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[Mission 2023] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 02 September 2022

 

NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.

 


General Studies – 1


 

Topic: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

1. Indian family structures have evolved to accept personal preferences and social realities. Comment in the context of changing family structures in India. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Live MintInsights on India

Why the question:

The remarks of India’s top court, in a dispute over maternity benefits, make a powerful intervention. They expand the idea of the ‘family’ beyond the narrow heterosexual nuclear unit. The case involved a nurse in a government hospital who was denied maternity leave because she had taken time off earlier to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage. The court rejected the argument that her “atypical” family doesn’t qualify for what others are accorded under the law.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about modern Indian family and bring out how it has grown embrace individual choices and social realities.  You need to analyse the present family structures and notions in India.

Directive:

Comment– here we must express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Begin by giving context.

Body:

First, Discuss in points as to how the modern family system in India has  developed in India and how it has strengthened individual choices and changed the social realities. E.g The Indian family is changing. There’s no ‘ideal family’ defined by children or lineage.

Next, the concept of ‘family’ has always been fluid, even in traditional set-ups, but today “the new generation is seeing much more of the world; they’re exposed to Western norms of individualism and autonomy.

Next, write about the impact of the same.

Conclusion:

Conclude by summarising.

 

Introduction

The Supreme Court has done well by offering India an inclusive definition of a family unit. We must go beyond old norms to assure everyone their basic right to look after loved ones.

The inherent conservatism in society, culture and law tends to hold up the normative family—father, mother, children (add grandchildren and relatives who form kinship networks)—as the only such unit worthy of recognition, ever ready to discourage any deviations. But, as our Supreme Court observed this week, this assumption goes against the lived realities of people and ignores the fact that “many families do not conform” to this patriarchal norm.

Body

Evolution in Indian family structures and recent developments

  • The remarks of India’s top court, in a dispute over maternity benefits, make a powerful intervention.
  • They expand the idea of the ‘family’ beyond the narrow heterosexual nuclear unit. The case involved a nurse in a government hospital who was denied maternity leave because she had taken time off earlier to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage.
  • The court rejected the argument that her “atypical” family doesn’t qualify for what others are accorded under the law.
  • The apex court noted that the familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships. These manifestations of love and families may not be typical but they are as real as their traditional counterparts and equally deserving not only of protection under the law but also of the benefits available under social welfare legislation.
  • In doing so, the court lived up to its record as an institution that has often wielded the Constitution to expand our freedoms and ease clamps on the personal lives of citizens.
  • The biggest signpost of this welcome approach was its 2018 decision to strike down a colonial-era law that criminalized same-sex relationships.

Obstacles that still remain

  • In the long struggle to bend social conservatism towards greater freedom, the Supreme Court’s redefinition of a family can prove to be a vital ally.
  • This becomes clear when we think of how the state continues to back antiquated ideas of ‘family’, even though social values and the law have moved on to embrace individual liberty.
  • For instance, the Centre has steadfastly opposed a petition seeking registration of same-sex unions under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, arguing that “our values” are opposed to it.
  • Recently passed laws continue to discriminate against queer couples (or even single men), by denying them the right to raise children through adoption or surrogacy.
  • All these restrictions stifle the fundamental rights granted to all by the Constitution.
  •  For same-sex partners, the lack of marriage recognition makes it hard to take care of loved ones in elementary ways—say, by buying a family health insurance cover, opening a joint bank account or having one’s property automatically inherited by a partner.

Conclusion

The court’s observations land a blow for the rights of all kinds of families in all their splendid variety. It resists the majoritarian consensus that denies the essential joys of life to those who go against the grain. We must walk on the path it has opened up.

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

2. Election-related corruption prevents citizens from exercising their right to vote freely, leads to pay-outs, and has unjustified repercussions. Examine the efficacy of electoral offences under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 in having free and fair elections.  (250 words)

Difficulty level: Tough

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 2 and mentioned as part of Mission-2023 Secure timetable.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and its role in preventing electoral offences.

Directive word: 

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must investigate 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: 

Begin by giving the aims and objectives of Representation of People’s Act, 1951.

Body:

First, write about the various corrupt practises in elections, its extent and its impact.

Next, discuss about the provisions under Representation of People’s Act, 1951 in order to deal with corrupt electoral practises.  

Next, write about efficacy on Representation of People’s Act, 1951 to deal with the above. Mention its successes and limitations. Substantiate with examples.

Conclusion:

Conclude by summarising and changes needed to empower Representation of People’s Act, 1951.

Introduction

In electoral democracies, free and fair elections convert voters’ preferences into a political mandate that forms the basis for policymaking. More precise and efficient voting procedures boost the strength of democratic institutions.  Our legislation that governs elections  Representation of People’s Act, 1951 falls short in preventing the electoral offences.

Body

Electoral offences preventing free and fair elections

  • Expenditure: There are three drivers of expenditure in elections viz. legitimate electioneering cost, party running cost, and TV air time cost.
    • However, the accounted legitimate expenditure is a mere percentage of actual spending by the candidate and their corresponding political parties. According to the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), high cost of elections creates a high degree of compulsion for corruption in the public arena.
  • Freebies: Increasing attempts to entice the voters with short-term benefits (in the form of populist schemes for electoral advantage) at the cost of governance, besides adversely impacting the long-term interests of the poor and the middle class.
  • Vote-buying: The rise of illegitimate expenditure on vote-buying has become a matter of great concern as it is making only the rich to be more qualified to become an MP (Member of Parliament) or an MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) over a well-qualified public-spirited person.
    • As can be seen, out of 533 candidates elected to the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-present), 475 Parliamentarians (accounting for 88%) are ‘crorepatis’. This reflects the paradoxical situation of poor India with rich Parliamentarians raising concerns about the growing role of money power in politics.
  • Paid news is any news or analysis appearing in any media (Print and Electronic) for a price in cash or kind. An issue like Paid News disrupts the level playing field and circumvents the election expenditure limits. This creates a hurdle for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to conduct the smooth run-off elections in a free, fair and transparent manner.
  • Criminalization of politics: It refers to a situation in which the anti-social elements enter the electoral process by contesting elections, getting elected to the legislature, and consequently occupying public offices. This happens due to existing strong nexus between the criminals and some politicians abusing the loopholes in the present system.

Reforms needed in the legislation

  • State Funding of Elections: System in which the State bears the election expenditure of political parties that are contesting elections. This can bring transparency in the funding process as public finance can limit the influence of interested donors’ money and thereby help curb corruption.
  • Simultaneous Polls: The time has come to implement simultaneous polls because of its underlying advantages including reducing the costs of holding elections by the ECI and spending by political parties.
  • Central Legislation: In the Public Interest Foundation & Ors. vs. Union of India 2018 case, SC put the onus on the Parliament to frame a law to prevent criminalization of politics and take concerted efforts to cleanse the political system of the country.
    • The time has come to frame suitable legislation on the lines of FRBMA, 2003 (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act- that puts a cap on fiscal deficit).
    • If a cap is introduced on populist announcements (based on the proportion of budgetary resources they have) by the parties within the ambit of law, then perhaps all political parties will have a level playing field and the unsustainable populist measures could be kept under check.
  • Law Commission in its 255th Report on Electoral Reforms inter-alia recommended strengthening of the office of the ECI in order to provide more independence and tooth to the institution.
  • The ‘First Past the Post System’, in which a person with the highest votes (even with one extra vote) is declared winner, needs to be changed. Rather, a minimum percentage of total votes polled can be fixed for declaring a candidate as the winner. This could restrict the criminals from getting elected as not everybody in a constituency vote on party lines.
  • Political parties need to be brought under the ambit of Right to Information Act (RTI) Act, 2005.
  • All parties should be given equal media space or air time so as to provide a level playing field.

Conclusion

Free and fair elections are the bedrock of any healthy democracy. But conducting free and fair elections is easier said than done. In a huge and diverse country like India, it is much more complex and challenging. Humongous logistics issues in terms of material and manpower are involved in the entire process. Free and fair elections need to provide level playing field to all the players in the game. The entire electoral process should be capturing true mood of the electorate. This is possible today with technology and technology must be accessible to all before this can truly be called as fair.

 

Value addition

Technology aiding free and fair election

  • Use of EVMs: Use of EVMs was not simply the replacement of sturdy ballot boxes and ballot papers. It was a paradigm shift for everyone including the political parties, candidates and the voters.
    • With introduction of EVMs, booth capturing in its traditional sense of the term lost its sheen.
    • The muscle power at the local level could not guarantee conversion of physical booth capturing into votes polled in favour of a particular candidate.
    • Conducting elections used to be round the clock strenuous nightmarish exercise beginning from cleaning of the ballot boxes to counting of votes running over a few days.
  • VVPAT: An additional technical device called VVPAT (Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail) machine has been introduced to instil the confidence among the stakeholders.
    • The voter can view the symbol of the candidate of his choice on the screen of VVPAT machine after casting his vote by pressing the button of the EVM.
  • e-EPIC: Now users can download their e-EPIC card online, especially the newly registered voters.
    •  It is another matter that other proofs of identity are also allowed on the day of poll to absolutely ensure that no one is derived from exercising his franchise
  • De-duplication software:  The electoral roll has also been cleaned by using de-duplication software across the constituencies.
    • Earlier having the same name at multiple places resulted in the electoral malpractices.
    • Use of suitable software has also ensured cropping of the electors image on the electoral roll.
    • This ensures prohibition of forged voting on the day of poll.
  • Linking Aadhar to EPIC: Linking of electoral roll with Aadhar database would further buttress the integrity of the roll and thus purity of the election process.
  • Election personnel: Database of the polling personnel is thoroughly randomized using a software developed by the National Informatics Centre to ensure concealment of the identity of the polling station where any polling staff would be posted.
    • This obfuscates any kind of intimidation or inducement of the polling personnel.
    • Intermix of the personnel in a polling party is carried out in such a way that no official is from the same department, region or class.
    • Such finesse has been made possible only by use of appropriate technology.
  • Cvigil app: This can be used by the citizens for posting their complaints directly. They can click photographs and videos which can be uploaded. The app is in public domain.

 

Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

3. In a democracy like India, accountability of the ruling class is an important aspect of polity and governance. The office of CAG has been mandated by the Indian Constitution to be the auditors of the nation and, thus, an agent for maintaining answerability. Discuss. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 2 and mentioned as part of Mission-2023 Secure timetable.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the powers, functions and responsibilities of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in India.

Directive word: 

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by stating that the Constitution of India provides for an independent office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). CAG helps the parliament/state legislatures hold their respective governments accountable.

Body:

In brief discuss the following points – The coming of CAG office into existence – The role of the CAG evolved in British India with Lord Canning initiating a major administrative drive before the Mutiny of 1857.

Next, in detail, discuss the Constitutional provisions of the CAG. Cite statistics and examples. Explain the duties and powers, with limitations.

Conclusion:

Conclude by summarising.

Introduction

The Constitution of India provides for an independent office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in chapter V under Part V. The CAG is mentioned in the Constitution of India under Article 148 – 151. He is the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department. He is the guardian of the public purse and controls the entire financial system of the country at both the levels- the centre and state. His duty is to uphold the Constitution of India and the laws of Parliament in the field of financial administration.

Body:

CAG and financial administration:

  • The existence and mandate of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India emanates from Articles 148 to 151 of the Constitution. Article 149 stipulates the Duties and Powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
  • DPC Act, 1971 (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service Act)lays down the general principles of Government accounting and the broad principles in regard to audit of receipts and expenditure
  • CAG audits the accounts related to all expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, Consolidated Fund of each state and UT having a legislative assembly.
  • CAG audits all expenditure from the Contingency Fund of India and the Public Account of India as well as the Contingency Fund and Public Account of each state.
  • CAG audits all trading, manufacturing, profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and other subsidiary accounts kept by any department of the Central Government and the state governments.
  • CAG audits the receipts and expenditure of all bodies and authorities substantially financed from the Central or State revenues; government companies; other corporations and bodies, when so required by related laws.
  • He submits his audit reports relating to the accounts of the Centre and State to the President and Governor, who shall, in turn, place them before both the houses of Parliament and the state legislature respectively.
  • He submits 3 audit reports to the President: audit report on appropriation accounts, audit report on finance accounts and audit report on public undertakings.
  • He ascertains and certifies the net proceeds of any tax or duty and his certificate is final on the matter.
  • He acts as a guide, friend and philosopher of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament.
  • The Public Accounts Committee examines public expenditure not only from legal and formal point of view to discover technical irregularities but also from the point of view of economy, prudence, wisdom and propriety to bring out the cases of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency and nugatory expenses.
  • CAG along with its mandatory regulatory and compliance audit performs the performance as well as efficiency audit to question executive’s wisdom and economy in order to identify cases of improper expenditure and waste of public money.

Constitutional provisions which ensure the independence of CAG are:

  • CAG is provided with the security of tenure. He can be removed by the president only in accordance with the procedure mentioned in the Constitution. Thus, he does not hold his office till the pleasure of the president, though fie is appointed by him.
  • He is not eligible for further office, either under the Government of India or of any state, after he ceases to hold his office.
  • His salary and other service conditions are determined by the Parliament. His salary is equal to that of a judge of the Supreme Court.
  • Neither his salary nor his rights in respect of leave of absence, pension or age of retirement can be altered to his disadvantage after his appointment.
  • The conditions of service of persons serving in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department and the administrative powers of the CAG are prescribed by the president after consultation with the CAG.
  • The administrative expenses of the office of the CAG, including all salaries, allowances and pensions of persons serving in that office are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India. Thus, they are not subject to the vote of Parliament.
  • Further, no minister can represent the CAG in Parliament (both Houses) and no minister can be called upon to take any responsibility for any actions done by him.
  • Appointment and Term to Constitutionals Posts:
    • The CAG is appointed by the President of India by a warrant under his hand and seal.
    • The CAG, before taking over his office, makes and subscribes before the president an oath or affirmation: to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India; to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India; to duly and faithfully and to the best of his ability, knowledge and judgement perform the duties of his office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; and to uphold the Constitution and the laws.
    • He holds office for a period of six years or upto the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier

Conclusion:

CAG helps the parliament/state legislatures hold their respective governments accountable. He is one of the bulwarks of the democratic system of government in India. It is for these reasons Dr. B R Ambedkar said that the CAG shall be the most important Officer under the Constitution of India and his duties are far more important than the duties of even the judiciary.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

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

4. The fiscal year 2021–22 ended with a somewhat mixed picture on the trade deficit front. What are its implications on the Indian economy? Enumerate the measures that are needed to bridge the trade deficit. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Indian Express

Why the question:

Data for the first four months of 2022–23 allow us to make initial assessments about India’s merchandise trade patterns. At first sight, the numbers for April to July 2022 do not look promising as exports have expanded by 20%, but imports have grown by over 48%.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the trade deficit, reasons for its increase and its impact on the Indian economy, steps that are needed to bridge it.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Start by defining trade deficit.

Body:

Frist, write about the factors that have led to increasing trade deficit in the recent past.

Next, write impact increased trade deficit will have on the Indian economy. Substantiate with facts and examples.

Next, write about ways to mitigate impact of negative impact of increasing trade deficit and bridge the growing deficit.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

 

Introduction

A trade deficit occurs when a country’s imports exceed its exports during a given time period. It is also referred to as a negative balance of trade (BOT). A trade deficit or net amount can be calculated on different categories within an international transaction account. These include goods, services, goods and services, current account, and the sum of balances on the current and capital accounts.

Body

Background

  • India’s trade deficit had breached the $60 million level in the April-July period four times since 2010.
  • In 2011-12 and 2012-13, it went past $60 billion when elevated prices of petroleum crude and gold raised the imports bill.
  • More recently, it crossed $60 billion level in 2018-19 and 2019-20, again when petroleum prices climbed.

Reasons for increasing trade and current account deficit

  • Government measures to control petrol prices: In the current instance, government intervention to control exports of petroleum products and certain commodities due to domestic demand and inflation contributed to the widening of the trade deficit.
    • Earnings from petroleum product exports declined by $2.4 billion in July from $7.83 billion in June 2022, as volumes fell after the government imposed an export cess on petrol and diesel and global prices cooled amid concerns about economic growth in the US and China.
  • Gems and Jewellery muted exports: A contraction in earnings from exports of gems and jewellery, organic and inorganic chemicals and readymade garments also contributed to lowering July’s export earnings by $2.7 billion from the previous month.
  • Rising imports: Imports maintained their momentum in July, rising about 4.2 percent from the previous month, due to the country’s dependence on imported energy, electronics goods and certain machinery.
  • High import of crude: Imports of petroleum crude and products were up about 2 percent on a sequential basis and a massive 70.4 percent from a year ago. Petroleum crude and products together accounted for about 32 percent of the import bill in July. It might have been higher if Indian refiners were not buying Russian crude.
  • Coal imports: Coal imports were another transaction that contributed to the import bill and the widening of the trade deficit this financial year.

Implications on the Indian economy

  • There is less room for fiscal policy stimulus to support growth given high deficit and debt levels.
  • A large CAD will result in demand for foreign currency rising, thus leading to depreciation of the home currency. Nations balance CAD by attracting capital inflows and running a surplus in capital accounts through increased foreign direct investments.
  • A weaker Indian currency will drive inflation up, which is already a grave concern due to high commodity prices.
  • If an increase in the import bill is because of imports for technological upgradation it would help in long-term development.
  • But more alarming for the Indian economy is the increase in imports of electronics products and machinery, both electrical and non-electrical, since it is India’s northern neighbour China that is the overwhelmingly large supplier in both these product groups.
  • The sharp increase in textile yarn and raw cotton imports is equally concerning, as this could have serious implications for domestic producers.
  • If increasing imports is accompanied by an expansion in industrial production, it is a sign of economic development.
  • Exports to the EU and the UK, the two potential CEPA partners, have been expanded during this fiscal, with the latter witnessing a 46% increase. However, the challenge for India would be to maintain its current level of market access in the face of severe headwinds these countries face.
  • The most remarkable development during the first quarter is India’s substantially increased dependence on Russia. Compared to the previous year, imports from Russia have increased by nearly 370%, making it India’s sixth largest import source compared to 19th in April–June 2021–22. More importantly, Russia is now India’s third largest source of crude oil, with a 13% share, just behind Saudi Arabia, which has a 17% share. Russia is also the largest source of fertilisers, with a 19% share.

Conclusion

These trends in merchandise trade have sent out one clear message: more than ever before, India’s trade engagements are dependent on strategic choices that the government makes during these challenging times.

 

 

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

5. In keeping with the spirit of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the country is taking steps to curb littered and unmanaged plastic waste pollution. Elaborate upon the efforts to eliminate single-use plastics in the country. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: The HinduInsights on India

Why the question:

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12, 2021.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about concerns associated single use plastic and ways to successfully phase it out.

Directive:

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by defining single use plastic and give statistic related to plastic waste generation in India.

Body:

First, write about the concerns associated with single use plastic – usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean, releases toxic chemicals, affects Endocrine system which can cause cancer, infertility, birth defects, impaired immunity and many other ailments etc

Next, write about the ways in which singe use plastic can be phased out in the country and ensure its successful ban.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward.

Introduction

Single Use plastic is a form of plastic that is disposable, which is only used once and then has to be thrown away or recycled. The single-use plastic items include plastic bags, water bottles, soda bottles, straws, plastic plates, cups, most food packaging and coffee stirrers. The single-use plastic products also prevent the spread of infection. Instruments such as syringes, applicators, drug tests, bandages and wraps are often made to be disposable. Also, single-use plastic products have been enlisted in the fight against food waste, keeping food and water fresher for longer and reducing the potential for contamination.

The Centre has defined a list of single-use plastic items that will be banned from July 1, 2022. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12, 2021.

Body

Govt. of India has laid great emphasis on eradicating single use plastic which has become one of the biggest sources of pollution. During his Independence Day Speech this year Prime Minister had urged the people to take a pledge on Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Anniversary on 2nd October to make the country free of single use plastic

Efforts undertaken to ban single-use plastic

  • Monitoring by CPCB:The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.
  • Stop raw materials supply: Directions have been issued at national, state and local levels — for example, to all petrochemical industries — to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.
  • Directions to industries:SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees will modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
  • Fresh licensing required: Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.
  • Encouraging compostable plastics:CPCB has issued one-time certificates to 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic and the BIS passed standards for biodegradable plastic.
  • Penalty: Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.
    • Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensationby the SPCB.

Challenges posed:

  • Petroleum-based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean.
  • Plastic in oceans and forests are choking flora and fauna. In fact, plastic trash is expected to exceed the fish population in 2050.
  • Microplastics have ability to enter food chain with the highest concentration of the pollutants.
  • The PWM Rules Amendment, 2018, omitted explicit pricing of plastic bags that had been a feature of the 2016 Rules.
  • Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
  • The fast moving consumer goods sector that uses large volumes of packaging, posing a higher order challenge.
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure for segregation and collection is the key reason for inefficient plastic waste disposal.
  • Small producers of plastics are facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.
  • Lack of consultation with stakeholders such as manufacturers of plastics, eateries and citizen groups: This leads to implementation issues and inconvenience to the consumers.
  • Exemptions for certain products such as milk pouches and plastic packaging for food items severely weaken the impact of the ban.
  • No investment in finding out alternative materials to plug the plastic vacuum: Until people are able to shift to a material which is as light-weight and cheap as plastic, banning plastic will remain a mere customary practice.
  • Lack of widespread awareness among citizens about the magnitude of harm caused by single-use plastic: Without citizens ‘buying in’ to a cause, bans only result in creating unregulated underground markets.
  • No strategy to offset the massive economic impact: Sweeping bans like the one in Maharashtra are likely to cause massive loss of jobs and disruption of a large part of the economy dependent on the production and use of plastic.

Measures needed

  • Target the most problematic single-use plastics by conducting a baseline assessment to identify the most problematic single use plastics, as well as the current causes, extent and impacts of their mismanagement.
  • Consider the best actions to tackle the problem (e.g. through regulatory, economic, awareness, voluntary actions), given the country’s socio-economic standing and considering their appropriateness in addressing the specific problems identified.
  • Assess the potential social, economic and environmental impacts (positive and negative) of the preferred short-listed instruments/actions. How will the poor be affected? What impact will the preferred course of action have on different sectors and industries?
  • Identify and engage key stakeholder groups – retailers, consumers, industry representatives, local government, manufacturers, civil society, environmental groups, tourism associations – to ensure broad buy-in. Evidence-based studies are also necessary to defeat opposition from the plastics industry.
  • Raise public awareness about the harm caused by single-used plastics. Clearly explain the decision and any punitive measures that will follow.

Way forward

  • Promote alternatives like cotton, khadi bags and bio-degradable plastics.
  • Provide economic incentives to encourage the uptake of eco-friendly and fit-for-purpose alternatives that do not cause more harm. Support can include tax rebates, research and development funds, technology incubation, public-private partnerships, and support to projects that recycle single-use items and turn waste into a resource that can be used again.
  • Reduce or abolish taxes on the import of materials used to make alternatives.
  • Provide incentives to industry by introducing tax rebates or other conditions to support its transition. Governments will face resistance from the plastics industry, including importers and distributors of plastic packaging. Give them time to adapt.
  • Use revenues collected from taxes or levies on single-use plastics to maximize the public good. Support environmental projects or boost local recycling with the funds. Create jobs in the plastic recycling sector with seed funding.
  • Enforce the measure chosen effectively, by making sure that there is clear allocation of roles and responsibilities.
  • Monitor and adjust the chosen measure if necessary and update the public on progress.
  • International examples:
    • The success of imposing a plastic bag fee has also been established in cities like Chicago and Washington, showing that such interventions could be effective in shaping behaviour change.
    • The European Union is mulling new laws to ban some everyday single-use plastic products including straws, cutlery and plates citing plastic litter in oceans as the concern prompting the action.
    • Countries such as the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have already put in place regulations to stop the use of microbeads in personal-care products. The sooner India adopts such regulations, the better
  • Encouraging plogging: Picking up litter while jogging or strolling was kick-started on a small scale in a small part of Stockholm about an year ago, it has spread across the globe and India can adopt this as well.

 

 

Topic: Disaster and disaster management.

6. Do you think that Urban flooding which is being witnessed in metropolitan cities across the nation is a man-made disaster? Critically analyse. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Indian Express

Why the question:

It was near apocalypse beyond the western outskirts of Bengaluru last weekend, as the government’s marquee project—the Bengaluru-Mysuru 10-lane express highway, to be readied in time for Dasara in October—was flooded. So were the districts of Mandya, Ramanagara and regions lying along the highway route.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the various causes of urban floods and ways to mitigate them

Directive word: 

Critically analyze – When asked to analyse, you must examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them in a summary. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a balanced judgment on the topic.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by explaining what is urban flood.

Body:

Next, Mention the man-made causes of urban floods such as lake bed encroachments, deforestation etc.

Next, write about the natural causes of urban floods.

Next, mention the need for a city wise strategic approach and recourse in the building codes and by-laws of cities to ensure proper drainage channels and provision for perforation of rainfall into ground water to avoid urban floods.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

 

Introduction

As the incidence of climate variability and extreme weather events increases, urban flooding becomes more and more common. While the untimely heavy rains can be attributed to climate variability, the urban flooding is largely due to an unplanned urbanisation.

Recently, It was near apocalypse beyond the western outskirts of Bengaluru last weekend, as the government’s marquee project—the Bengaluru-Mysuru 10-lane express highway, to be readied in time for Dasara in October—was flooded. So were the districts of Mandya, Ramanagara and regions lying along the highway route.

Body:

Causes for the rise in urban floods

  • Inadequate Drainage Infrastructure:Cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai rely on a century-old drainage system, covering only a small part of the core city.
    • In the last 20 years, the Indian cities have grown manifold with its original built-up area.
    • As the city grew beyond its original limits, not much was done to address the absence of adequate drainage systems.
  • Terrain Alteration:Lasting irreversible damage has been done to the city by property builders, property owners, and public agencies by flattening terrain and altering natural drainage routes.
  • Reducing Seepage:Indian cities are becoming increasingly impervious to water, not just because of increasing built up but also because of the nature of materials used (hard, non-porous construction material that makes the soil impervious).
  • Lax Implementation:Even with provisions of rainwater harvesting, sustainable urban drainage systems, etc, in regulatory mechanisms like the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), adoption at user end as well as enforcement agencies remains weak.
  • Encroaching Natural Spaces:The number of wetlands has reduced to 123 in 2018 from 644 in 1956.
    • Green cover is only 9 per cent, which ideally should have been at least 33 per cent.

Way forward

  • Need for Holistic Engagement:Urban floods of this scale cannot be contained by the municipal authorities alone. Floods cannot be managed without concerted and focused investments of energy and resources.
    • The Metropolitan Development Authorities, National Disaster Management Authority, State revenue and irrigation departments along with municipal corporations should be involved in such work together.
    • Such investments can only be done in a mission mode organisation with active participation of civil society organisations at the metropolitan scale.
  • Developing Sponge Cities:The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it.
    • Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers.
    • This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells.
    • This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.
  • Wetland Policy:There is a need to start paying attention to the management of wetlands by involving local communities.
    • Without doubt, terrain alteration needs to be strictly regulated and a ban on any further alteration of terrain needs to be introduced.
    • To improve the city’s capacity to absorb water, new porous materials and technologies must be encouraged or mandated across scales.
    • Examples of these technologies are bioswales and retention systems, permeable material for roads and pavement, drainage systems which allow storm water to trickle into the ground, green roofs and harvesting systems in buildings.
  • Drainage Planning:Watershed management and emergency drainage plan should be clearly enunciated in policy and law.
    • Urban watersheds are micro ecological drainage systems, shaped by contours of terrain.
    • Detailed documentation of these must be held by agencies which are not bound by municipal jurisdictions; instead, there is a need to consider natural boundaries such as watersheds instead of governance boundaries like electoral wards for shaping a drainage plan.
  • Water Sensitive Urban Design:These methods take into consideration the topography, types of surfaces (permeable or impervious), natural drainage and leave very less impact on the environment.
    • Vulnerability analyses and risk assessments should form part and parcel of city master plans.
    • In a changing climate, the drainage infrastructure (especially storm water drainage) has to be built considering the new ‘normal’.
    • Tools such as predictive precipitation modelling can help do that and are also able to link it with the adaptive capacity of urban land use.

Conclusion:g

These can all be delivered effectively through an urban mission along the lines of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Smart Cities MissionUrban Flood management will not just help control recurring floods but also respond to other fault lines, provide for water security, more green spaces, and will make the city resilient and sustainable.

 

 


General Studies – 4


 

Topic: Case Study

7. Suppose you are an officer in-charge of implementing a social service scheme to provide support to old and destitute women. An old and illiterate woman comes to you to avail the benefits of the scheme. However, she has no documents to show that she fulfills the eligibility criteria. But after meeting her and listening to her you feel that she certainly needs support. Your enquirers also show that she is really destitute and living in a pitiable condition. You are in a dilemma as to what to do. Putting her under the scheme without necessary documents would clearly be violation of rules. But denying her the support would be cruel and inhuman. a) Can you think of a rational way to resolve this dilemma? b) Give your reasons for it. (250 Words) (20 M) (UPSC 2016)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start by giving the context. Bring out the key stakeholders in the above case study and major ethical dilemmas present.

Body:

In the body, write about the rational course of action available for you as the officer in charger.

Next, give valid arguments for the both the above-mentioned courses of action that you can take. Evaluate its pros and cons in detail.

Conclusion:

Conclude by stressing on the importance of rationality in decision making.

Introduction

The given case is an example of ethical dilemma that an individual faces between professional ethics and empathy towards others. You want to perform your duty honestly but sometimes cases arise that may force you to overcome rules and guidelines. In such times these moral dilemmas arise.

Body

Stakeholders

  • Myself as an officer-in-charge
  • Destitute woman and others like her
  • Public welfare and benefit
  • Government as a welfare state

Ethical issues involved

  • Conflict between Objectivity & Compassion.
  • Crisis of Conscience.
  • Fiduciary Responsibility to use public funds for intended purpose.
  • Justice to the poor and needy
  • Empathy towards suffering of people
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Upholding the Rules of Procedure as a civil servant

Rational way to resolve the dilemma

According to enquiry done by office in charge the old women is really a destitute woman and deserves the benefits under social service scheme. So not providing the benefits just because of lack of documents would defeat the noble purpose of this social service scheme itself. Though it may be legally right but morally and ethically it would be wrong. And this is blatant injustice to the woman to deny her the benefits due to a small irregularity. Ultimately people like her are the ones that really need such social support.

  • The woman is old and illiterate, so just giving directions to complete the documents would not help her. I would ask a subordinate officer to help that woman in completing necessary documents, and providing benefits to her.
  • Though there may be some delays in completing the document so in this specific condition, I would write to my senior officer and ask permission for some discretionary powers so that I can provide immediate relief to old women.
  • This is the specific case that came into my knowledge but there may be lots of similar cases. To resolve these types of cases, I would inform to the senior authorities and ask them to appoint a special officer that would look only the problem related with old and illiterate person who are not able to complete their documents. A special desk in the office can be assigned to these types of cases.

Reasons for my action

  • My action would provide the benefit of scheme to old woman and would not keep her out of the ambit of benefits just because she is not capable of completing her documents.
  • This action would be compliant to rule of law and would also be humane in nature.
  • My action to inform the seniors to resolve these types of cases would solve the problems for future also.
  • It would reduce the hurdles such as red tapism, bureaucratic inertia in getting benefits of such social security schemes.
  • Rule of Law with inclusion of humanity aspect would be taken care of by this action.
  • Administrators are expected to be compassionate towards the voiceless but following the rules is equally important.
  • Violating rules would set a wrong precedent.
  • In the present era, administration and civil society are expected to work synergistically. Hence taking help from NGOs is justified.
  • Administrators need to have creative bent of mind to find such innovative solutions.

Conclusion

If such people are rejected the benefit, then it is gross injustice. And an Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But if such problems recur, then finding a permanent solution is in the greater good of such vulnerable people. And it can be followed procedurally, henceforth as this action would set the right precedent. Hence, one must take interest in solving issues of the public for the greater good of the society.


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