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UPSC Civil Services Exam Mains 2023 – General Studies 4 Synopsis

NOTE: This is just a sample framework. Answer writing is much broader than this framework. Develop your own perspectives and ensure you do not restrict yourself to the framework provided here.

 

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Q1. What do you understand by ‘moral integrity’ and ‘professional efficiency in the context of corporate governance in India? Illustrate with suitable examples. (Answer in 150 words)10

Q1. What do you understand by ‘moral integrity’ and ‘professional efficiency in the context of corporate governance in India? Illustrate with suitable examples. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction

Corporate governance involves a certain set of principles that ensure that a company runs in the best interest of all stakeholders involved. Moral integrity and professional efficiency are two essential principles.

 

Body 

Moral Integrity refers to the adherence to ethical principles, values, and honesty in business practices.

Commitment to moral integrity implies:

  • Larger moral responsibility – e., “commerce with values”

Carbon Reduction Plan of WIPRO commitment to reach net-zero GHG emissions across the value chain by 2040.

  • Inclusive and safe work environment for all –

Tata Steel has been recognised as a “GOLD” employer by the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) 2022 for having successfully embedded LGBT+ inclusion in their policies, and hiring practices, demonstrating a commitment towards inclusive workspace.

  • Strict adherence to the Code of Conduct –

Tata Steel sacks 38 employees for breaking the company’s code of conduct(July 2023) based on the complaints received from whistleblowers. on issues such as misuse of authority, conflict of interest, and sexual misconduct.

  • Unethical business practices are discouraged –

Saradha Group’s Chit-fund scam involving operations of Ponzi schemes without any proper investment model demonstrates a lack of moral integrity.

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives-

The Aditya Birla Group’s strong commitment to CSR reflects moral integrity. They allocate resources efficiently to initiatives, including education, healthcare, and community development, benefiting wider society while adhering to ethical principles.

  • Compassionate capitalism – a more humanized and empathetic form of capitalism as advocated by N R Narayana Murthy in the Indian corporate context.

 Professional Efficiency relates to the effective and efficient management of resources, operations, and responsibilities to achieve organizational goals.

 

Professional efficiency in corporate governance implies:

  • Competent leaders and efficient team – Reliance’s leadership and team efficiency are evident in its ability to execute the Jio telecom network rollout. It helped provide affordable connectivity to millions in a short span.
  • Sustainable diversificationITC’s professional efficiency is evident in its diversified portfolio, which includes fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), hotels, and agribusiness.
  • Risk mitigation – HDFC Bank has demonstrated exemplary risk management. Its rigorous risk assessment and credit evaluation processes have helped maintain a low level of NPAs ensuring the bank’s stability.
  • Efficient resource utilisation – Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has taken steps to reduce plastic waste by introducing sustainable packaging solutions. They have optimised resource utilisation with recyclable and reusable packaging materials.
  • Innovation – “Ignio”, an AI-powered automation system developed by TCS for IT operations. It can predict and prevent IT failures, increasing efficiency and reliability.

Conclusion

Ethical corporate governance imbibing the values of ‘moral integrity and ‘professional efficiency’ can go a long way in enhancing the global standing of Indian corporates.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q2. ‘International aid’ is an accepted form of helping ‘resource-challenged’ nations. Comment on ‘ethics in contemporary international aid’.  Support your answer with suitable examples. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

 Introduction

In a world marked by stark disparities in wealth and resources, international aid is crucial for nations struggling to meet the basic needs of their people. From famine relief and disaster response to long-term development projects, international aid continues to play a vital role.

 

Body

However, in today’s world, some ethical considerations are paramount in ensuring that aid effectively addresses real needs. To list some –

 1)Donors attaching conditions to aid- such as policy change or aligning with donors’ foreign interest thereby undermining the sovereignty of the country.

E.g.- a)China Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC), China supporting development project in Pakistan with an intent to access the Middle East and African countries and the Indian Ocean via Gwadar Port.

b)On account of Sri Lanka’s failure to pay debt, China took Hambantota port on a 99-year lease

2)Creating perpetual Dependency– rather than to empower the recipient nation.

E.g.-Though LDC’s(Least Developed Countries) have been receiving foreign aid for a long there has not been any significant economic development.

3)Lack of Transparency and Accountability- Corruption and mismanagement diverts aid from those in need.

E.g.- a)”Oil for Food”(UNSC’s initiative) scandal by Iraq

b)Misappropriation of Ebola funds in West African countries in 2015.

4)Cultural consideration- Aid projects can hurt cultural sentiments if not rolled out in the right manner.

E.g.- Mass burials without consideration of cultural norms post-Haiti earthquake in 2010 through international aid distressed local population.

5)Environmental Degradation –

E.g.- Foreign aid to the Mato Grosso region in Brazil has resulted in the deforestation of millions of acres for soybean production.

Conclusion

In sum, the ethics of contemporary international aid represent a delicate balance between noble intentions and complex realities. However, efforts should be to prioritise values of fairness and justice while furthering the cause of global solidarity and sustainable development.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q3. A.“Corruption is the manifestation of the failure of core values in the society.” In your opinion, what measures can be adopted to uplift the core values in the society? (Answer in 150 words)10

 

 

Introduction

Society’s identity is closely intertwined with the core value system it holds. Corruption is a menace that can tarnish this identity eroding the values and principles society holds dear.

 

Body

To tackle this menace of corruption, strengthening the societal core values is an effective way. This can be achieved through the following ways –

 

1)Education and Awareness – Incorporating value education into the curriculum.

E.g.- a)“Dotoku”, a moral education class regular in all schools in Japan focusing on core ethical values.

b)Including chapters on personalities holding strong ethical values like T N Sheshan (former CEC) whose honest work ethic is exemplary.

2)Parenting Role –

-Leading by example, encouraging children to

– teaching to appreciate values over material possession

– instilling a sense of responsibility towards a community and nation as a whole.

E.g.-a)Giri”(sense of duty and obligation) is a way of life in Japanese culture and is an integral part of social interaction.

3)Incentivising integrity and honesty– Recognising and rewarding ethical behaviour through appropriate mechanisms.

E.g.- a)Under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 in the USA Whistleblowers are rewarded with monetary rewards.

b)Giving ‘employee of the month’ awards at workplaces to encourage honesty and hard work.

4)Government policies to reflect societal values- promote transparency, equality and inclusivity viz., through anti-corruption law, human rights, equal pay, and anti-discrimination laws.

E.g. – the RTI Act, of 2005 brought transparency into mainstream governance and other similar effective laws to be implemented.

5)Supporting free media to expose corruption– Holding government and institutions accountable.

E.g. – A report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists(ICIJ) in 2016, on the Panama Papers held governments all around the world accountable for corruption and illicit financial activities.

6)Role of religious and cultural organisations – in promoting ethical values through sermons, and art forms like plays and movies.

E.g. – Popular movies like Nayak, Rang de Basanti etc.,

 

Conclusion

Alongside, ethical leadership, conscientious civil society can further contribute towards uplifting societal core values and creating an environment where corruption is less likely to thrive.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

In the context of the work environment, differentiate between ‘coercion’ and ‘undue influence’ with suitable examples. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction:

The productivity and effectiveness of any organisation is largely dependent on its work environment. However, ‘coercion and undue influence’ are among the unethical practices that can affect overall workplace culture.

‘Coercion and undue influence’ can be distinguished as

 CoercionUndue Influence
 

 

DEFINITION

involves explicit threats, force or intimidation to force someone into a decision.is a form of persuasion that exploits trust or authority to manipulate someone into making a choice that may not be in their best interest.
NatureOften more overt/explicitOften subtle/implicit
 

 

 

Impact on work culture

can lead to a hostile and fear-driven work environment.

erodes trust, damages morale resulting in reduced employee satisfaction and productivity.

can undermine fair decision-making processes in the workplace.

can lead to unfair, biased practices, and conflicts of interest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples

1)     A senior official in a Government Department threatens to transfer an employee to a remote location if he doesn’t manipulate a tendering process to favour a particular contractor, though that is not in the best interest of the Government. The employee complies out of fear of the punitive transfer.

 

2)     An aggressive sales manager pressures a sales representative to meet unrealistic targets by threatening to fire him if he fails to do so. The sales representative complies out of fear of job loss and engages in unethical sales practices to meet the targets.

1)     A senior officer in a Government Department, who is also a close relative of a subordinate employee, persuades the subordinate to leak sensitive government information for personal gain. The subordinate complies because of the undue influence exerted due to their familial relationship.

 

2)     A senior executive in a company offers a junior employee a promotion in exchange for the employee supporting the senior executive’s proposal in a board meeting. The junior employee complies due to the undue influence exerted by the senior executive’s authority, even though the proposal may not be in the best interest of the company.

 

Conclusion

Initiatives like the Internal Complaints Committee, and culture keepers are significant steps in tackling such unethical practices. Further, organizations should strive to maintain a fair and ethical work environment that respects employees’ rights and avoids the use of either coercion or undue influence.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Given below are the three quotations of great thinkers. What does each of these quotations convey to you in the present context?

 

1. “The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand
heads bowing in prayer.” – Mahatma Gandhi (Answer in 150 words)10

Introduction

 

The above quote highlights the significance of compassionate actions over mere ritualistic gestures.

Body

 

This quote carries profound significance in the present context as acts of kindness have the following positive effects :

1) Ripple effect – COVID-19 pandemic, countless individuals and organizations worldwide engaged in acts of kindness. These stories of compassion highlighted by the media inspired many more to act in their capacity.

2) Acts of Compassion over Symbolic Gestures

For instance, The American Red Cross Society hosts blood drives in Churches that help treat sickle cell disease, a genetically inherited disorder.

3)Can drive Social Change – Collective acts of kindness can bring about positive social change.

E.g. – Indian Union Health Minister urging the population to make organ donation a social movement

4) Fosters Unity and harmony –

 ‘Iftar for All’ initiative in the UK to provide food parcels for those in need throughout the month of Ramadan.  Such initiatives in a pluralistic society like India can help promote brotherhood that transcends religious differences.

5) Address real needs

The State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) of Maharashtra taking cognizance of the shortage of blood had urged religious organisations requesting them to hold blood donation camps.

6) Creates value-based society – Community service based on the value that- the ‘best way to find oneself is to lose oneself in the service of others’.

 

Conclusion

 

While Sarve bhavantu Sukinah” ( let there be well-being for all ) is a noble prayer, it is time we translate our good intentions into empathetic actions. It is high time we as a society realise that -“Helping hands are better than praying lips”.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

“To awaken the people, it is the women who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves.” – Jawaharlal Nehru (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction

 

The above quote by the first Prime Minister of independent India demonstrates his visionary perspective on the integral role of women in societal advancement. It lays the foundation for the inclusive progress of the nation.

 

Body

 

Women’s empowerment is integral for national progress as it strengthens society at different levels.

  • Families are empowered

As the Bombay High Court observed in one of its judgements– “It’s a woman who holds the family together. She is a pillar of support for her husband, a guiding light for her child/children and a harbour for the family’s elderly.”

Thus, an empowered woman empowers her family.

– Supporting role– The mother is the first teacher of a child. An empowered mother builds character and nourishes the dreams of her child/ children.

E.g. – Chess champion Praggnanandhaa’s mother’s unwavering support to her son.

– Health and nourishment- better maternal care, improved nutrition for children.

  • Villages are vitalised

-Local governance – women’s participation in panchayats has an undeniable impact on developmental outcomes and social change.

-Neighbourhood groups- SHG-led programmes have helped women achieve economic empowerment in villages.

 E.g. – Baba Jaleswar’ a self-help group of village women in Odisha have successfully taken up pisciculture in the village pond.

  • Nation is progressed

-Economic contribution– presently, India’s female labour force participation is just around 20%.

If women across India are empowered, more enterprises like Kiran Mazumdar Shah’s Biocon, the bio-pharma giant can be realised by breaking all ‘glass ceilings.’

-Enhanced Political participation–  implies concerns of women and children are heard and addressed more effectively. This improves the condition of over half of the nation’s population.

Recent historic legislation to provide one-third reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies is a step in the right direction.

 

Conclusion

 

Only when Nari Shakti or the transformative power of women’s awakening is harnessed, the above-stated holistic progress is possible.

It is time for us to realise what Swami Vivekananda has stated – “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing.”

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Do not hate anybody, because that hatred that comes out from you must, in the long run, come back to you. If you love, that love will come back to you, completing the circle.” – Swami Vivekanand. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction

 

Swami Vivekananda is among the prominent spiritual leaders who made untiring efforts to spread love and harmony across the world. The given quote implies that We reap what we sow”, and the need to be conscious of what we sow.

 

Body

 

Hatred is a negative emotion if cultivated can come back to do more harm as evident in the following

Social Media and Online Behavior– Hate-comments. cyberbullying and online harassment can have serious consequences. It includes social backlash, damage to reputations, or even legal consequences for individuals engaged and also a detrimental impact on society as a whole.

E.g.- the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots are attributed to social media fuelling the spreading of hate.

Environmental destruction -hatred or neglect for the environment can lead to ecological disasters, affecting the quality of life for all.

E.g. – the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report reveals that climate change-induced natural disasters killed almost 3,000 people and 70,000 livestock, and destroyed around 4.1 lakh houses in India in the year 2022 alone.

Love can create positive ripples in society as can be seen in

Humanitarian Efforts – Love is at the core of humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. They provide aid and medical care in conflict and disaster-stricken areas, demonstrating the power of love in times of crisis.

Societal harmony – For instance, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa promoted forgiveness and love as a means to overcome a history of hatred during apartheid. The society built on love continues to remain strong.

 

Conclusion

 

Thus, whether it is love or hate- both come back to us as a theory of “Karma” states. It is we who have to make conscious decisions knowing well that – “We can’t keep snakes in our backyard and expect them to only bite our neighbours.”

/ UPSC GS4 2023

What really matters for success, character, happiness and lifelong achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ- not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” Do you agree with this view? Give reasons in support of your answer. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction

 

EQ is a measure of the emotional intelligence (EI) level of an individual. It refers to his/her ability to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions.

 

IQ on the other hand, is a measure of one’s cognitive intelligence level.

 

Body 

Set of emotional skills, collectively grouped under EI are vital for success, character, happiness and lifelong achievements because they ensure :

  • Conflict Resolution- individuals with strong emotional intelligence can resolve conflicts constructively.

For instance, Nelson Mandela, in post-apartheid South Africa successfully united a deeply divided society.

  • Successful personal relationships- Successful marriages and family relationships often hinge on EI. It can boost success in other spheres of life.
  • Effective Communication Skills –

Individuals with high EQ excel in communication because they can understand and express their emotions and empathize with others.

In professional life, a leader who listens actively and communicates with empathy can foster a positive work environment and lead a motivated team.

  • Happiness and Well-Being – Stress and mental depression have become common in today’s competitive world. To cope with it and be resilient and adaptable to setbacks, EQ is important.

E.g. – A person with high EQ is more likely to navigate a job loss or a personal setback with grace, quickly recovering and seeking new opportunities.

  • Self-Awareness- Person with better EI is more self-aware and thus understands their strengths and weaknesses. They make better choices for themselves and for the team/group they are part of.

 

Conclusion

 

However, the importance of IQ in contributing to one’s success cannot be undermined. It is an essential ingredient along with EQ for success. It can summed up as IQ may determine the height one may reach, but whether he/she stays there is determined mainly by EQ.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Differentiate ‘moral intuition from ‘moral reasoning’ with suitable (Answer in 150 words)10 Introduction   In our daily lives, we are faced with ethical dilemmas requiring us to make moral judgements. Both ‘moral intuition” and ‘moral reasoning’ form the basis of such ethical decision-making. Body   However, they differ from each other in the following aspects:     MORAL INTUITION MORAL REASONING       Nature ·        It is an automatic, instinctive response to a moral situation. ·        It relies on immediate feelings or gut reactions. ·        It is a deliberate, cognitive process. ·        It involves conscious thinking through moral principles, ethical theories, and potential consequences.     Suitability ·        Well-suited for straightforward situations. E.g.- Quickly apologizing for a minor mistake. ·        Better for complex, multifaceted dilemmas. E.g. – ethical considerations of Euthanasia for terminally ill     Basis of decision ·        Relies on personal values and instincts. E.g. – Leaving one’s seat to an elderly person in a crowded metro. ·        Utilizes ethical principles and theories. E.g. – Applying principles of utilitarianism to justify eviction for a public project.       Speed of decision-making   ·        Swift and often provides an immediate response. E.g. – Shifting an accident victim to the hospital. ·        Operates more slowly, involving conscious thought and analysis. E.g.- on whether to bear the victim’s medical expenses or not by consciously assessing his/her financial situation.     Vulnerability to bias ·        Prone to biases and cultural influences. ·        Can be more robust in addressing biases as it involves conscious examination. Consciousness of Thought ·        It occurs without a conscious, deliberate thought process. It’s more automatic and intuitive. E.g. – Policeman chasing a fleeing robber ·        It requires conscious thought and cognitive effort to analyse and evaluate moral dilemmas. E.g. – Analysing the ethical dimensions of capital punishment by considering legal and ethical principles. Conclusion   Recognizing when to trust our intuitions and when to engage in reasoned analysis can lead to more effective ethical decision-making. Striking a fine balance between the two can help us navigate ethical challenges effectively.

 

Introduction

In our daily lives, we are faced with ethical dilemmas requiring us to make moral judgements. Both ‘moral intuition” and ‘moral reasoning’ form the basis of such ethical decision-making.

Body

 

However, they differ from each other in the following aspects:

 MORAL INTUITIONMORAL REASONING
 

 

 

Nature

·        It is an automatic, instinctive response to a moral situation.

·        It relies on immediate feelings or gut reactions.

·        It is a deliberate, cognitive process.

·        It involves conscious thinking through moral principles, ethical theories, and potential consequences.

 

 

Suitability

·        Well-suited for straightforward situations.

E.g.- Quickly apologizing for a minor mistake.

 

·        Better for complex, multifaceted dilemmas.

E.g. – ethical considerations of Euthanasia for terminally ill

 

 

Basis of decision

·        Relies on personal values and instincts.

E.g. – Leaving one’s seat to an elderly person in a crowded metro.

·        Utilizes ethical principles and theories.

E.g. – Applying principles of utilitarianism to justify eviction for a public project.

 

 

 

Speed of decision-making

 

·        Swift and often provides an immediate response.

E.g. – Shifting an accident victim to the hospital.

 

 

·        Operates more slowly, involving conscious thought and analysis.

E.g.- on whether to bear the victim’s medical expenses or not by consciously assessing his/her financial situation.

 

 

 

Vulnerability to bias

·        Prone to biases and cultural influences.

 

 

·        Can be more robust in addressing biases as it involves conscious examination.

 

Consciousness of Thought·        It occurs without a conscious, deliberate thought process. It’s more automatic and intuitive.

E.g. – Policeman chasing a fleeing robber

 

·        It requires conscious thought and cognitive effort to analyse and evaluate moral dilemmas.

E.g. – Analysing the ethical dimensions of capital punishment by considering legal and ethical principles.

 

Conclusion

 

Recognizing when to trust our intuitions and when to engage in reasoned analysis can lead to more effective ethical decision-making. Striking a fine balance between the two can help us navigate ethical challenges effectively.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q5. Is conscience a more reliable guide when compared to laws, rules and regulations in the context of ethical decision-making? Discuss. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction

 

There are numerous basis on which ethical decisions can be made of which conscience is the prominent one. Conscience refers to the inner voice of a person, a moral compass to differentiate between right and wrong.

Laws, rules and regulations, on the other hand, are external guides providing a clear set of consistent and objective framework.

 

Body

 

Voice of conscience can be a preferred guide for ethical decision-making over external guides because –

It questions unjust law – Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus, questioning unjust segregation law in the US, which led to the American Civil Rights Movement in 1955.

It is flexible – unlike rigid laws, rules and regulations.

For instance, there is a scheme providing monetary support to homeless elderly people. Many with no required document, but deserving are denied the benefits if the law is to be followed.

However, if the official decides to follow his/her conscience he/she can support the needy and deserving.

However, conscience as a guide has its own set of limitations:

Vulnerability to Bias – Conscience can be influenced by personal biases and cultural norms.

E.g.- Abhorrent practices like female genital mutilation may be considered acceptable by some members of the Bohra community while it is regarded unethical by broader societal standards.

High Subjectivity – leading to ethically inconsistent decisions.

E.g.- some doctors object to abortion and refuse to carry it out, while some other doctors conscientiously agree to perform abortions believing it to be the right of a woman.

Limited Perspective- An individual’s conscience may not always consider the broader societal impact of their actions.

For instance, a business person’s conscience may guide her to maximize profits, even if it involves harm to the environment and exploitation of workers

 

Conclusion

 

Finally, the reliability of conscience vis-à-vis laws, rules, and regulations depends on various factors such as – an individual’s moral values, the situation at hand etc.,

Laws, rules, and regulations are necessary to establish a baseline of ethical behaviour as they are well-deliberated codified ethics in any society. Striking a fine balance between voice of conscience and adherence to established ethical standards is essential.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

What were the major teachings of Guru Nanak? Explain their relevance in the contemporary world. (Answer in 150 words)10

 

Introduction

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and a prominent social reformer of the 16th century has left behind a rich legacy of spiritual teachings.

 

Body

 His way of life and profound teachings still continue to hold strong relevance in today’s modern world. Some of them include –

  • Oneness in God– Emphasised belief in formless, monotheism (Ik Onkar or one creator) and universality of the divine.

Relevance -Promotes religious pluralism, tolerance and fosters harmony

  • Equality – He vehemently opposed the caste system and advocated equality for all humans.

Relevance –  As per the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS) one in four Indians admit to practising untouchability in some form even in today’s age. Guru Nanak’s teachings adopted in practice can help address this.

  • Selfless Service(Seva) – Fostered spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy.

Relevance-More initiatives like the “Langar on Wheels” initiative by Gurudwara to provide meals during the Covid-19 lockdown to be promoted.

  • Living an honest life(Kirat Karo)- Using God-given skills and abilities and doing hard labour to lead a truthful life.

Relevance- With the rise of corruption, dishonesty and the lure of an easy life, his teaching promotes the importance of leading an ethical life.

5)  Vaand Chhako ( sharing whatever god has given to you with the needy) –

This principle of distributive justice is more relevant in a world marked by stark inequalities of wealth and income.
For instance, the Richest 1% bagged nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world put together over the past two years, as per the OXFAM report released in 2023.

  • Societal Harmony through interfaith dialogues – promoted by Guru Nanak engaged to promote peace and harmony among all.

Relevance- offers timeless solutions to contemporary issues of religious intolerance and conflicts arising mostly out of ignorance and scant respect for others’ faith and belief.

 

Conclusion

Guru Nanak’s teachings offer timeless and universal guidance and solutions to contemporary challenges of the modern world. It can help foster a more just, inclusive and compassionate world.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Explain the term social capital. How does it enhance good governance? (Answer in 150 words)10

 

 Introduction

Social capital refers to the collective value of networks, relationships, and social connections that individuals and communities build over time.

 

Body

Social capital, an intangible asset can help improve governance in the following ways:

 

  • Enhanced Civic Participation – The community movement led by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan culminated in the RTI Act enactment in 2005 ushering in a new era of transparency.
  • Community Resilience – Especially during natural disasters, communities with high social capital respond to crises better.

E.g. – During the 2018 severe floods in Kerala, the rescue and relief operations were boosted by community trust and networking. Coordination through social media, local fishermen taking their boats for rescue, and local support groups taking care of food and accommodation of the affected is noteworthy.

  • Problem Solving – Communities with high social capital can effectively address local challenges.

E.g. – Kudumbashree program of the Kerala Government has empowered women to form neighbourhood groups and take on various development projects, leading to improved governance at the local level.

  • Effective Policy Implementation – For instance, initiatives like MGNREGA have been more successful in areas with strong social networks that ensure proper implementation and prevent misuse of funds through regular social audits.
  • Inclusivity– It helps integrate marginalized groups into mainstream governance.

E.g. – SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) has created social capital among informal women workers, enabling them to access government services and social protection.

  • Reducing Disparities– Initiatives like microfinancing have empowered marginalized groups by fostering social capital, enabling better economic and social governance.

E.g.- the Shree Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) financing rural entrepreneurs in parts of Karnataka is a successful model relying on social capital.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, Social capital is particularly valuable in a diverse and complex country like India, where communities often rely on their social connections to engage with the governance system. Efforts to foster it should be made a priority.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q7. You are working as an executive in a nationalized bank for several years. One day one of your close colleagues tells you that her father is suffering from heart disease and needs surgery immediately to survive. She also tells you that she has no insurance and the operation will cost about Rs. 10 lakh. You are also aware of the fact that her husband is no more and that she is from a lower-middle-class family. You are empathetic about her situation. However, apart from expressing your sympathy, you do not have the resources to fund her.

 

A few weeks later, you ask her about the well-being of her father and she informs you about his successful surgery and that he is recovering. She then confides in you that the bank manager was kind enough to facilitate the release of Rs. 10 lakh from a dormant account of someone to pay for the operation with a promise that it should be confidential and be repaid at the earliest. She has already started paying it back and will continue to do so until it is all returned.


(a) What are the ethical issues involved?
(b) Evaluate the behaviour of the bank manager from an ethical point of view.
(c) How would you react to the situation?

(Answer in 250 words)20

 

Introduction

The case presents the issue of value conflict wherein a life-saving emergency situation stands against the rules and procedures of the organisation.

  1. a) Ethical issues involved:
  • Bank manager:
    • Business ethics vs. Personal ethics
    • Organisational Values vs. Individual Values
    • Professional Values vs People Oriented Values
    • Compassion, Empathy vs Rules
    • Personal Integrity vs. Financial Integrity, Transparency
    • Means vs Ends
  • Myself:
    • Compassion and Personal ethics as against Honesty, Integrity, and Professional ethics
  1. b) Ethical evaluation of the bank manager’s behaviour:
  • Ethically seen, the decision of the Manager is a one-of-a-kind decision. The complexity and subjectivity of the situation demands an unprecedented action. Nevertheless, it is pertinent to assess the pros and cons ethically.
  • How is it justifiable?
    • The Manager has clearly acted on lines of situational ethics, wherein the demands of the situation are prioritised over and above the rules and procedures. Here the situation demanded a life-saving decision. Seen from this high priority, the Manager’s decision is justifiable because:
      • The employee is devoid of any other resource
      • Any delay in decision-making involves life-risk
      • Available and unused resource is used prudently to meet the complexity of the situation
      • It has not caused any immediate harm to anybody or the organisation. (However, this is questionable in the long run to the functioning of the organisation.)
    • How is it unjustifiable?
      • Seen from the values of professional ethics, the decision to use the funds of a dormant account is unjustifiable. This is because –
        • It amounts to misuse of authority and breach of procedures
        • It sets a wrong precedent
        • It affects the integrity of the organisation in the long run
        • The same avenue could also be used for inappropriate needs and encourage corruption
  1. c) Reaction to the situation:
  • Factors that I would consider in this situation:
    • Urgency of the situation
    • Economic situation of my friend; lack of other sources of support for my friend
    • Lack of personal resources to help my friend
    • Friend has already started paying it back and will continue to do so until it is all returned (Taking this as a certain case).
      • Integrity of the organisation
      • Long-term professional and financial health of the organisation
      • Professional ethics to stand up to misconduct in the organisation as an Executive
      • My limited powers to take authoritative decisions being the Executive
    • Addressing misuse of authority in the organisation:
      • Make written suggestions to the central authority to formulate procedures to rightfully meet the emergency medical needs of the employees and their families.
        • This would avoid any misconduct in the organisation and improper use of funds.
        • The financial and professional integrity of the organisation and the employees will be preserved in the long run.
      • Also, take initiatives as an executive to make the functioning of dormant accounts transparent, so that the funds are not misused.
    • Addressing the needs of the friend:
      • Advise the friend to make the repayment properly and not to resort to any such inappropriate means to meet her ends anymore.
      • Contribute my possible part as a friend for speedy repayment

Conclusion 

In all, as the decision is already taken on condition of repayment, and the ends are met, any immediate reaction will not reverse the act.

However, given the fact that the means are not justified, procedural initiatives to make the functioning and decisions of the bank transparent and bank authorities accountable will be taken to avert such acts further.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q8. A landslide occurred in the middle of the night on 20th July 2023 in a remote mountain hamlet, approximately 60 kilometres from Uttarkashi. The landslide was caused by torrential rains and has resulted in large-scale destruction of property and life. You, as district magistrate of the area, have rushed to the spot with a team of doctors, NGOs, media and police along with numerous support staff to oversee the rescue operations.

 

A man came running to you with a request for urgent medical help for his pregnant wife who is in labour and is losing blood. You directed your medical team to examine his wife. They return and convey to you that this woman needs a blood transfusion immediately. Upon enquiry, you come to know that a few blood collection bags and blood group test kits are available in the ambulance accompanying your team. Few people in your team have already volunteered to donate blood.

Being a physician who has graduated from AIIMS, you know that blood for transfusion needs to be procured only through a recognized blood bank. Your team members are divided on this issue; some favour transfusion while some others oppose it. The doctors in the team are ready to facilitate the delivery provided they are not penalized for transfusion. Now you are in a dilemma. Your professional training emphasizes on prioritizing service to humanity and saving the lives of individuals.
(a)What are the ethical issues involved in this case?
(b) Evaluate the options available to you, being District Magistrate of the
area.

(Answer in 250 words)20

 

Introduction

The above situation poses a challenge arising from the dilemma between satisfying the technical and procedural standards and prioritising the goals of saving lives in disaster response.

  1. a) Ethical issues involved:
  • Situational knowledge vs. Specialised knowledge
  • Personal Values vs Technicalities
  • Value-bound action vs. Rule-bound action
  • Empathy, compassion vs Protocols
  • Fairness vs Accountability
  • Service goals vs Duty ethics
  1. b) Evaluation of the options available:
  • Factors to consider:
    • Disaster at midnight; Remote place (mountain hamlet)
    • Urgency of the situation – Pregnant lady
    • Readiness of the doctors to go ahead with transfusion
    • Professional ideals – Service to humanity and saving lives
      • Procedural regulations
      • Prerequisites of blood transfusion
      • Mixed opinion of the team/ divided team
OptionsProsCons
Option 1 – Not allow for blood transfusion

 

Supportive steps:

·        Look for other feasible options by contacting the nearby hospitals.

·        Meanwhile, direct the Doctors to give the best possible immediate care

·        Upholding rules and procedures

·        Ensuring that technical standards are met even in critical situations

·        Any risks with informal transfusions are averted

·        Staying accountable

·        Life risk to the pregnant lady and the unborn child given the time lag

·        Lack of other alternatives as it is a remote hamlet and it is midnight

·        Not morally and professionally ethical as it fails on the commitment to save lives

·        Uncertainty of the outcome of the situation

Option 2 – Allow for blood transfusion from volunteers

 

Supportive steps:

  • Clarify and assess again with doctors, the risks and results of going ahead with the transfusion
  • Assure the Doctors that I would take responsibility for the decision
  • Keep the team members informed of the complexities and priorities of the situation and also, make a written report later on dealing with the situation
·        Going in line with my professional training to save lives and prioritise service to humanity above rules

·        No life risk is involved as the doctors themselves are ready to offer support; only the team members are divided

·        Will cause no harm to anybody. On the other hand, in failure of timely response, there is life risk.

 

·        Breach of regulations

·        Setting a wrong precedent for the team members as this may be repeated in personal interests too

 

  • Being the District Magistrate, I will take responsibility for the decisions and go with Option 2 given the limitations and challenges involved in the situation as well as the goal to save lives in critical conditions.
  • On the other hand, prioritising rules here would result in irreversible damage of losing lives, and that too a woman and child, who are part of the vulnerable sections.
  • In the long term, would arrange for mobile blood banks and emergency medical response teams to help people in remote mountain areas.

Conclusion

 

To sum up, transformational and courageous leadership demands acting on unprecedented lines, especially in challenging situations such as dealing with disasters and saving lives in remote areas.

Nevertheless, at the same time, making the decisions and functioning transparent would avert the possibility of misuse of the same means for personal ends in the future.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q9. At 9 pm on Saturday evening, Rashika, a Joint Secretary, was still engrossed in her work in her office. Her husband, Vikram, is an executive in an MNC and is frequently out of town in connection with his work. Their two children aged 5 and 3 are looked after by their domestic helper. At 9:30 pm her superior, Mr. Suresh calls her and asks her to prepare a detailed note on an important matter to be discussed in a meeting in the Ministry. She realises, that she will have to work on Sunday to finish the additional task given by her superior.


She reflects on how she had looked forward to this posting and had worked long hours for months to achieve it. She had kept the welfare of people uppermost in discharging her duties. She feels that she has not done enough justice to her family and she has not fulfilled her duties in discharging essential social obligations. Even as recently as last month, she had to leave her sick child in the nanny’s care as she had to work in the office. Now, she feels that she must draw a line, beyond which her personal life should take precedence over her professional responsibilities. She thinks that there should be reasonable limits to the work ethics such as punctuality, hard work, dedication to duty and selfless service.
(a) Discuss the ethical issues involved in this case.
(b) Briefly describe at least four laws that have been enacted by the Government with respect to providing a healthy, safe and equitable working environment for women.
(c) Imagine you are in a similar situation. What suggestions would you make to mitigate such working conditions?

(Answer in 250 words)20

 

Introduction

 

The state of the Joint Secretary presents the case of problems with striking a balance between work life and family life.

 

  1. a) Ethical issues involved – Discuss:
  • Rashika is caught in a dilemma between her professional and personal responsibilities.
  • Her overt and high dedication and commitment to work so far have made her compromise on her family life and led to losing out on family commitments and social obligations.
  • Her public interest in working for people’s welfare and selfless, duty-bound nature stands in conflict with her personal interests in taking care of and giving attention to her children.
  • Rashika’s emotional intelligence has also taken a toll as reflected in her personal sentiments and the guilt within her because of failing on her commitments and responsibilities as a mother.
  1. b) Government laws on providing a healthy, safe, and equitable working environment for women:
  2. Factories Act, 1948: Creches facilities at the work site; Fixed working hours, prohibition of night work, etc.; Clean toilets, washing and bathing facilities for women workers
  3. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: Payment of equal wages for work of same and similar nature to male and female workers
  4. Minimum Wages Act, 1948: Protection of workers in the unorganised sector, where a majority of women work. It provides for the minimum daily working hours, weekly rest days, etc.
  5. Maternity Benefit Act, 2017: Paid maternity leave for 26 weeks for biological mothers; For mothers who have adopted a child, a leave for 12 weeks.
  6. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH Act): In-house Internal Complaints Committee for addressing harassment issues, Grievance redressal, etc.
  7. c) Suggestions to mitigate such working conditions:
  • Workplace level:
    • Written regulations and guidelines for higher authorities to respect the work limitations of subordinates should be officially circulated and implemented.
    • Intermittent work-from-home options should be made available to offer flexibility and balance the priorities.
    • A four-day per week work practice as in many Nordic countries could be tried and implemented as it enhances both work efficiency and allows employees to make time for family.
    • Proper implementation of the creches facilities and daycare units nearby or onsite at workplaces.
    • Maternity leave should be reformed to include paternity leave provisions as well, thus balancing the gender gaps and sharing responsibilities.
    • Mental health of the employees should be given attention. In-house psychologists and periodical training workshops could be arranged in this regard.
  • Personal level:
    • Draw boundaries in terms of personal and professional lives, time spent, priorities met, etc. And, stick to those boundaries unless very essential and in extraordinary situations.
    • Develop the courage and clarity to communicate boldly to the higher-ups in line with the boundaries set.
    • Not to carry guilt for the decisions made as it would undermine the efficiency at work and mental well-being.
    • Discuss with the husband and arrive at a mutual understanding on balancing the responsibilities as both family priorities and parenting are shared and team commitments.

Conclusion

 

In all, developing boundaries at the personal level and bringing in regulations and employee-friendly working conditions at the workplace including public offices would help address the challenges of balancing personal and professional spheres.

 

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q10. Vinod is an honest and sincere IAS officer. Recently, he has taken over as Managing Director of the State Road Transport Corporation, his sixth transfer in the past three years. His peers acknowledge his vast knowledge, affability and uprightness.

 

The Chairman of the State Road Transport Corporation is a powerful politician and is very close to the Chief Minister. Vinod comes to know about many alleged irregularities of the Corporation and the high-handedness of the Chairman in financial matters.
A Board Member of the Corporation belonging to the Opposition Party meets Vinod and hands over a few documents along with a video recording in which the Chairman appears to be demanding a bribe for placing a huge order for the supply of QMR tyres. Vinod recollects the Chairman expediting the clearing of pending bills of QMR tyres.

Vinod confronts the Board Member as to why he is shying away from exposing the Chairman with the so-called solid proof he has with him. The member informs him that the Chairman refuses to yield to his threats. He adds that Vinod may earn recognition and public support if he himself exposes the Chairman. Further, he tells Vinod that once his party comes to power, Vinod’s professional growth would be assured.
Vinod is aware that he may be penalized if he exposes the Chairman and may further be transferred to a distant place. He knows that the Opposition Party stands a better chance of coming to power in the forthcoming elections.
However, he also realizes that the Board Member is trying to use him for his own political gains.
(a) As a conscientious civil servant, evaluate the options available to Vinod.
(b) In the light of the above case, comment upon the ethical issues that may arise due to the politicization of bureaucracy.

(Answer in 250 words)20

 

Introduction

 

The above case presents the issue of political pressure on the one hand and impartially and objectively exposing financial misappropriation on the other.

  1. a) Evaluation of options available to Vinod:
ProsCons
Option 1 – Not exposing the issue and leaving it to the Board member
·        Avoid getting involved in the issue as it seems to be politicised

·        No immediate risk of transfer as already undergone many

·        Irresponsible decision on the part of a civil servant

·        Allowing for the continuation of bribery and corruption in the department

·        Failing on public commitment and financial integrity of public department

Option 2 – Exposing the issue using the records of the Board member
·        Upholding public interest

·        Exhibiting courage in bringing misconduct to light

·        Scope for future career growth

·        Case of politicisation

·        Acting on expectation of future benefits; Scope for political collusion; Possible conflict of interest in future

·        Risk of transfer

Option 3 – Vinod verifying the issue himself and exposing it
·        Doing justice to his hitherto courageous and upright nature; Being true to his conscience; Not giving in to political pressure

·        Exhibiting intelligence and knowledge to check the correctness of the information

·        Preserving public interest by exposing inappropriate dealings

·        Upholding the financial integrity of the department

·        Risk of transfer (which is part of public service anyway)

·        Strained relations with political parties

  1. b) Ethical issues that may arise due to the politicization of bureaucracy:
  • Politicization of bureaucracy refers to the politics-bureaucracy nexus and influence of politicians in bureaucratic functioning that often works against the public interest.
  • It affects the impartiality and non-partisan functioning of the bureaucrats as they have to work according to the politician’s instructions.
  • Independent decision-making and functioning of the bureaucrats may be compromised given the political pressure and influence.
  • Most often, the intentions and goals may affect public interest and public welfare as motivation for such nexus would often be financial and non-financial gratifications for misconduct.
  • Politicisation of bureaucracy leaves scope for corruption and collusion and misappropriation of public funds.
  • Bureaucrats’ inherent accountability to people takes a toll in place of being answerable to the politicians, and their objectivity is also compromised.

Conclusion

 

Public service-oriented and conscientious civil servants do not become subservient to political pressure and are largely aligned with public welfare and social justice.

 

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q11.  You have just been appointed as Additional Director General of the Central Public Works Department. The Chief Architect of your division, who is to retire in six months, is passionately working on a very important project, the successful completion of which would earn him a lasting reputation for the rest of his life.


A new lady architect. Seema, trained at Manchester School of Architecture, UK joined as Senior Architect in your division. During the briefing about the project, Seema made some suggestions which would not only add value to the project but would also reduce completion time. This has made the Chief Architect insecure and he is constantly worried that all the credit will go to her. Subsequently, he adopted a passive and aggressive behaviour towards her and has become disrespectful to her. Seema felt it embarrassing as the Chief Architect left no chance of humiliating her. He would very often correct her in front of other colleagues and raise his voice while speaking to her. This continuous harassment has resulted in her losing confidence and self-esteem. She felt perpetually tensed, anxious and stressed. She appeared to be in awe of him since he has had a long tenure in the office and has vast experience in the area of her work.

You are aware of her outstanding academic credentials and career record in her previous organisations. However, you fear that this harassment may result in compromising her much-needed contribution to this important project and may adversely impact her emotional well-being. You have also come to know from her peers that she is contemplating tendering her resignation.
(a) What are the ethical issues involved in the above case?
(b) What are the options available to you in order to complete the project as well as to retain Seema in the organization?
(c) What would be your response to Seema’s predicament? What measures would you institute to prevent such occurrences from happening in your organization?

(Answer in 250 words)20

 

Introduction

 

The above situation highlights the issue of interpersonal conflicts and personal interest overtaking the goals and objectives of the organisation.

  1. a) Ethical issues involved:
  • Seema, Senior Architect:
    • Inter-personal issues at work vs. Passion for work
    • Individual mental health vs Excellence in career
  • I as the Additional Director General:
    • Conflict among team members vs. Output of the project/department
    • Addressing harassment issues without affecting performance
  • Chief Architect:
    • Self-interest vs. professional interest
    • Reward vs Performance
    • Attitudinal concerns with the Chief architect – Reward seeking, Insecurity, Ill-treatment of women
  1. b) Options available to complete the project and retain Seema:
  1. Taking departmental action against the Chief Architect for his attitude and harassing behaviour and allowing Seema to work and complete the project
  2. Reassuring Seema of protection against harassment and retaining her. Meanwhile talking with the Chief Architect and warning him to correct his behaviour and continue to contribute to the project, by assuring him of due recognition for his work to remove his insecurities.
  3. Arrange for a mediation with both Seema and the Chief Architect to stay committed to the organisation and uphold the goals of the project and the organisation, and work in a cooperative way balancing the personal and professional interests of all.
  • Given the objective to complete the project as well as to retain Seema to make use of her professional excellence, I will choose Option 3 to balance the interests of the organisation and the well-being of the persons involved.
  1. c) Response to Seema’s predicament:
  • I will reassure Seema to take action to address the harassing behaviour of the Chief Architect and persuade her to stay in the work.
  • Will advise Seema to go for personal psychological counselling for dealing with stress, the impact of harassment and other emotional issues.
  • Offer her the structural support from the organisation to stay in her position and perform efficiently without any intimidation.
  • Measures to prevent:
    • Strict enforcement of laws preventing harassment at the workplace in the organisation such as the PoSH Act, 2013.
    • Sensitising the personnel of the organisation through workshops and periodic meetings for a colleague-friendly attitude and work ethic.
    • Instate an internal mechanism to report instances of beaches and harassment.

Conclusion

 

Addressing inter-personal issues at work and ensuring the emotional well-being of the personnel are inevitable to the efficiency and productivity of the organisation. The case also conveys that reward mechanisms are as equally important as monetary benefits for personnel to give their best contributions.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

Q12. You hold a responsible position in a ministry in the government. One day in the morning you received a call from the school of your 11-year-old son that you are required to come and meet the Principal. You proceed to the school and find your son in the Principal’s office. The Principal informs you that your son had been found wandering aimlessly in the grounds during the time classes were in progress. The class teacher further informs you that your son has lately become a loner and did not respond to questions in the class, he had also been unable to perform well in the football trials held recently. You bring your son back from the school and in the evening, you along with your wife try to find out the reasons for your son’s changed behaviour. After repeated cajoling, your son shares that some children had been making fun of him in the class as well as in the WhatsApp group of the students by calling him stunted, duh and a frog. He tells you the names of a few children who are the main culprits but pleads with you to let the matter rest.

 

After a few days, during a sporting event, where you and your wife have gone to watch your son play, one of your colleague’s son shows you a video in which students have caricatured your son. Further, he also points out to the perpetrators who were sitting in the stands. You purposefully walk past them with your son and go home. Next day, you find on social media, a video denigrating you, your son and even your wife, stating that you engaged in physical bullying of children on the sports field. The video became viral on social media. Your friends and colleagues began calling you to find out the details. One of your juniors advised you to make a counter video giving the background and explaining that nothing had happened on the field. You, in turn, posted a video which you have captured during the sporting event, identifying the likely perpetrators who were responsible for your son’s predicament. You have also narrated what has actually happened in the field and made attempts to bring out the adverse effects of the misuse of social media.
(a)Based on the above case study, discuss the ethical issues involved in the use of social media.
(b)Discuss the pros and cons of using social media by you to put across the facts to counter the fake propaganda against your family.
(Answer in 250 words)20

 

Introduction

 

The issue highlights the issues of improper use of social media and the emotional implications of bullying and intimidating behaviour on the well-being of a child.

  1. a) Ethical issues involved in the use of social media – Discuss:
  • Free speech and privacy:
    • While social media has offered a wide platform for the expression of ideas recognising the right to free speech, it affects the privacy of some individuals too.
    • Often, the aspect of consent is not taken into account while sharing information and details of people involved. This also compromises the privacy and confidentiality of individual information.
  • Spread of fake information:
    • The lack of mechanisms and institutions to fact-check information often leads to the spread of misinformation and false propaganda.
  • Lack of accountability:
    • The anonymity that social media platforms offer and the lack of regulations to trace and take action on misinformation lead to a lack of accountability among the false propagators.
  • Public harassment:
    • As there is a lack of accountability, any attempts of personal attack get easier with social media, leading to bullying and harassment with fake information and insulting comments.
    • The misinformation and defamation might affect the reputation and personal dignity of individuals.
  1. b) Pros and cons of using social media to counter fake propaganda:
ProsCons
·        Being a public servant, it is appropriate to give clarity for any improper and anti-social behaviour to preserve personal and professional integrity, and not set a wrong example

·        Respect for the emotional and psychological well-being of the child who has undergone treatment for bullying and intimidation

·        Preserves the dignity of the family

·        Undoing the misinformation and offering clarity

·        Right to the right use of the platform in place of misuse

·        Acknowledgement of freedom of expression in an ethical way

·        Possibility of further propaganda and the endless chain of tussle

·        Implications would be felt on children (perpetrators) at the other end, which is not advisable again

·        Disregard for formal means of addressing the issue (E.g., through school management complaint mechanisms, law and order mechanisms)

 

Conclusion

 

Social media, while offering a multiplicity of opportunities, also comes with risks and challenges to privacy, confidentiality, emotional well-being, etc.

Having the clarity and courage to deal with such challenges is an uncompromisable necessity for both public servants and individuals of the common public. On the other hand, ethical use of social media should be taken as a moral responsibility of everyone beyond the legal regulations.

/ UPSC GS4 2023

 


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