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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 June 2021

 

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 – 2


 

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

1. Discuss briefly the emerging fault lines in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific in the context of Quad’s future role and China’s aggressive diplomacy. (250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why the question:

The article highlights article highlights China’s belligerent attitude and its failure towards rising momentum of Quad and response from many regional states in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss briefly the emerging fault lines in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific in the context of Quad’s future role and China’s aggressive diplomacy.

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 current context of the question.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Discuss first about China’s attempts to play down the relevance of the Quad. In another brazen display of its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, China, while suggesting the Quad to be a minor anti-China initiative, warned Dhaka that there will be “substantial damage” in bilateral ties between China and Bangladesh if the latter joins the Quad.

Then present an overview of the emerging fault lines in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific in the context of Quad’s future role and China’s aggressive diplomacy.

Discuss what should be the way forward.

Conclusion:

Conclude with suitable suggestions.

Introduction:

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.

Body

Chinea’s aggressive diplomacy and emerging fault lines

  • 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: It is the 21st century Marshall Plan, through which China aims to dominate the world.
  • 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.

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.

Conclusion

A formal revival and re-invigoration of the Quad is called for. It is also time to seek an enlargement of this grouping into a partnership of the like-minded. Other nations feeling the brunt of Chinese brawn may be willing to join an “Indo-Pacific concord” to maintain peace and tranquillity and to ensure observance of the UN Law of the Seas.

 

Topic: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

2. Digitisation of justice delivery offers immense potential and is the need of the era, but the draft proposal of Phase III of the e-Courts project is trying to do too much and goes off the tram line. Elucidate. (250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why the question:

The article brings to us the promise and perils of digital justice delivery

Key Demand of the question:

One is expected to discuss in what way digitisation of justice delivery offers immense potential and is need of the era the Phase III proposal of a course is trying to do too much and his comes with drawbacks.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Brief background of digitalization of judiciary which has come into picture come it’s the pandemic situation.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Firstly explain the need for digitisation of justice delivery.

Briefly comment on the E -courts project. Phase I and II: Dealt with the digitisation of judiciary, i.e., e-filing, tracking cases online, uploading judgments online, etc. Even though the job is not complete, particularly at the lower levels of the judiciary, the project can so far be termed a success and helped in justice delivery during pandemic.

Discuss the concerns associated with Phase 3 draft proposal.

Suggest what needs to be done?

Conclusion:

Reforms should fit within the framework of our fundamental rights; the e-Courts must move towards localisation of data instead of centralization and prevent “seamless exchange” of data between branches of state that ought to remain separate.

Introduction:

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge traditional services’ delivery, including access to justice and effective justice delivery. Given the worrying situation in terms of pendency and time taken for resolution of disputes, the pandemic has led to introspection and an immediate pivot to fast-tracking innovation led by technology. Despite some hiccups, the Supreme Court and High Courts have been able to function online. This was made possible by the e-Courts project, monitored by the e-Committee.

Body:

The Supreme Court passed directions for all courts across the country to extensively use video-conferencing for judicial proceedings saying congregation of lawyers and litigants must be suspended to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to data released by the Supreme Court in the June 2020 newsletter of the e-Committee, 3.27 crore cases are pending before Indian courts, of which 85,000 have been pending for over 30 years.”

e-Courts project as part of virtual judiciary was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005” submitted by eCommittee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts. The e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India recently released its draft vision document for Phase III of the e-Courts project. Phases I and II had dealt with digitisation of the judiciary, i.e., e-filing, tracking cases online, uploading judgments online, etc.

 Advantages of online dispute resolution to the Indian judiciary:

  • The key advantages of establishment of Electronic Courts in India is bringing in a justice serving mechanism that is transparent, efficient, affordable, time saving, protects the interests of witnesses, reduces the backlog of pending cases and most importantly reduces the number of unscrupulous activities.
  • Entire information related to a particular case would be available online. It would be available to the attorneys, parties and the general public through the help of internet.
  • Registered attorneys can file their case document directly from their home or office. They do not have to worry about postage, traffic congestion or messenger services. They can create a docket sheet and update it immediately, when the documents are filed.
  • With the help of internet, the documents of a case can be accessed easily from anywhere at anytime.
  • E-courts would help in the computerization of work flow management in courts. Thus, it would help to create a better court and case management. Video conferencing facilities would be installed in every court complex. Evidence of eyewitness, who are unable to attend the court can be recorded through this method.
  • The information would not be misplaced as all the information regarding the case would be carefully recorded and stored. Data keeping would include maintaining the records of e-file minute entries, bail orders, warrants etc.
  • In many cases, the witnesses are not able to come to the court and make their statement as the other party is too strong and scares them of the consequences. e-Courts can help in dealing with such cases.

Challenges posed by Phase-III of e-Courts project:

  • This 360-degree approach is the main objective of Phase III.
  • E-courts in India is an endless and complicating process. The process of e-filing a document is a difficult process. All the evidence cannot be produced in a digital format.
  • Hackers are getting stronger with every passing day. The possibility of e-Courts getting hacked in such a case cannot be denied.
  • Several individuals and organisations have warned against the zeal of the data collection exercises contemplated by the draft proposal. The “seamless exchange of information” relies on large-scale gathering and sharing of data.
  • Targeted Surveillance: there has been a dangerous trend towards creating a 360-degree profile of each person by integrating all of their interactions with government agencies into a unified database.
  • No clear explanation has been offered for why the Home Ministry needs access to court data that may have absolutely no relation to criminal law. This process serves no purpose other than profiling and surveillance.

Measures needed:

  • It is critical to draw up a well-defined and pre-decided framework as it can help in laying a concrete roadmap and direction to the e-courts scheme of India.
  • To achieve this, the government must establish an effective task force consisting of judges, technologists, court administrators, skill developers and system analysts to draw up a blueprint for institutionalizing online access to justice.
  • Such a task force must be charged with the responsibility of establishing hardware, software and IT systems for courts; examining application of artificial intelligence benefiting from the data base generated through e-courts projects; establishing appropriate e-filing systems and procedures.
  • Creating skill training and recognition for paralegals to understand and to help advocates and others to access the system to file their cases and add to their pleadings and documents as the case moves along.
  • Once the blueprint is ready, the High Courts across the country may refer the same to the Rule Committee of the High Court to frame appropriate rules to operationalise the e-court system.
  • One aspect that needs to be focused on is the deployment of a robust security system that provides secure access to case information for appropriate parties. The security of e-courts infrastructure and system is of paramount importance.
  • Also, user friendly e-courts mechanism, which is simple and easily accessible by the common public will encourage litigants to use such facilities in India.
  • The government must also make dedicated efforts in the training of personnel to maintain all the e-data.
  • Also, conducting training sessions to familiarize the Judges with the e-courts framework and procedure can give a huge impetus to the successful running of e-courts.

Way forward for Indian litigation and arbitration:

  • In India, a significant amount of time is spent in resolving disputes which has been the real bane of the Indian judiciary system.
  • The e-courts project, if implemented, would go a long way in saving costs and time for the litigants.
  • The present government is taking active steps to establish e-courts all over India. All these government efforts will result in providing quick and cost effective solutions to the litigants.
  • The judiciary system in India with the help of e-courts can overcome the challenges and make the service delivery mechanism transparent and cost efficient.
  • Further, the e-court project also requires the executive and the judiciary to reaffirm their resolve to support a speedy, efficient and quality justice delivery in the country.
  • It is also important to discuss steps required to surmount the various challenges facing the justice system.

 

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

3. Compare and contrast the public healthcare system in South Asian countries with that of their Southeast Asian peers and highlights the shortcomings. (250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why the question:

The article contrasts the public healthcare system in South Asian countries with that of their Southeast Asian peers and highlights the shortcomings. Thus the question.

Key Demand of the question:

One is expected to draw comparison and contrast the public healthcare system of the South Asian countries with that of their Southeast Asian peers and highlights the shortcomings.

Directive:

Compare and contrast – provide for a detailed comparison of the two types, their features that are similar as well as different. One must provide for detailed assessment of the two.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with brief on the crisis the public healthcare system is facing across the world owing to the pandemic.

Body:

Mention that what has exacerbated the situation is a subpar public healthcare system running on a meager contribution of a little over 1% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Major public sector investments by the ‘big three’ of South Asia, i.e., India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, are towards infrastructure and defence, with health taking a backseat.

Discuss the learning from Southeast Asia – Southeast Asia has prioritized investments in healthcare systems while broadening equitable access through universal health coverage schemes.

Vietnam’s preventive measures focused on investments in disease surveillance and emergency response mechanisms.

Even countries like Laos and Cambodia are making a constant effort towards improving the healthcare ecosystem.

Conclusion:

Conclude that learning from the devastation unleashed by the pandemic, South Asian countries must step up investment in their public healthcare sectors to make them sustainable, up to date and pro-poor; most importantly, the system should not turn its back on citizens.

Introduction:

As India combats the pandemic, its neighbours are experiencing spillover from the menacing second wave. The virus has swept through Nepal, while Sri Lanka added as many as 78,218 cases in May. Pakistan crossed over 200 daily deaths in April, its highest since the pandemic started. The situation in Bangladesh is precarious, given the recent detection of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Body

Issues in public healthcare system in South Asian countries

  • The reason for exacerbated situation is a subpar public healthcare system running on a meagre contribution of a little over 1% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • While the private medical sector is booming, the public healthcare sector has been operating at a pitiful 0.08 doctors per 1,000 people, falling miserably below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) prescribed standard of 1:1000.
  • India has only half a bed available for every 1,000 people, which is a deficient figure even for normal days.
  • Bangladesh and Pakistan fare no better, with a bed to patient ratio of 0.8 and 0.6, respectively, and a doctor availability of less than one for every 1,000 people.
  • While ideally, out-of-pocket expenditure should not surpass 15% to 20% of the total health expenditure, for India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, this figure stands at an appalling 62.67%, 73.87% and 56.24%, respectively.
  • While India has the world’s third-largest military expenditure, its health budget is the fourth-lowest.
  • In Pakistan, even amidst the pandemic, the defence budget was increased by 12% in the fiscal year 2020-21, to $7.85 billion, while the spending on health remained around $151 million.

Lessons to be learnt from Southeast Asian nations

  • South Asia can take lessons in pragmatic healthcare policy from Southeast Asia, which has prioritised investments in healthcare systems while broadening equitable access through universal health coverage schemes.
  • Vietnam’s preventive measures focused on investments in disease surveillance and emergency response mechanisms helped in tracking and tracing patients and stopping the disease transmission.
  • Even countries like Laos and Cambodia making a constant effort towards improving the healthcare ecosystem, all have done much better than their South Asian peers.
  • The percentage GDP spending by Laos and Cambodia is 2.25% and 6%, much higher than India and other South Asian nations.
  • India is yet to increase its spending to 2.5% of GDP.

Conclusion

Though the Indian government in this year’s budget highlighted an increase of 137% in “health and well-being” expenditure, a closer look reveals a mismatch between facts and figures. Learning from the devastation unleashed by the pandemic, South Asian countries must step up investment in their public healthcare sectors to make them sustainable, up to date and pro-poor; most importantly, the system should not turn its back on citizens. Given the high chances of another wave or even the impending crisis of climate change, stopgap measures ought to be replaced by a well-thought-out vision and political commitment for long-term healing.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

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

4. In deliberations on reforms, or arguments about public expenditure, there is an excessive focus on the central government. Yet, on reforms and public expenditures, we also need to focus on examining the states”. Discuss. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The article highlights the excessive focus on the Union government and the lack of scrutiny of the functioning of the States in various areas.  Thus the question.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss in detail the need to focus on States when it comes to deliberations on reforms or about discussing public expenditure.

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 the fact that it is often witnessed in discussions on reforms or debates about public expenditure, there is an excessive focus on the Union government.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Explain why there is a need to focus upon States. Focus reflects our mindset that there is a “Centre”, though constitutionally, there is no “Centre”. There is the Union government. There is not as much interest in State Finance Commissions and their recommendations as it is in the Union Finance Commission’s recommendations.

Alternatively, there is limited scrutiny of state-level expenditure, or fiscal devolution and decentralisation of decision-making within states, or tracking functioning of state legislatures.

Most factor markets we seek to reform are on the concurrent list or the state list.

Take hints from the article and suggest what needs to be done.

Conclusion:

Conclude that scrutinizing States on various areas of their functioning is important to hold them accountable. The availability of data from state legislatures is an opportunity to monitor them better.

Introduction:

In discussions on reforms, or debates about public expenditure, there is an excessive focus on the Union government, reflecting perhaps our mindset that there is a “Centre”, though constitutionally, there is no “Centre”. There is the Union government. There is huge interest in Union Finance Commission recommendations and amnesia about State Finance Commissions and their recommendations.

Body

Background

  • There is limited scrutiny of state-level expenditure, or fiscal devolution and decentralisation of decision-making within states, or tracking functioning of state legislatures.
  • Information and data on state legislatures is not easily available. While some state legislatures publish data on a regular basis, many do not have a systematic way of reporting legislative proceedings and business

Focus must be on examining the states in context of public expenditure

  • State legislatures on an average for 29 days in pre-2020 period. This number in 2020 was 18 days. The same for parliament in 2020 was 33 days.
  • States passed an average of 22 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills).
  • Karnataka passed 61 Bills, the highest in the country. The lowest was Delhi which passed one Bill, followed by West Bengal and Kerala, which passed two and three Bills respectively.
  • State legislatures pass most Bills without detailed scrutiny. In 2020, 59 per cent of the Bills were passed on the same day that they were introduced in the legislature.
  • In Parliament, Bills are often referred to Parliamentary Standing Committees for detailed examination.
  • In the absence of a robust committee system and fewer working days, state legislatures barely spend any time scrutinising legislative proposals brought before them.
  • Many states reduced salaries and allowances of MLAs, but there were many states that did not change emoluments even in the pandemic year.
  • As data regarding states’ public expenditure and scrutiny or analysis has not been done thoroughly wrt states.
  • The recommendations of State Finance Commission’s on Panchayat resource devolution are repeatedly ignored. Worse, most states have not even constituted State Finance commissions.

Conclusion

There is urgent need for scrutinizing States on various areas of their functioning. It is important to hold them accountable, by tracking and monitoring individual states. The availability of data from state legislatures is an opportunity to monitor them better and transparent.

 

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

5. Examine the need for Ethanol blending programme in India. What are the challenges involved? Suggest a roadmap. (250 words)

Reference:  Down to Earth

Why the question:

The government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030. E20 will be rolled out from April 2023.  Thus the question.

Key Demand of the question:

Examine the need for Ethanol blending programme in India. Discuss what are the challenges involved and suggest a roadmap.

 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:

A government-appointed panel has recommended to the Centre to keep the price of ethanol-blended petrol lower than normal petrol in view of lower calorific value as also to incentivize people to go for the clean fuel.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

A government-appointed panel has recommended to the Centre to keep the price of ethanol-blended petrol lower than normal petrol in view of lower calorific value as also to incentivize people to go for the clean fuel.

This measure is aimed at reducing the country’s oil import bill and carbon dioxide pollution. This new initiative is also part of measures to improve energy security and self-sufficiency measures.

Suggest roadmap – The central government has released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025. The roadmap proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.

Conclusion:

As we progress towards higher blending of ethanol, careful monitoring and assessment of emissions changes will be needed to make sure that emission reduction potential can be enhanced.

Introduction:

Ethanol is a biofuel, that is, a fuel produced by processing organic matter. The auto fuels we commonly use are mainly derived from the slow geological process of fossilisation, which is why they are also known as fossil fuels. Ethanol in India is obtained primarily from sugarcane via a fermentation process. Ethanol is high in oxygen content, which therefore allows an engine to more thoroughly combust fuel. It can be mixed with fuel in different quantities and can help reduce vehicular emissions. Also, since it is plant-based, it is considered to be a renewable fuel.

Body:

Ethanol blending programme in India:

  • the Centre had “launched pilot projects in 2001 wherein 5 percent ethanol blended petrol was supplied to retail outlets”.
  • Success of field trials eventually paved the way for the launching of the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme in January, 2003 for sale of 5 percent ethanol blended petrol in nine States and four UTs.
  • Currently, 5 per cent of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.
  • The government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030. E20 will be rolled out from April 2023.
  • The central government has also released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025.
  • The roadmap proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.

Need for Ethanol blending in India:

  • Ethanol has become one of the major priorities of 21st Century India.
  • Mixing 20 percent ethanol in petrol holds multiple attractions for India.
  • First, it can potentially reduce the auto fuel import bill by a yearly $4 billion, or Rs 30,000 crore.
  • Second, it also provides for farmers to earn extra income if they grow produce that helps in ethanol production.
  • Third, and no less important, is the fact that ethanol is less polluting than other fuels and, per the NITI Aayog paper, “offers equivalent efficiency at lower cost than petrol”.
  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), the expert committee noted. Higher reductions in CO emissions were observed with E20 fuel — 50 per cent lower in two-wheelers and 30 per cent lower in four-wheelers.
  • Spelling out the opportunity for India for embracing ethanol, the paper stresses that “availability of large arable land, rising production of foodgrains and sugarcane leading to surpluses, availability of technology to produce ethanol from plant-based sources, and feasibility of making vehicles compliant to ethanol blended petrol make E20 not only a national imperative, but also an important strategic requirement”.
  • In Europe, biofuels have been seen as a measure to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from road transport because they were considered CO2-neutral fuels once lifecycle emissions are considered.

Challenges involved:

  • Less Production: Currently, domestic production of bioethanol is not sufficient to meet the demand for bio-ethanol for blending with petrol at Indian OMCs.
    • Sugar mills, which are the key domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were able to supply only 57.6% of the total demand.
    • Sugar mills do not have the financial stabilityto invest in biofuel plants.
    • There are also concerns among investors on theuncertainty on the price of bioethanol in the future as the prices of both sugarcane and bio-ethanol are set by the central government.
    • Compatible vehicles: vehicles need to be produced with rubberised parts, plastic components and elastomers compatible with E20 and engines optimally designed for use of E20 fuel”
    • The NITI Aayog paper said that two-wheelers and passenger vehicles that are now being made in the country “are designed optimally for E5 (5 percent ethanol blend with petrol) while rubber and plastic components are “compatible with E10 fuel”.
  • Water Footprint:While India has become one of the top producers of ethanol but it lags top producers, the USA and Brazil, by a huge margin and remains inefficient in terms of water usage.
    • India’s water requirements for producing ethanol are not met through rainwaterand the groundwater is used for drinking and other purposes.
    • Water footprint, that is water required to produce a litre of ethanol, includes rainwater at the root zone used by ethanol-producing plants such as sugarcane, and surface, ground water, and fresh water required to wash away pollutants.
  • Limited Sugarcane Availability:Sugarcane is another limited resource that affects the ethanol blending in the country.
    • In order to achieve a 20% blend rate, almost one-tenth of the existing net sown area will have to be diverted for sugarcane production. Any such land requirement is likely to put a stress on other cropsand has the potential to increase food prices.
    • India’s biofuel policy stipulates that fuel requirements must not compete with food requirementsand that only surplus food crops should be used for fuel production, if at all.
  • Lack of Alternatives:Producing ethanol from crop residue can be a good alternative but the annual capacity of biorefinery is still not enough to meet the 5% petrol-ethanol blending requirement.
    • Other biofuels such as Jatrophahave often proven to be commercially unviable.
  • Handling issues:Ethanol being a highly flammable liquid marks obligatory safety and risk assessment measures during all phases of production, storage and transportation, thus increasing the cost and risk factor.

Way forward:

  • In order to introduce vehicles that are compatible the committee recommends roll out of E20 material-compliant and E10 engine-tuned vehicles from April 2023 and production of E20-tuned engine vehicles from April 2025.
  • The Centre must look at ways to reduce the programme’s dependence on the sugarcane.
  • Alternative feedstock like agricultural waste, recycled cooking oil, provides for more environmentally friendly bio-fuels.
  • There is a need to focus on raising the non-cane contribution to the ethanol mix.
  • This can be done by incentivising both public and private players to set up second-generation ethanol facilities.
  • as we progress towards higher blending of ethanol, careful monitoring and assessment of emissions changes will be needed to make sure that emission reduction potential can be enhanced both for regulated and unregulated pollutants.

 

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

6. What do you understand by a Platform Economy? Examine the potential of  it to transform the current economic structure in the country. (250 words)

Reference:  orfonline.org

Why the question:

The impact of platforms and platform economy in restructuring jobs and socio-economic spheres has been witnessed in recent times, especially during the pandemic.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the concept of Platform Economy. Examine the potential of it to transform the current economic structure 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:

Start with what a platform economy is.

Body:

Platform and Platform Economy: Platforms are algorithm-enabled “cyberplaces” where elements like people or machinery can act or transact. Platform economy is the use of online platforms, which decreases the transaction costs of labour outsourcing and temporary access to goods and services.

Then explain how Platform business model is different from the traditional business model.

Discuss the factors that have led to the rise of Platform Economy.

Conclusion:

Conclude with the opportunity of transformation that Platform economy offers.

Introduction:

Platform Economy means a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment.

Platform work is spread across sectors like mobility, delivery, logistics, home improvement and beauty services, and attracts a rich tapestry of workers across education levels, skills, geographies and dependencies. Examples of platform workers include Ola or Uber drivers, Swiggy or Zomato delivery agents, etc.

Body:

Significance of Platform Economy for India:

  • Notwithstanding the drawback of limited access to capital for workers as mentioned above, for a specific class of workers, however, particularly, smallholder agrarian labour migrants with access to vehicular assets, the platform economy is an attractive proposition.
  • Such workers are able to accumulate wealth which they can then invest into farm work.
  • The pandemic has revealed a very significant role that gig and platform workers play in the economy by virtue of their role as delivery drivers and agents. They ensured that basic necessities were reaching people at their homes.
  • These workers also helped many platform companies remain afloat during the pandemic and the resultant economic downturn.
  • Due to the fast pace of urbanisation, this sector has high growth potential. On an hourly basis, platform workers earn 25 percent more than non-platform workers. These are insights from late 2019, and with economic activity resuming, one would expect to see similar and even higher figures for this group.
  • The remittances sent by the platform and gig workers are also contributing to the growth of the rural areas.
  • Such work will also encourage students to take up non-regular work in the market.
  • It would also lessen the burden on employers by helping them avoid taking on employees in the traditional employment structure.
  • Platforms are at the heart of India’s digital economy revolution. Digitalisation of financial services, jobs and skills, agriculture, education, logistics, and retail are all expected to create a potential value of US $ 500 billion by 2025, from their current value of US $170 billion, as per a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. This is possible because platforms solve inefficiencies and low productivity in a system riddled by both.
  • Platform workers support a higher number of dependents than their non-platform counterparts; in fact, the higher earning potential is a huge draw for individuals to take up platform work and support their families
  • in addition to having an economic impact, the ecosystem-wide benefits of platform work extend to supporting the needs and aspirations of families of driver-partners, who can quit low-paying work and pursue further education, lucrative careers, or other necessary caregiving work.

Issues in the sector:

  • Though platform work promises worker’s flexibility and ownership over delivery of work, they arestill largely dictated by mechanisms of control wired by the algorithm. This affects pricing per unit of work, allocation of work, and hours.
  • Entryinto on-such platform work like ride sharing and food delivery requires vehicular assets which an average Indian worker lacks. Thus, to enter the platform economy, workers rely on intensive loan schemes, often facilitated by platform aggregator companies. This results in dependence on platform companies, driven by financial obligations, thus rendering flexibility and ownership.
  • Leads tocontractualisation of the workforce and promotes the Gig economy.
  • Gig Economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations hire independent workers for short-term commitments. The term “gig”is a slang word for a job that lasts a specified period of time.
  • A company engaging in greater contractualisation often has a higher turnover rate of personnel,creating a disruptive operational environment and leading to higher costs of training and higher incidence in costs of errors.

Way Forward

  • Adopting International best practices- Ontario and California have shown a move towards granting employee status to platform workers, thus guaranteeing minimum wage and welfare benefits.
  • Further, the government needs to ensure easy availability of credit to platform workers.
  • by promoting asset utilisation, platforms in India hold the potential to reframe the economy as a whole.

 

Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

7. Discuss the feasibility of smart fencing in India. Do you think Smart fencing along with physical fencing can protect major infiltration areas of Indian borders? (250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why the question:

The new US President has stopped the construction of the much-publicized “border wall” between the U.S. and Mexico. Thus the question context.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the feasibility of smart fencing in India and explain how Smart fencing along with physical fencing can protect major infiltration areas of Indian borders.

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 what you understand by a smart border. The ‘smart wall’ technology could solve border security issues without the need for a physical barrier.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Explain the Feasibility for India – A question that now arises is whether such a project can be undertaken to secure Indian borders. India has been struggling with the problem of terrorists and smugglers infiltrating into the country and efforts are ongoing to secure our borders and curb cross-border infiltration. Therefore, it is proposed that it is high time we start envisaging the use of technology to help India secure its borders.

Highlight the challenges associated.

Explain the benefits.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

A smart fence or ‘smart’ wall replaces the physical and armed patrolling with advanced surveillance tech is the proposed future of border security now. Smart-wall refers to a collection of discrete technologies that work together to prevent illegal entry, smuggling, and all the various threats posed by a porous border. There is no one single definition for this recently-conceived solution. Using internet-of-things technologies like in-ground sensors, security cameras and software solutions, a smart wall could empower border officials with enhanced situational awareness to prevent illicit activity.

India’s first ‘smart fence’ pilot project has been launched along the 11 km stretch on the India-Pakistan International Border in Ploura, Jammu and Kashmir in 2018.

Body:

How it works:

  • Hundreds of mobile surveillance towers would be deployed, and along with them, the complete system of a virtual wall would consist of a radar satellite, computer-equipped border-control vehicles, control sensors and underground sensors.
  • Along with surveillance towers and cameras, thermal imaging would be used, which would help in the detection of objects.
  • The system would even be capable of distinguishing between animals, humans, and vehicles, and then sending updates to handheld mobile devices of the army.

Scope of smart wall in protecting the territorial borders of India:

  • India has been struggling with the problem of terrorists and smugglers infiltrating into the country and efforts are ongoing to secure our borders and curb cross-border infiltration.
  • Therefore, it is proposed that it is high time we start envisaging the use of technology to help India secure its borders.
  • A critical factor that must be considered to enable the usage of such a system along Indian borders is that the terrain in the region is rugged, and, furthermore, not even clearly defined. Hence, erecting fences, walls or any physical structures is extremely difficult.
  • A “smart” wall, however, makes use of systems that would be designed in such a way that they can operate even in rugged areas.
  • Imperatively, in the U.S., various other benefits, such as cost-effectiveness, less damage to the environment, fewer land seizures, and speedier deployment are being noted that give the “smart wall” concept an edge over traditional physical borders.
  • Smart walls, even if not feasible for our long boundaries, may still be deployed to enhance critical security establishments of the country and complement the already-existing physical fencing and walls.
  • The attack on the Pathankot Air Force base highlighted that often, it may become difficult to secure establishments due to their vast size.
  • Further, it is imperative for Indian armed forces to be well-equipped and simultaneously have the latest technological advantage over its enemies.

Challenges in implementation of smart fencing in India:

  • A critical factor that must be considered to enable the usage of such a system along Indian borders is that the terrain in the region is rugged, and, furthermore, not even clearly defined.
  • Hence, erecting fences, walls or any physical structures is extremely difficult.
  • A “smart” wall, however, makes use of systems that would be designed in such a way that they can operate even in rugged areas.
  • Imperatively, in the US various other benefits, such as cost-effectiveness, less damage to the environment, fewer land seizures, and speedier deployment are being noted.
  • This gives the concept an edge over traditional borders.

Way Forward:

  • Given that detection and interception of infiltrators at the border require a quick response which can be achieved only through a decentralised decision making process.
  • Caution must be exercised while advocating the use of high-tech and high-cost electronic devices for border security.
  • A judicious mix of properly trained manpower and affordable and tested technology is likely to yield better results.
  • By this India can show the way to the international community on how to lower the cost of border security, and in turn, counter terrorism.

Conclusion:

Reimagining border security is a complex challenge — one that many argue cannot be fully addressed with a physical barrier. A smart wall, however, presents a 21st-century solution to reducing illicit border crossings without an exorbitant price tag or disruption to those that live along the border.

Unlike steel or concrete, a smart wall leverages the power of data to generate actionable insights. When cutting-edge tech is combined with a connected data platform, border security can build a common operating picture that allows officers to survey vast territory and respond to threats in real time. A smart border wall, therefore, provides a nuanced solution to the border control problem, one that can evolve with the changing physical and political landscape.


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