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General Studies – 1
Reference: Hindustan Times
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already existing gender inequalities with substantial implications on women. With the closure of offices and educational institutions, and the emerging norm of work from home and online education, along with the lack of services of domestic worker, the need to perform unpaid chores in the household has increased. Simultaneously, the requirements of social distancing and sanitization have created new unpaid chores. Owing to the sexual division of labour, and gendered roles and social norms of performing domestic and care work, the burden of unpaid work falls disproportionately on women.
Changing urban life and Unpaid housework scenario for women:
- despite an increase in the time spent for everyone on unpaid work, the burden has increased more for women
- The term unpaid work, as given by the International Labour Organization, is the ‘non-remunerated work carried out to sustain the well-being and maintenance of other individuals in a household or the community, and it includes both direct and indirect care (i.e. routine housework)’.
- The ILO estimates show that time spent in unpaid work accounted for ‘16.4 billion hours per day, with women contributing more than three-fourths of the total’ which is ‘equivalent to 2.0 billion people working on a full-time basis without pay’.
- In India, women spend an average of 351.9 min/day on unpaid work as compared to an average of 51.8 min/day by men.
- In addition, data show that time spent on total paid and unpaid work by women in India is 536.6 min/day as compared to an average of 442.3 min/day being spent by men.
- This implies that for women engaged in paid employment, the drudgery of unpaid work is so high that they work longer than men.
- the 2019 National Statistical office survey that states 92% women in India take part in unpaid domestic work in homes in comparison to 27% of men.
Reasons for the such high instances of unpaid work in India:
- Marriage and domestic arrangements still remain deeply caste endogamy-based or arranged despite processes of urbanisation or more mobility for work purposes.
- Low divorce rates do not necessarily indicate happy marriages, but rather the deep economic and social pressures which create the inability to leave a marriage.
- For women, it is connected as much with stigma as with economic insecurity and the absence of housing if parents are unwelcoming.
- Equal sharing of domestic responsibilities remains a far cry in most households and women still continue to bear the burden of child and elder care, caring for the sick and the disabled, besides cooking, cleaning or gathering.
Case-study: Online Work and Education for women in Urban areas:
Along with the restrictions on mobility, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the office spaces and classrooms to the homes of the people, meaning that individuals who would go out of their homes into the professional spaces for the purpose of income earning or educational opportunities now spend more time at home doing the same activities. Young people who were living away from their hometowns in pursuit of education and jobs have also returned to their homes due to the flexibility of performing these activities from within the house. This implies that the services including buying cooked meals and snacks, the entire process of cooking, and finally cleaning the dishes that were earlier purchased to facilitate working and studying are now to be procured within the house. Furthermore, the activities like laundry and cleaning the house which were earlier performed by domestic workers for a wage while the members of the household were allocating the same time for other activities, for example, preparing for office, are now to be performed by the members of the household at a time that does not conflict with the office hours. Thus, the norms of work from home and online education increased the demand for services that were earlier purchased both within and outside the household, and are to be now performed without pay during the lockdown, therefore increasing the burden of unpaid work which is gendered in nature.
Over a period of time, attempts have been made to incorporate women’s domestic labour into the domain of economics as well as to analyse it as a form of work comparable with paid work. The sustainable development goals (SDG) recognize the importance of unpaid care and domestic work through public services, infrastructure, and social protection policies as well as shared responsibility within the household (Target 5.4). Therefore, by performing these unpaid works, women subsidize the market and also reduce the burden of the State.
- Existing patriarchal norms pose a significant constraint to the take-up of public or market services.
- Addressing the issue of childcare and flexible work could help initiate positive social norms that encourage the redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work burden.
- A huge spectrum of women’s skilled but unpaid work contributes directly to the economy. Yet, its devaluation by not being accounted for ‘work’ weakens women’s status, leading to their vulnerability.
- Sharing the responsibilities of childcare can be difficult in a culture where parental leave is given only to the mother.
- This further reinforces the notion that unpaid care work is the sole responsibility of the women.
- The government has a crucial role to play in promoting gender equality by ensuring equality of opportunity in public services.
- However, these solutions will have a limited impact unless the behavioural change of each and every individual is targeted.
Indian society is represented by a set of local cultural traits like local languages, different food choices, dressing styles, classical music, family structure, cultural values, etc. There has been a growing sense of insecurity among the Indian masses regarding the gradual degradation or loss of our local identity. This gradual loss of local identity is popularly attributed to globalization that creates a global culture in which the local identity is amalgamated to bring a homogenous culture throughout the world. E.g.: Many languages of India are endangered and some even extinct.
Loss of local identity for the global identity:
- Westernization of values and culture: Nuclear families and lowering familial ties are making the elderly disempowered.
- English domination: Under the growing trends of convert culture in education and service based economy, English education has developed rapidly at the cost of several vernacular languages.
- Loss of moral education for advanced commercial education: The growing disorientation between morality and higher education is the greatest demolition of our identity. E.g.: Panchatantra morals are no longer taught in the primary schools in India.
- Loss of collective identity for individualism: With rise in metropolitan of Indian population, the individualism is growing and the social relations are now based on commercial benefits.
- Traditional food choices waning: With the rise of chain restaurants and hotels, the food choice of Indian youth has inclined towards the Italian and Chinese fast foods. This has caused foods that are comparatively healthy and rich in nutrients.
- Institution of marriage: The growing acceptance to the live-in-relationship has questioned the sanctity of the institution of marriage in our society. This represents the dominance of western culture and the Indian way of living.
Yet due to globalisation, there is also increasing awareness regarding Indian culture and the willingness to preserve it even abroad by the diaspora.
- Indian festivals are now being celebrated all across the world: The most significant example is the Diya stamps issued by UNO to celebrate Diwali. Even a local religious festival of Chhath Puja is celebrated in Silicon Valley, USA.
- Observance of International Yoga Day on 21st June: This has popularized Yoga throughout the globe.
- Food habits: McDonald adapted to Indian style by including a vegetarian menu.
- Music: The fusion of Indo western music is a good amalgamation of Indian as well as western identity. Indian classical music is being liked all across the world and it is appreciated at Berklee school of music. SPIC MACAY, an NGO has promoted the Indian classical music and culture among youth across the world
- Joint family cycle reverting back to joint family,
- Increasing global tourists are visiting India to explore its rich cultural heritage.
Culture is an ever-evolving entity which constantly changes through diffusion and amalgamation. We should embrace our cultural identity and values and it is our duty to preserve our cultural identity hand in hand with global identity.
General Studies – 2
3. Emergence of Quad-2.0 as an Arc of democracies is a must for a better and more sustainable model of global democratic governance to counter the drawbacks of the Chinese model. Elaborate. (250 words)
Reference: Indian Express
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) of four countries, Japan, the US, Australia and India, was formed in 2007 with the initiative coming from Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. It is touted as an alliance to contain China’s expansionist policies and aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi participated, along with Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga and President of U.S.A. Joseph R. Biden, in the first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework, being held virtually on 12th March 2021.
The aim of the Quad is to support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region that China seeks to threaten.
Chinese expansionist policy
- India-China fault lines: At the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, China has violated the status quo intruding into territory that is clearly on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control, or LAC.
- Taiwan-China conflict: Island encirclement against Taiwan and forceful takeover are becoming more of a reality considering Chinese navy and air force activities in the region.
- Hong-Kong unrest: The ‘one country two systems’ in Hong Kong is dead and with it, the pretence that the same could be applied for the peaceful unification of Taiwan.
- Eg: Extension of national security law to Hong-Kong and recent warning to Taiwan on possibility of war if it shores up defence weapons.
- South China Sea: China claims 90% of south China sea as its sovereign territory, continuously terrorising Vietnam, Philippines wrt Paracel and Spratly islands.
- Belt and Road initiative:
- String of Pearls: China has security and economic compulsions to develop its bases in India Ocean Region (IOR) to secure its communication lines. Its eagerness to establish China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is to develop strategic communication alternatives
- Salami Slicing: Continuously nibbling at neighbours’ land, at times even claiming an entire area on some dubious historicity, it successively builds up its military control over areas vital to its overall strategic designs. The annexation of Aksai Chin in the 1950s and repeated Chinese incursions into Indian territory are the executions of the same strategy.
Significance of the QUAD grouping:
- Quad is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest.
- Members share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security.
- It is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the US and should not be seen in an exclusive context.
- Free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large.
- Tackle common challenges of terrorism and proliferation
- Upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and respect for international law, freedom of navigation and overflight.
- Cooperation “to curtail DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)’s nuclear and missile programmes and unlawful acts.
- Involving the U.S. and Japan in development projects in South Asia will yield the necessary finances.
Role of QUAD in containing China
The recent meeting of the Quad in Tokyo clearly spelt out their intention to put a stop to the expansionist tendencies of China.
- Indian ocean and China’s trade: Beijing has emerged as the most important trading partner of the Indian Ocean region, accounting for1% of its total goods trade in 2017, up from 4.8% in 2000.
- In November 2020, the Quad conducted Malabar Naval drills in the Indian Ocean. In response, China affirmed that the activities of the Quad do not affect it; however, it is actually keeping a close eye on it for its trade security.
- Countering BRI: The BRI promises economic security but not human security by providing funds to developing countries with a debt trap.
- Herein, the Quad can play a vital role as it is a group of democratic countries.
- It should provide a choice to the nations as to where they want to borrow the money for development purposes from and also be a part of the supply chain.
- Conducting patrols: Quad members can frequently venture into South China sea to ensure international free and open navigation is upheld.
- Military exercise: A number of joint naval and air exercises have been undertaken by regional countries not only amongst themselves, but also with other powers specially the US and the UK.
- The aim is to practise inter-operability of fighting equipment and manpower against a common enemy along with joint tactics and cooperation to meet a common military goal.
- The aim is to send a firm message to China, that its days of expansionism are coming to an end.
- The prime context behind Quad 2.0 is Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR), which is an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under Xi Jinping.
QUAD is, through its intent, a label, a geostrategic vision and a foreign policy instrument for India to balance China via global networking. When a tipping point is reached, it provides scope for the forging of an alliance amongst the world’s most formidable militaries. Until then, the QUAD’s future as a platform for multilateral engagement is secure. Owing to India’s presence and impact in South Asia the neighbourhood first policy should not take backseat.
4. India registers a high number of gestational diabetes cases, which are bound to increase in the future, in this context discuss the causes and challenges associated in managing it and suggest a way forward. (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
Gestational diabetes is diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy (gestation). Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that up to 25% of pregnancies in South Asia may be affected by hyperglycaemia in pregnancy. In India it varies from about 10% in rural areas to about 30% in urban areas. Given that there are approximately 2.7 crore to 3 crore pregnancies each year in India and assuming a modest gestational diabetes rate of 10%, this means that about 27 lakhs to 30 lakh women develop it each year.
- Researchers don’t yet know why some women get gestational diabetes and others don’t.
- Excess weight before pregnancy often plays a role.
- Normally, various hormones work to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
- But during pregnancy, hormone levels change, making it harder for your body to process blood sugar efficiently.
- This makes your blood sugar rise.
- Gestational diabetes is associated with significantly increased risk of complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia (fits during pregnancy), prolonged and obstructed labour, need for assisted delivery, postpartum haemorrhage and sepsis, stillbirths, premature delivery, increased risk of neonatal deaths due to respiratory distress, neonatal hypoglycaemia and birth injuries.
- All these conditions contribute to high maternal and new born morbidity and mortality.
- If a woman gets gestational diabetes, it is easier to identify her as being at risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- Almost half the women with gestational diabetes go on to develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years without preventive care.
- Children born to women with gestational diabetes are also at very high risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
- Eat healthy foods.Choose foods high in fibre and low in fat and calories. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without compromising taste or nutrition. Watch portion sizes.
- Keep active.Exercising before and during pregnancy can help protect you from developing gestational diabetes. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. Short bursts of activity — such as parking further away from the store when you run errands or taking a short walk break — all add up too.
- Start pregnancy at a healthy weight.If you’re planning to get pregnant, losing extra weight beforehand may help you have a healthier pregnancy. Focus on making lasting changes to your eating habits that can help you through pregnancy, such as eating more vegetables and fruits.
- Don’t gain more weight than recommended.Gaining some weight during pregnancy is normal and healthy. But gaining too much weight too quickly can up your risk of gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor what a reasonable amount of weight gain is for you.
- Get Tested for Diabetes after Pregnancy. Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and then every 1 to 3 years. For most women with gestational diabetes, the diabetes goes away soon after delivery. When it does not go away, the diabetes is called type 2 diabetes. Even if the diabetes does go away after the baby is born, half of all women who had gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later. It’s important for a woman who has had gestational diabetes to continue to exercise and eat a healthy diet after pregnancy to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes. She should also remind her doctor to check her blood sugar every 1 to 3 years.
Addressing gestational diabetes has an impact at three levels: it will help lower maternal and new born morbidity and mortality; reduce the risk of future diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in women with gestational diabetes; and possibly break the chain of ‘diabetes begetting diabetes’ by addressing the issue of trans-generational transmission. Being conceived by healthy parents and born to a mother in good health is the best gift a child can receive as this provides a health advantage. To build a healthy future for the nation, this becomes very important.
General Studies – 3
Reference: Business Standard
Prime minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced investment opportunities worth ₹2.5 trillion in the national asset monetisation pipeline mentioned in the Budget through sale of around 100 assets of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs).
National monetisation Pipeline
- The target is to monetize around 100 assets in oil, gas, port, airport, railways and power sectors to raise about Rs 90,000 crore in the current financial year. For instance, the Indian Railways has approximately 43,000 hectares of vacant land across the country and many road projects are in the pipeline for monetization as well.
- The government is increasingly looking to monetize physical assets such as land, buildings and brownfield operational assets like roads, railways stations, pipelines, mobile towers, etc. to raise resources in recent times.
- In addition, the Ministry of Shipping is in the process of recycling 11 assets, including 10 berths and the International Cruise Terminal at Goa Port. While in the telecom sector, BSNL and MTNL towers are planned to be monetized.
Review of previous asset monetization exercises
- Learnings from past success: Since 2016, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been deploying the Toll-Operate-Transfer (TOT) model for asset monetization in the highways sector.
- Furthermore, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has already completed the privatization of six identified airports (Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur, and Guwahati).
- The railway station redevelopment program was among the initial projects which involved monetization of physical assets.
- As part of this initiative, Habibganj and Gandhinagar railway stations are being redeveloped into airport-like world class stations by the Indian Railways Station Development Corporation (IRSDC)
- Learnings of the past failures: The government has faced many challenges in its asset monetization efforts in the past.
- Lack of proper maintenance of asset register and title and encroachment issues have adversely affected the Indian Railways’ plan to monetize its land.
- Furthermore, the progress of the flagship railway station redevelopment program has been marred by improper planning including land unavailability, delayed approvals and clearances, policy constraints and lack of coordination among stakeholders.
- The current market conditions and legacy real estate industry issues could further impact the progress.
- In the roads sector, refinancing remains an issue considering the long-term nature of the TOT concessions despite the model providing more certainty of cash flows to the investors than under the greenfield projects.
- So far, the TOT model has witnessed limited participation in all its previous packages or bundles.
- Further, the unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19 which has severely impacted the toll collections could delay the asset monetization plan of NHAI.
- Clarity on the number, size and type of assets that would come to the market would instill confidence among investors who are looking to acquire a specific package or category of assets.
Measures to make National Monetization Pipeline a success
- NITI Aayog has therefore suggested the creation of an Empowered Group of Secretaries for fast approval and clearances under the railway station redevelopment program.
- An underlying objective of asset monetization is to raise resources for future investments into the sector. The Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) model which provides a way for recycling of capital invested in operational assets in an efficient manner, could be adopted to achieve the desired objective.
- In the power sector, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) has recently approved monetization of the transmission assets of the state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) through InvIT model.
- Another advantage of this model is that it would attract both domestic and global investors, including sovereign wealth funds, retail investors and institutional investors such as pension funds.
Monetization of public assets is a complex and rigorous process that involves stakeholders’ management, efficient coordination, and detailed due diligence of the technical, operational and financial aspects of the assets. Successful implementation of the monetization exercise will ease the burden on existing projects, enable asset value unlocking, and propel economic growth. As a way forward, asset monetization could be a game changer for the infrastructure investment in India.
6. The governments should upkeep and encourage alternate fuel technologies to aid climate action commitments but should also spur the economy and ensure environmental sustainability at the same time. Comment. (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
India’s dependency on fossil fuels to meet its growing energy demands has been on the decline owing to their limited supply and concerns about associated pollutants. Having ratified the Paris Climate Agreement of November 2016, this supports India’s commitment to transition to a low carbon economy.
Alternative fuels, known as non-conventional and advanced fuels, are any materials or substances that can be used as fuels, other than conventional fuels like; fossil fuels (petroleum (oil), coal, and natural gas), as well as nuclear materials such as uranium and thorium, as well as artificial radioisotope fuels that are made in nuclear reactors.
Recent years have seen a marked shift towards the use of cleaner and safer fuels, moving away from conventional fossil-based fuels. For India, which imports about 84 percent of its energy needs in the form of fossil fuels, it is becoming imperative to diversify its energy sources to ensure sustainable economic growth. However, what is driving the change is the growing awareness about health concerns from the pollution emitted by conventional fossil fuels. In fact, the ongoing country-wide lockdown due to coronavirus has helped bring about substantial improvement in the air quality across India, particularly in New Delhi and some automotive hubs.
Some well-known alternative fuels include bio-diesel, bio-alcohol (methanol, ethanol, butane), refuse-derived fuel, chemically stored electricity (batteries and fuel cells), hydrogen, non-fossil methane, non-fossil natural gas, vegetable oil, propane and other biomass sources.
Taking into account the feasibility, emission benefits and other logistics, the following issues may be considered for exploring any new alternative fuels in the country:
- The need for creation of a National Alternative Fuels Coalition (NAFC) is increasingly felt now.
- The coalition should have participation from all concerned agencies and ministries including automobile manufacturers, refiners, NGOs, etc.
- The long-term policy goals should be neutral to all types of vehicle fuels, both conventional fuels and alternative fuels. Fuel options may be many but choice of use should always be the users’ preference.
- Availability of surplus conventional fuels outstripping the demand should not become a market barrier for introduction of alternative fuels.
- Pre-requisites like proper retail-fuelling infrastructure, toxicological study of the fuels, demand supply logistics; legislative and regulatory formalities should be accomplished well in advance prior to lunching a new fuel.
- Temporary financial incentives for both the public and private sectors can help push the marketplace to develop an alternative fuelling infrastructure and offer a greater variety of fuels for sale.
- Information dissemination with regard to the merits and demerits of alternative fuels play an important role in promotion of the fuel. Intensive public awareness campaigns need to be initiated by the responsible institutions to educate the common public regarding the facts and myths of alternative fuels.
Reference: The Hindu
Ever since India introduced the Goods and Services Tax, debates have been going on about the need to bring petrol, diesel, ATF, natural gas and crude oil within the ambit of the GST. With rising fuel prices, the debates have become more heated.
Viability for the government to include petroleum products under GST:
- The recommendation of the Finance Commission to re-examine the GST rate structure has provided an impetus to include these products in the general discussion on taxation under GST.
- In this context, two views have been hogging the limelight. First, a report by SBI economists makes a case for bringing the products under GST at 28 per cent with some cesses thrown in and presents the gain as a decline in the prices for consumers.
- Even if petrol and diesel are taxed at the highest GST slab of 28%, it would be lower than taxes already being paid and result in lower retail prices, helping consumers.
- Also, those industries which might be using them as inputs could claim input tax credit if these are bought under GST.
- Second, some State finance ministers have agreed to accept this change, conditional on compensation for any revenue loss. Underlying these two views is the notion that the idea is inherently acceptable — the only question being one of revenues or of timing the reform.
Challenges faced by government
- By being able to levy VAT on these products, the state governments have control over their revenues. Bringing petroleum under GST takes away that control as the Centre is the one in charge of fixing the rate of GST.
- Another issue is the rate of VAT on petrol and diesel varies wildly amongst states. While Maharashtra charges up to 40% on petrol, while Andaman and Nicobar charge just 6%.
- Levying a standard rate of GST on petrol would mean that the prices increase dramatically in Andaman and Nicobar, but on the flip side, they would fall in Maharashtra if the cumulative rate is lower than the current rate.
- The current high petrol and diesel prices come at a time when overall revenue collections from GST have been erratic.
- Taking an excise duty cut now will add further pressure on government revenues. A Rs2 a litre excise cut in petrol and diesel in October meant revenue loss of about Rs26,000 crore in a full year to the government.
- India could also explore the possibility where the VAT continues (being a state levy) and instead of central excise, GST is charged.
- This will help because, states will continue to get their VAT revenue and a GST levy (instead of excise duty) will enable the businesses to get input tax credit.
- Some tax experts and economists reckon that since an impact on revenues is inevitable if there’s an excise duty cut, the government should seriously contemplate including petrol and diesel under the ambit of GST.