various regional languages in rural areas.
    • A chapter on RTI Act, 2005 should be added in school/college curriculum.
    • Central/State Information Commissions should be provided with sufficient funds for creating awareness about RTI Act, 2005.

Conclusion:

Every progressive society strives towards good governance. Development of RTI is the measure of the efficiency of any administration and in a democracy, as the citizens elect their representatives upon this assurance of good governance and promote transparent accountable governance.


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