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
In India, 21.9% of the population lives below the national poverty line as per the 2011 Census. The cause of poverty is generally attributed to population growth, agriculturist society, lack of education among others. However, according to sociologists, the structure of the society is such that some are made to do jobs that forces them to be in poverty.
As Aristotle said, from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule. This seems to be the case in India, where jobs of manual scavenging etc still exists to reinforce poverty.
Structure of the society reinforces poverty
- Functionalist theory assumes that society’s structures and processes exist because they serve important functions for society’s stability and continuity. In line with this view, functionalist theorists in sociology assume that stratification exists because it also serves important functions for society. This theory leads to several assumptions as follows: –
- Some jobs are more important than other jobs. For example, the job of a brain surgeon is more important than the job of shoe shining.
- Some jobs require more skills and knowledge than other jobs. To stay with our example, it takes more skills and knowledge to perform brain surgery than to shine shoes.
- Relatively few people have the ability to acquire the skills and knowledge that are needed to do these important, highly skilled jobs. Most of us would be able to do a decent job of shining shoes, but very few of us would be able to become brain surgeons.
- To encourage the people with the skills and knowledge to do the important, highly skilled jobs, society must promise them higher incomes or other rewards. If this is true, some people automatically end up higher in society’s ranking system than others, and stratification is thus necessary and inevitable.
- The functionalist view assumes that people move up the economic ladder based on their abilities, skills, knowledge, and, more generally, their merit. This implies that if they do not move up the ladder, they lack the necessary merit.
- The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index-2018 released by the UN noted that 271 million people moved out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16 in India. The poverty rate in the country has nearly halved, falling from 55% to 28% over the ten-year period. Still a big part of the population in india is living Below the Poverty Line.
- Rapid economic growth and the use of technology for social sector programs have helped make a significant dent in extreme poverty in the country.
- Realistic Assessment of the present situation of poverty in the country in need of the hour.
- Direct income transfer to needy is an immediate solution.
- Taxing wealth of rich people to fund amelioration of poor in the country.
- By improving social infrastructure and job opportunities in rural areas, migration to urban areas can be decreased, and thus urban poverty can also be decreased.
- Investment in Agriculture by the government is necessary to decrease rural poverty. Subsidies address only short-term issues. Also, there is a need to develop technologies, with the help of which farmers can practice all- weather agriculture.
- Investment in infrastructure, overall, is needed to reduce the cost of utilities. China did so and witnessed the huge fall in the number of people in the poor category. More initiatives like Ayushman Bharat, that empower people, are required.
Despite rapid growth and development, an unacceptably high proportion of our population continues to suffer from severe and multidimensional deprivation. Thus, a more comprehensive and inclusive approach is required to eradicate poverty in India. This will be more important in a post-pandemic world.
General Studies – 2
Reference: The Hindu
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
It has been at the forefront of coordinating global response against the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the role and its response were criticized for being inadequate.
Criticism against WHO in handling Pandemic
- Lack of preparedness: The WHO already had access to data and years of subsequent research about the SARS outbreak.
- A research paper in 2007 had already warned against the mutable nature of the virus coupled with China’s rapid urbanisation, proximity to exotic animals and refusal to tackle illegal wildlife trade.
- In 2015, the coronavirus family of diseases was selected to be included in a list of priorities requiring urgent research and development.
- It was earmarked as a primary contender for emerging diseases likely to cause a major epidemic. ▪ This assessment was reiterated in WHO’s 2018 annual review of prioritised diseases.
- Delay in declaration: WHO has been criticised for its unexplained delay in declaring COVID 19 as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ (PHEIC).
- Various governments across the world reached out to the WHO for an advisory, but the WHO emergency committee was split on whether to declare a PHEIC.
- WHO did not take any decision and stated that “the focus is not so much on the numbers”. ▪ It finally had to declare once the confirmed cases had increased tenfold across 18 countries.
- Subsequently, WHO also delayed its declaration as a ‘pandemic, especially when the COVID 19 was exhibiting the characteristics of a pandemic, i.e. spreading rapidly around the world.
- Indecision in visiting China: The WHO did show any urgency in sending an investigation team to China. A joint WHO-Chinese team went to Wuhan only in mid-February.
- Exclusion of Taiwan: Since China acceded to the UN in 1971, it has periodically blocked Taiwan’s WHO membership on the grounds that the democratically governed island is part of China.
- The WHO’s continued support to the “One China” principle, which recognizes the government in Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government, became a crucial hurdle in dealing with the pandemic.
- Delay in acknowledging human-to-human transmission of the virus especially, after the first case was announced outside China.
- This is despite the fact that Taiwan had warned the WHO of this as early as end of December, 2019.
- The recent reports clearly highlight that China stayed silent on its knowledge of human-to-human transmission.
- Not endorsing the use of trade and travel restrictions: The explosion of travel restrictions that countries implemented to counter COVID-19 prompted arguments that these restrictions violated the IHR, violations that the WHO did not probe despite having authority to do so.
- Rather, the WHO urged the international community to not spread fear and stigma by imposing travel restrictions.
- It even criticised early travel restrictions by the US as being excessive and unnecessary.
At the same time,
- WHO’s efforts to advance development of coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics have been appreciated.
- The WHO’s efforts in sharing of information and its attempts to counter online misinformation and disinformation have earned widespread praise
Measures to empower WHO
- Increase the WHO’s technical capacities and capabilities– Creating new departments focused on science, antimicrobial resistance and digital health will also broaden the WHO’s range of expertise and keep up with the latest public health challenges and opportunities.
- Help focus on the mission of WHO-which does not have the capacity to do everything and has frequently found itself responding to situations rather than setting its own agenda. It may also encourage member states to provide additional resources if they have a better idea of where that money is going.
- Coordinate with other global players– as these reforms do not address how the organization should interact with major global health players like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Doctors Without Borders.
- Mobilize more resources– WHO’s current biennial budget is 4.42 billion, with overwhelming majority dictated by donors and their priorities, which leaves the organization limited control over the funding.
The criticism being faced by the WHO has done great damage to its global reputation and standing. While the politicisation of the WHO remains a serious concern, it also presents an opportunity to rethink the underpinnings of the broader global governance architecture. The WHO reforms announced few months back should be implemented on a war footing. Its donor dependency and weakened capacity should be addressed effectively, to meet its triple billion targets in future.
Reference: Indian Express
The Supreme Court’s e-committee, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, is tasked with integrating digital technologies in courts to enhance judicial productivity and efficiency. In the third phase of this project, the expert sub-committee has published a draft document to articulate its vision to put in place an interoperable digital architecture that, among other things, facilitates “easy” data-sharing among all pillars of the criminal justice system — the police, prosecutors, prisons and courts.
Several issues have been raised regarding the same regarding privacy.
- The Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS), launched in 2019, is set to be fully operational, and will replace the existing need-based physical exchange of information.
- It will integrate existing centralised data systems such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS), e-prisons and e-courts, promising “seamless exchange of live data” among these branches.
- Critics have raised privacy concerns, given the absence of data protection laws, and questioned the implications of the data being housed in the home ministry for judicial independence.
Issues of rights and dignity of marginalized due to digitization
- A neglected danger is that this “seamless exchange” will likely whitewash the biased and illegal process of data creation at the level of police stations, through the dual myths of objectivity and neutrality of technology.
- Police stations across India have historically maintained registers of “habitual offenders” (HOs).
- Such registers today are primarily made up of persons who belong to Vimukta Janjatis, communities which had been criminalised by the British through the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871.
- The caste system offered colonial authorities the rationale to identify HOs. Police branding of communities as HOs resulted in extensive surveillance and intrusive policing as a form of daily existence.
- The gravest injustice of being labelled as a HO is that it hinges entirely on police suspicion, discretion and conventional knowledge, which are informed by caste prejudices.
- Names and details of first-time offenders and juveniles are also included in these registers. The inclusion of juveniles contravenes the principle of fresh start espoused in the Juvenile Justice Act.
- The mere fact of such an individual having an HO record tilts the scales of justice against them. The existence of HO registers is a ready refuge for the police both while looking for a person to pin a crime on as well as manufacturing one.
Even if we could take away the caste-informed biases of data, a challenge insurmountable without annihilating the caste system itself, we must still consider the risks of centralised, interoperable and permanent digital databases on privacy and liberties of individuals. Efficiency and digitisation cannot recede the rights and dignities of marginalised individuals who are often the subjects of our criminal justice system.
Reference: The Hindu
The COVID-19 vaccine crisis is another tragic instance of a clash between the needs of humanity and the principles of capitalism. This is even more so in the context of vaccine distribution. Capitalists insist that private producers of vaccines must make profits because that is their compensation for investing in research and production.
Clash between needs to humanity and capitalistic principles
- The purpose of governments is to improve the all-round well-being of all citizens; not merely to provide products to customers who can pay good prices for them, which is the means by which private enterprises meet their objective of producing profits for their investors.
- The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the inadequacy of capitalism to fulfil societal needs. If capitalist enterprises are not willing to fulfil public purposes, governments must create more public-spirited enterprises to provide public goods equitably to all citizens.
- Relentless economic growth is devouring the earth that hosts humanity.
- With artificial intelligence algorithms in social media, capitalist enterprises are able to manipulate human minds.
- Their investors have become the richest people on the planet.
- New mRNA technologies on which some new COVID-19 vaccines are based provide the means to manipulate the composition of human bodies.
- Thus, capitalists can create even more wealth for themselves off human beings.
Measures needed to balance profits and public welfare
- There are three stakeholders involved in a system to produce adequate volumes of affordable medicines: citizens who need the medicines, governments who must ensure they get them, and private companies who produce and sell them.
- If the stand of private companies is that because their business must be only business, and the public good is not their responsibility, governments must step in.
- They must have the means to regulate the prices and also to enhance production.
- Vaccine must be distributed freely, to all across the globe. Infact, USA being a staunch capitalist nation itself provided the vaccines freely.
- India must ensure that, those who cannot afford the vaccines must be inoculated; they are already burdened with loss of livelihood. It is imperative their lives are not valued less.
Money-driven capitalist values have drifted too far from human values. Money has become the supreme measure of success in all spheres: the wealth of individuals, the size of companies, and the scales of nations’ economies. The sustainable health of complex systems — which human beings and societies are — is being lost sight of. The COVID-19 crisis will not end capitalism. But capitalism must mutate to survive. Companies must rethink the purpose for their existence. It is imperative now that more human and less money values are adopted.
5. Democracy stands undermined in direct proportion to every attack made on the citizen’s right; do you think the IT Rules 2021 have tilt towards violation of these rights? Critically analyse. (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
A 2019 Supreme Court order, used by the government to justify its new Information Technology (IT) Rules, which compel encrypted social media messaging platforms to disclose their users’ identity, also cautions the Centre from doing anything which amounts to invasion of individual privacy.
Recently WhatsApp has sued the government in Delhi High court that new rules violate user privacy under Article 21.
Background: Need for the new IT rules
- The requirements in the Intermediary Guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information are an example of such a reasonable restriction as per the central government.
- IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that while the government was committed to ensuring the right to privacy of all citizens, it was also responsible for maintaining law and order and ensuring national security.
- The Centre stressed that the originator of information would only be traced in a scenario where other remedies had proven to be ineffective, making it a last resort measure.
- And such an order would have to come from a competent court only.
New IT Rules are Violation of rights: Critical analysis
- In its petition before the Delhi High Court, the social media giant said that it would have to “build an ability to identify the first originator of every message, to be served up to the government forever”.
- This means even legal users and their messages would be under watch. The effect would be chilling on free speech.
- Citizens will not speak freely for fear that their private communications would be traced and used against them.
- The essential role of the test of proportionality is to enable the court to determine whether a legislative measure is disproportionate in its interference with the fundamental right.
- In determining this, the court will have to give regard to whether a less intrusive measure could have been adopted consistent with the object of the law and whether the impact of the encroachment on a fundamental right is disproportionate to the benefit which is likely to ensue.
- The Supreme Court had laid down this mandate in its privacy judgment in the Puttuswamy case. The principle was reiterated by the Supreme Court in the Anuradha Bhasin case on Internet freedom.
- Besides, the 2021 Rules is a subordinate legislation under the Information Technology Act. Neither the Act nor any other law, for that matter, specifically requires a social media intermediary, using end-to-end encryption, to reveal the identity of the first originator of a message.
- However, in this case, the subordinate law has overshot the original intent and boundaries of the parent Act.
- “Section 79 (of IT Act) only allows the Central Government to prescribe the due diligence that intermediaries must observe to maintain their immunity.
- Compelling an intermediary to fundamentally alter its platform to enable the ability to identify the first originator of information in India falls far outside ‘due diligence’, as per Whatsapp.
The Puttaswamy judgement was a landmark ruling passed by the Supreme Court in 2017, which said a person’s right to privacy must be preserved except in cases where legality, necessity, and proportionality are all weighed against it. This must be strictly adhered to and a middle ground must be found between government and social media giants to balance national interest and privacy.
Reference: The Wire
On November 20, 2020, the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), a statutory body of the Ministry of AYUSH, issued an amendment to the Indian Medicine Central Council (PG Ayurveda Education) Regulations 2016. The amendment lists 58 surgical procedures that postgraduate students of Ayurvedic education in two branches – Shalya and Shalakya – are to be formally trained in and which they can practice independently afterward.
- The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has opposed this move, calling it an attempt to create a new and illegitimate ‘mixopathy’, as well as calling the CCIM’s ways to be “uncivil” and “foul”.
- The body, which is India’s largest association of medical doctors, also said the newly constituted National Medical Commission (NMC) is responsible for asserting these two separate systems of medicine independently, and that is how it must be.
- The ministry subsequently published a clarification that postgraduate scholars can only perform the basic surgical procedures listed in the amendment and that it’s a restrictive reform, not a policy shift.
- But IMA has rejected this clarification, and has demanded that the amendment be withdrawn.
Issues with AYUSH practioners performing allopathic procedures
- Indeed, the shortage of trained government doctors in rural areas is a constant challenge in India. There is a severe crunch of specialist doctors, including surgeons, with 81.8% positions lying vacant at government community health centres.
- At the same time, hoping trained Ayurveda specialists could fill this gap might not work. A 2016 WHO report found that each category of healthcare worker – except traditional and faith healers – prefer to practice in urban areas, where only about 35% of India’s population lives.
- So even if Ayurveda practitioners and IMA doctors reach a consensus on any of the topics of debate, the problem of ~65% of India’s residents being unable to access trained doctors would still exist.
- This problem can be solved only if the adequate infrastructure, better working conditions and incentives are in place. And until such time, unregistered medical practitioners (UMPs) will continue to be the rural population’s preferred point of contact.
- A major source of confusion that the new amendment could drive pertains to law and regulation.
- Only a few states in India allow Ayurveda practitioners to practice allopathy as well: Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Uttarakhand.
- And at present, no person can perform surgeries without allopathic drugs and diagnostics.
- It is important to provide career growth, but public welfare must come first.
- Both systems must reach a point where they can complement each other.
- The Ministry of AYUSH has the government’s support but lacks credibility, while the IMA has been responding aggressively.
- Meanwhile, on the ground, most healthcare workers are dissatisfied with one or another part of their jobs – even as there is a strong divide among doctors themselves about working in urban versus rural areas.
The current proposal to equip AYUSH doctors with techniques in allopathic medicine is a death knell for these indigenous medical systems, in spite of a laudable intent to revive and bring to mainstream AYUSH systems. These different systems must complement each other and need not be arms with each other,
General Studies – 4
Reference: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by Lexicon Publications
In any nation, there is a need of good governance for sustainable development, both economic and social. The three major aspects highlighted in good governance are transparency, accountability and responsiveness of the administration. Citizens’ Charters initiative is a response to the mission for solving the problems which a citizen meets, day in and day out, while dealing with the organisations providing public services.
About citizen charter
A Citizen’s Charter is a set of commitments made by an organisation regarding the standards of service which it delivers. It covers not only the Central Government Ministries/ Departments/ Organizations but also the Departments/ Agencies of State Governments and UT Administrations. As an instrument, it is propagated to make an organization transparent, accountable and citizen friendly.
Good Governance is the Technology; Citizen’s Charter is the Tool
- Citizen Charter increases participation of common man in efficient working of an organization by making the citizens aware of the aims and goals of the organization.
- It helps in reducing corruption through transparent provisions and thus, ensures accountability
- It leads to citizen friendliness and citizen convenience and raises efficiency and effectiveness in public delivery system.
- It reduces cost, prevents delay and red tapism and thus promote good governance.
- Citizen Charter set standards of service, allowing high expectations from an organization, pushing them to work diligently.
- It encourages access and promote choice and thus, treat all fairly.
Citizen’s charter in India:
- In 1996, the Centre organised a Conference of Chief Secretaries of States and Union Territories on “Effective and Responsive Administration”.
- The conference inter alia recommended the adoption of citizens’ charters for all public service organisations.
- This recommendation was approved by the Centre, states and union territories in the Conference of Chief Ministers held in 1997.
- Since 1997, when the scheme was introduced in India, the various ministries, departments, directorates and other agencies of the Central Government, state governments and union territory administrations have formulated a number of citizens’ charters.
Shortcomings of Citizen’s Charter in India:
- It has become one of the routine activities of the organisation and had no focus.
- In many cases, the concerned staff are not adequately trained and sensitised.
- Sometimes, transfers and reshuffles of concerned officers at the crucial stages of formulation/implementation of a Citizens’ Charter in an organisation severely undermined the strategic processes which were put in place and hampered the progress of the initiative.
- Lack of awareness and knowledge and inadequate publicity, led to loss of trust among service seekers.
- Lack of infrastructure and initiative defeated the very purpose of citizen’s charter.
- Different mind-sets of officers and the Staff- Insensitiveness on the part of the Supervisors and the Staff because they are yet to be sensitised.
- Staff is not prepared to shoulder the responsibility due to lack of motivation and accountability.
- Non-revision, complicated and restrictive rules & procedures reduced its effectiveness.
Reforming Citizen’s Charter to make them Effective:
- One size does not fit all: formulation of CC should be a decentralized activity with the head office providing only broad guidelines.
- Wide consultation process: CC be formulated after extensive consultations within the organization followed by a meaningful dialogue with civil society.
- Firm commitments to be made: CC must be precise and make firm commitments of service delivery standards to the citizens/consumers in quantifiable terms wherever possible.
- Redressal mechanism in case of default: clearly lay down the relief which the organization is bound to provide if it has defaulted on the promised standards of delivery.
- Periodic evaluation of CC: preferably through an external agency.
- Hold officers accountable for results: fix specific responsibility in cases where there is a default in adhering to the CC.
- Include Civil Society in the process: to assist in improvement in the contents of the Charter, its adherence as well as educating the citizens about the importance of this vital mechanism.
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) in its12th Report entitled ‘Citizen Centric Administration – Heart of Governance” has recommended for making the Citizens’ charters more effective as a document for interacting with citizens. This recommendation has been accepted by Government of India. All Central Ministries/Departments have been requested to review their Citizens’ Charters to make them more effective as a tool for interacting with the citizens. It must be implemented in the true spirit.