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[Mission 2024] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 24 November 2023

 

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


General Studies – 1


 

Topic: poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

1. Economic growth doesn’t always directly address issues of poverty and food insecurity, and there can be disparities in the distribution of benefits. Examine. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: The Hindu

Why the question:

While India is set to become the third largest economy in the world in 2028, 80 crore Indians will still be receiving free foodgrains to stave off hunger.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the reasons for lingering hunger in the country, despite various measures and suggest reforms to rectify it.

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 statistic about the widespread nature of hunger and food insecurity in the country.

Body:

First, Explain the various schemes and measures aimed towards elimination hunger in India – National Food Security mission, Poshan abhiyaan and Antyodaya Anna Yojana etc.

Next, write about the causes for limitations in the above efforts– disruption in food systems, dried-up income sources, job losses and consequent financial hardships etc. Bring outs its impact.

Next, suggest reforms that are needed to overcome the above.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

Introduction

“Food Security” is one of crucial factors of development and poverty alleviation around the globe the right to food is a principle of international human rights law. Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security (CFS), is the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Our current understanding of food security includes the four dimensions of access, availability, utilisation and stability.

India ranked 111th out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index-2023 with the country reporting the highest child wasting rate at 18.7 per cent. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool for comprehensively measuring and tracking hunger at global, regional, and national levels.

Body

Various interventions to tackle hunger in the country

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY): 6,000 is transferred directly to the bank accounts of pregnant women for availing better facilities for their delivery.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan:aims to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weight babies through synergy and convergence among different programmes, better monitoring and improved community mobilisation.
  • National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, aims to ensure food and nutrition security for the most vulnerable through its associated schemes and programmes, making access to food a legal right.
  • Mid-day Meal (MDM)scheme aims to improve nutritional levels among school children which also has a direct and positive impact on enrolment, retention and attendance in schools.
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS),with its network of 1.4 million Anganwadi Centres, reaching almost 100 million beneficiaries who include pregnant and nursing mothers and children up to 6 years;
  • Public Distribution System (PDS)that reaches over 800 million people under the National Food Security Act.
  • Additionally, NITI Aayog has worked on a National Nutrition Strategy (NNS),isolated the 100 most backward districts for stunting and prioritised those for interventions.

The issue continues to be persistent sore in the nation’s food security

  • Economic distress:
    • The significant rise in food insecurity, as shown by these data, is a clear manifestation of the overall economic distress during this period marked by a deepening agrarian crisis, falling investments across sectors and shrinking employment opportunities.
    • The latest PLFS data have shown that the unemployment rates in the recent years have been higher than in the last four decades.
    • It is widely believed that demonetisation and introduction of the Goods and Services Tax were two prime causes of economic distress during this period.
  • NFSA issues:
    • The NSFA does not guarantee universal right to food: Targeted –Restricts the right to food to only 75% of rural and 50% of urban population in India
    • Act would not apply in times of “war, flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake”. This a highly problematic clause given that food is becomes utmost necessary during these circumstances
    • The Act focuses primarily on distribution of rice and wheat and fails to address the ‘utilization’ dimension of food security.
    • Given that a major reason for micronutrient deficiency in India is because of a cereal-based diet; the NSFA does not address the issue of malnutrition and nutritional deficiency adequately.
    • Under the National Food Security Act, the identification of beneficiaries is to be completed by State Governments. As per findings of Comptroller and Auditor General in 2016, a massive 49 % of the beneficiaries were yet to be identified by the State Governments.
  • Quality issues:
    • Inadequate distribution of food through public distribution mechanism, food adulterations in distributed food
    • Beneficiaries have complained of receiving poor quality food grains.
  • Issues with procurement:
    • Open-ended Procurement: All incoming grains accepted even if buffer stock is filled creating a shortage in the open market.
    • The recent implementation of Nation food security act would only increase the quantum of procurement resulting in higher prices for grains.
    • The gap between required and existing storage capacity.
    • The open market operations (OMO)are much less compared to what is needed to liquidate the excessive stocks.
  • Issues with storage:
    • Inadequate storage capacity with FCI.
    • Food grains rotting or damaging on the CAP or Cover & Plinth storage.
    • The money locked in these excessive stocks (beyond the buffer norm) is more than Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • Issues with allocation of food grains:
    • Inaccurate identification of beneficiaries.
    • Illicit Fair Price shops: The shop owners have created a large number of bogus cards or ghost cards (cards for non-existent people) to sell food grains in the open market.
  • Issues with transportation:
    • Leakages in food grains distribution to be reduced as most leakages in PDS takes place in initial stages.
  • Climate Change:
    • Higher temperatures and unreliable rainfall makes farming difficult. Climate change not only impacts crop but also livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and can cause grave social and economic consequences in the form of reduced incomes, eroded livelihoods, trade disruption and adverse health impacts.
  • Lack of access to remote areas:
    • For the tribal communities, habitation in remote difficult terrains and practice of subsistence farming has led to significant economic backwardness.
  • Increase in rural-to-urban migration, large proportion of informal workforce resulting in unplanned growth of slums which lack in the basic health and hygiene facilities, insufficient housing and increased food insecurity.
  • Overpopulation, poverty, lack of education and gender inequality.
  • Corruption:
    • Diverting the grains to open market to get better margin, selling poor quality grains at ration shops, irregular opening of the shops adds to the issue of food insecurity.

Measures needed:

  • Governments, private actors, and NGOs should carefully coordinate their responses to overlapping food and health crises and work with community organizations to make sure interventions are culturally acceptable, reach the most vulnerable, and preserve local ecosystems.
  • Food should be priced not only by its weight or volume but also by its nutrient density, its freedom from contamination, and its contribution to ecosystem services and social justice.
  • Governments should expand access to maternal and child health care, as well as education on healthy diets and child feeding practices.
  • Supporting smallholder farmers in becoming sustainable and diversified producers; governments and NGOs must seek to improve those farmers’ access to agricultural inputs and extension services, coupling local and indigenous agricultural knowledge with new technologies.
  • Existing human rights-based multilateral mechanisms and international standards—such as the Committee on World Food Security—must be strengthened to support inclusive policy making and sustainable food systems.

Conclusion

Prioritizing early childhood nutrition is key to ensuring India’s development rests on strong and steady shoulders. India’s ability to harness long-term demographic dividends rests on it prioritizing nutrition in its health agenda, and reforming the institutional framework through which interventions are delivered.

 


General Studies – 2


 

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

2. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) refers to the goal of ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. Examine the challenges in Implementing Universal Health Coverage in India. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Why the question:

In a post-Covid world that has re-defined multilateralism in health, India is getting increasingly recognised as a significant global player.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about UHC, challenges in its implementation and steps that are needed to overcome them.

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 defining Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Body:

In the first part, write about the various components of UHC – access to health services, including preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care.

Next, write about challenges in the implementation of UHC – funding, human resources, infrastructure, and political will etc.

Next, write about the steps that are needed to overcome the above-mentioned challenges.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

 

Introduction

Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people have access to the health services they need (prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care) without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.

Health accessibility and affordability remain a crucial healthcare problem even in the 21st century. Therefore, World Health Organisation chose “Universal Health Coverage” as the theme for World Health Day 2019. India started working towards the universal problem of affordability and accessibility with the introduction of Ayushman Bharat.

Body:

Significance of UHC:

  • Universal health coverage has a direct impact on a population’s health and welfare.
  • Access and use of health services enables people to be more productive and active contributors to their families and communities.
  • It also ensures that children can go to school and learn.
  • At the same time, financial risk protection prevents people from being pushed into poverty when they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.
  • Universal health coverage is thus a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and a key element of any effort to reduce social inequities.
  • Universal coverage is the hallmark of a government’s commitment to improve the wellbeing of all its citizens.

 

Issues and Challenges:

  • Finance: At about 1.3% of the national income, India’s public healthcare spending between 2008 and 2015, has virtually remained stagnant. This is way less than the global average of 6 per cent. It is a herculean task to implement a scheme that could potentially cost Rs 5 lakh per person and benefit 53.7 crore out of India’s 121 crore citizenry, or roughly about 44% of the country’s population. Over 70 per cent of the total healthcare expenditure is accounted for by the private sector.
  • Crumbling public health infrastructure: Given the country’s crumbling public healthcare infrastructure, most patients are forced to go to private clinics and hospitals. There is a shortage of PHCs (22%) and sub-health centres (20%), while only 7% sub-health centres and 12% primary health centres meet Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms.
  • High Out of Pocket Expenditure: Reports suggest that 70% of the medical spending is from the patient’s pockets leading to huge burden and pushing many into poverty. Most consumers complain of rising costs. Hundred days into the PMJAY, it remains to be seen if private hospitals provide knee replacement at Rs 80,000 (current charges Rs 3.5 lakh) bypass surgery at Rs 1.7 lakh (against Rs 4 lakh).
  • Insurance: India has one of the lowest per capita healthcare expenditures in the world. Government contribution to insurance stands at roughly 32 percent, as opposed to 83.5 percent in the UK. The high out-of-pocket expenses in India stem from the fact that 76 percent of Indians do not have health insurance.
  • Doctor-Density Ratio: The WHO reports the doctor-density ratio in India at 8 per 10,000 people as against one doctor for a population of 1,000. To achieve such access, merely increasing the number of primary and secondary healthcare centres is not enough.
  • Shortage of Medical Personnel: Data by IndiaSpend show that there is a staggering shortage of medical and paramedical staff at all levels of care: 10,907 auxiliary nurse midwives and 3,673 doctors are needed at sub-health and primary health centres, while for community health centres the figure is 18,422 specialists.
  • Rural-urban disparity: The rural healthcare infrastructure is three-tiered and includes a sub-center, primary health centre (PHC) and CHC. PHCs are short of more than 3,000 doctors, with the shortage up by 200 per cent over the last 10 years to 27,421. Private hospitals don’t have adequate presence in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities and there is a trend towards super specialisation in Tier-1 cities.
  • Social Inequality: The growth of health facilities has been highly imbalanced in India. Rural, hilly and remote areas of the country are under served while in urban areas and cities, health facility is well developed. The SC/ST and the poor people are far away from modern health service.
  • Poor healthcare ranking: India ranks as low as 145th among 195 countries in healthcare quality and accessibility, behind even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  • Commercial motive: lack of transparency and unethical practices in the private sector.
  • Lack of level playing field between the public and private hospitals: This has been a major concern as public hospitals would continue receiving budgetary support. This would dissuade the private players from actively participating in the scheme.
  • Scheme flaws: The overall situation with the National Health Mission, India’s flagship programme in primary health care, continues to be dismal. The NHM’s share in the health budget fell from 73% in 2006 to 50% in 2019 in the absence of uniform and substantial increases in health spending by States.

Steps taken up currently:

  • The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 advocated allocating resources of up to two-thirds or more to primary care as it enunciated the goal of achieving “the highest possible level of good health and well-being, through a preventive and promotive healthcare orientation”.
  • A 167% increase in allocation this year for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) — the insurance programme which aims to cover 10 crore poor families for hospitalisation expenses of up to ₹5 lakh per family per annum.
  • The government’s recent steps to incentivise the private sector to open hospitals in Tier II and Tier III cities.
  • Individual states are adopting technology to support health-insurance schemes. For instance, Remedinet Technology (India’s first completely electronic cashless health insurance claims processing network) has been signed on as the technology partner for the Karnataka Government’s recently announced cashless health insurance schemes.

Measures needed to strengthen the existing state of Health infrastructure in the country are:

  • There is an immediate need to increase the public spending to 2.5% of GDP, despite that being lower than global average of 5.4%.
  • The achievement of a distress-free and comprehensive wellness system for all hinges on the performance of health and wellness centres as they will be instrumental in reducing the greater burden of out-of-pocket expenditure on health.
  • there is a need to depart from the current trend of erratic and insufficient increases in health spending and make substantial and sustained investments in public health over the next decade.
  • National Health Regulatory and Development Framework needs to be made for improving the quality (for example registration of health practitioners), performance, equity, efficacy and accountability of healthcare delivery across the country.
  • Increase the Public-Private Partnerships to increase the last-mile reach of healthcare.
  • Generic drugs and Jan Aushadi Kendras should be increased to make medicines affordable and reduce the major component of Out of Pocket Expenditure.
  • The government’s National Innovation Council, which is mandated to provide a platform for collaboration amongst healthcare domain experts, stakeholders and key participants, should encourage a culture of innovation in India and help develop policy on innovations that will focus on an Indian model for inclusive growth.
  • India should take cue from other developing countries like Thailand to work towards providing Universal Health Coverage. UHC includes three components: Population coverage, disease coverage and cost coverage.
  • Leveraging the benefits of Information Technology like computer and mobile-phone based e-health and m-health initiatives to improve quality of healthcare service delivery. Start-ups are investing in healthcare sector from process automation to diagnostics to low-cost innovations. Policy and regulatory support should be provided to make healthcare accessible and affordable.

Way forward:

  • For UHC to become a reality, it is important to expedite steps beyond infrastructural interventions to include water, sanitation, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. The challenge is to incentivize wellness-seeking behaviour.
  • An encouraging aspect of India’s commitment to UHC has been the active and participatory role of the government.
  • From Poshan Abhiyaan, which aims to eliminate the malaise of malnutrition, to the Prime Minister’s call for a Fit India Movement, new emphasis has been given to multi-stakeholder engagements.
  • India has to align the vision of medical education with the vision of “one nation, one healthcare sector”.
  • The National Medical Commission (NMC) 2019 Bill recognizes the much-needed reforms in medical education.
  • The challenge of building capacity of people in a short time needs to be addressed through more transformational public-private partnerships (PPPs), presenting another opportunity to develop and adopt e-learning models.
  • Digital health has emerged as a game-changer in achieving UHC goals. India has taken rapid strides here and digital health is bringing healthcare within reach of 70% of our population residing in rural and remote areas.
  • With the use of digital technology, India is positioned to not only bridge gaps in our healthcare delivery but also to have the capability to contribute to global UHC goals through its telemedicine and digital health tools.
  • India’s healthcare providers are already working on new frontiers of digital technologies.
  • Machine learning, blockchain and AI will continue to strengthen India’s ability to engage effectively with other geographies towards achieving global UHC targets.
  • Regional disparities in terms of resources and institutional capabilities must be addressed. This diversity, nevertheless, can be a powerful source of policy innovation and creativity.
  • A collaborative approach aligning patients, payers and providers, along with innovative partnerships, will hasten efforts to mitigate risks, drive impact, forge stronger social returns and achieve sustainable UHC targets.

Conclusion:

India needs a holistic approach to tackle problems in healthcare industry. This includes the active collaboration of all stakeholders’ public, private sectors, and individuals. Amore dynamic and pro-active approach is needed to handle the dual disease burden. A universal access to health makes the nation fit and healthy, aiding better to achieve the demographic dividend.

 

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

3. The global economic landscape is subject to uncertainties. India should be prepared to navigate potential economic challenges and shocks that may impact the success of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). Critically analyse. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Tough

Reference: Live Mint

Why the question:

India recently signed up for the supply chain resilience pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity and this can help the country join global value chain networks.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the potential of IPEF and pitfalls it can pose in the future for India.

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 giving background regarding the formation of IPEF.

Body:

First, write about advantages IPEF can offer for India – cooperation on infrastructure and clean energy, apart from coordination over taxation, rule enforcement and its trade prospects etc.

Next, write about various potential pitfalls for India that could arise on the account of it joining IPEF.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward to address those pitfalls.

Introduction

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) was launched by US President Joe Biden in Oct 2022 and joined by 12 other countries including India. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is the collaboration of participating countries to strengthen economic partnerships amongst themselves with the objective of enhancing resilience, economic growth, fairness, sustainability, inclusiveness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. The IPEF is a significant step toward establishing free and fair trade with nations that share the same values of a rule-based international order and a transparent economic system.

Body

Value addition

The IPEF:

  • It is an economic initiative launched by the US President Joe Biden on May 23, 2022.
  • The framework launched with a total of 14 participating founding member nations in the Indo-Pacific region with an open invitation for other countries to join.
  • The IPEF members represent 40% of the global GDP and 28% of the world’s trade.
  • Analysts have compared it to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the US withdrew from in 2017.

 The IPEF has four pillars:

  • Trade, supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy.
  • India has yet to take a call on whether to join the trade pillar, though it has joined the other three.

Potential benefits of IPEF for India:

  • India’s economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific countries has been through bilateral trade agreements, rather than joining a trade block because of the concerns about tariffs and cheap imports that would threaten the competitiveness of local producers.
  • However, the IPEF offers India a large opportunity to become a technology leaderin the region, especially in two areas- semiconductor supply chains, and clean energy.
  • India can be the destination for new investmentsuch as in the semiconductor sector.
  • The Quad framework can be applied in the supply chain network that US technology, Japanese capital, Australia’s logistics, and Indian productioncould fill the vacuum created by the countering domination of China.

Challenges posed:

  • The IPEF can already be seen to have deep implications in agriculture, in terms of genetically modified seeds and food, surrendering policy space for regulating Big Tech, and compromising a comparative advantage in manufacturing because of unfair labour and environment standards.
  • It will also seriously affect India’s ability to create a vibrant domestic ecosystem in emerging areas such as a digital economy and green products.
  • India fears that a proposal by the US under the “supply chains” pillar of the IPEF could violate WTO rules and reduce policy space.
  • US proposal states that All IPEF partner nations would be required to give advance notification of any changes to export regulations and tariffs.
  • India’s concern:Notifications are usually done only after measures are taken and not before. India has therefore sought industry inputs to protect its interests
  • the IPEF talks about digital governance but the IPEF formulation contains issues that directly conflict with India’s stated position.

 

  • Data localization is another key issue that worries India. A bill that the government submitted in Lok Sabha in 2019 calls for the creation of a data protection authority as well as a framework for localising Indian data.
  • In its National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers published just last month, the US stated that India’s proposed data localisation requirements, which would require enterprises to store data within India, “will serve as significant barriers to digital trade” between the two countries and act as “market access barriers, especially for smaller firms.”
  • Given the fact that the U.S.’s previous initiatives like the Blue Dot Network and the Build Back Better Initiative have made little headway in changing the region’s infrastructural needs, the IPEF faces a credibility challenge.
  • S. officials have made it clear that it is neither a free trade agreement nor will it discuss tariff reductions or increasing market access, raising questions about its utility.
  • Much will depend on how inclusive the process is and there must be more clarity on its framework.
  • The four pillars also raise question on whether there is enough common ground among the countries to set standards together, or be open to issues that vary for each country.

Way forward & conclusion

  • For IPEF to succeed, there is a need for the unilateral character of the arrangement to be tweaked to give way to more plural and multilateral arrangement.
  • There is a need for an organisation or secretariat to drive and oversee the arrangement which houses representatives from all the member states, in the absence of which, the arrangement would lose its relevance.
  • India should carefully calibrate its position in the IPEF negotiations

 


General Studies – 3


 

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

4. Examine the significance of the International Space Station (ISS) in fostering international cooperation in space exploration. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Indian Express.

Why the question:

It was 25th anniversary of the International Space Station (ISS)

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the significance of ISS.

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: 

Briefly introduce the International Space Station (ISS) and its origin.

Body:

First, discuss how the ISS has served as a platform for international cooperation in space exploration. Highlight its role in fostering scientific collaboration by providing a unique microgravity environment for research. Explore the technological advancements and innovations that have resulted from the ISS program.

Next, write about how the ISS has contributed to the development of human spaceflight capabilities.

Conclusion:

Conclude by summarising.

Introduction

The International Space Station (ISS) is a human-made spacecraft stationed in the low-earth orbit that provides a habitable environment for astronauts in space.

After 25 years in orbit, it continues to serve as a hub for research and peaceful cooperation among nations.

Body

About ISS

  • The ISS orbits Earth approximately every 90 minutes, at an altitude of around 400 kilometers, traveling at a speed of roughly 28,000 kilometers per hour.
  • Spanning 109 meters (357 feet) end-to-end, the ISS houses six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree view bay window. Its solar array wingspan matches its length.
  • The ISS accommodates a crew of astronauts and cosmonauts, providing living quarters, workspaces, and life support systems necessary for long-duration space missions.
  • The ISS serves as a research laboratory for conducting experiments across various scientific disciplines, including biology, physics, astronomy, medicine, and material sciences, leveraging the unique microgravity environment.

Significance of ISS

  • The ISS is a joint project involving space agencies from multiple countries, including NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
  • It stands as a testament to international collaboration and scientific advancements in space exploration.
  • The ISS has been visited by over 240 individuals from 19 countries. More than 3000 educational and research investigations have been conducted on it.
  • This unique environment has fostered not only scientific discoveries but also strengthened diplomatic ties and partnerships in the pursuit of common goals.
  • The ISS has played a crucial role in advancing human space exploration. Serving as a testbed for long-duration spaceflight, the station has been crucial in studying the effects of extended space missions on the human body. This knowledge is invaluable as we look toward future endeavors, including crewed missions to Mars and beyond.
  • The International Space Station stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when nations work together in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration beyond our home planet.

Challenges faced

  • Amid geopolitical tensions and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, uncertainties loom over the ISS’s future. The US and Europe aim to continue operations until 2030, while Russia plans to build its independent space station.
  • Nations like Japan, China, India, the United Arab Emirates, and others are exploring independent space missions. NASA’s Artemis program aims for lunar missions, while ESA plans for a new space station, Starlab.

Conclusion

The International Space Station continues to generate numerous benefits that improve individual lives on Earth, inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, foster international collaboration, and enable future exploration deeper into the solar system. Knowledge is being generated in scientific fields from cell biology to cosmology. New technology is being developed and demonstrated with applications as wide ranging as communications, power generation, agriculture, and medicine. With two decades of operations behind it, the orbiting laboratory is producing a legacy that will be felt for decades to come.

 

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

5. Against the backdrop of a rising cross-border terrorism over the past two decades, discuss the ways in which India can improve its security to prevent terror attacks from its neighbouring countries. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 3 and mentioned as part of Mission-2024 Secure timetable.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the characteristics of grassland ecosystems and the impact of various threats to it.

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 giving context.

Body:

First, write about how cross-border terrorism often originates from or is supported by neighboring countries, the historical and geopolitical factors that may hinder security cooperation with certain neighbours. Discuss issues related to trust deficit, conflicting interests, and sovereignty concerns that pose challenges to regional security collaboration.

Next, write about the steps that are needed to prevent the same.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

Introduction

India has one of the longest and most varied of international borders. Historical and political reasons have left India with an artificial unnatural border. Border Management is an integral approach towards borders in which along with security enhancement, infrastructure & human development is undertaken. The challenge of coping with long-standing territorial and boundary disputes with China and Pakistan, combined with porous borders along some of the most difficult terrain in the world, has made effective and efficient border management a national priority.

Body:

Issues and threats posed by each neighboring country to India:

Indo-Pakistan Border:

  • Indo-Pakistan Border (3,323 Km) runs along the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and J&K. Direct accessibility of the borders and some technological developments enabling quick passage of information and transfer of funds has changed the focus and tenor of border security.
  • Cross-Border Terrorism from Pakistan has exacerbated due to non-recognition of boundaries by its terrorist groups and their success in acquiring legitimacy due to religious or ethnic identity.
  • Inadequate Cooperation from Pakistan has made the management of border further difficult for India.

Indo-Bangladesh Border:

  • The Indo-Bangladesh Border (4,096 Km) passes through West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • The entire stretch consists of plains, riverine belts, hills & jungles which make illegal migration very easy.
  • Illegal Migration across this border poses serious security threats and acts as a fertile ground for organisations like the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan to penetrate and expand their activities.
  • Also, poor law and order situation at the border, has led to smuggling of arms and drugs. Supply of arms help in sustaining any conflict.

Indo-China Border:

  • India shares a long land border with China (3,488 Km) in the Indian states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Although this border remains relatively aloof from illegal migrations, this border remains a cause of constant vigil for Indian forces.
  • India has a longstanding border dispute with China running back to British era in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

Indo-Nepal Border:

  • India-Nepal Border (1,751 Km) is an open border in the sense that people of both the countries can cross it from any point, despite the existence of border check posts at several locations.
  • Anti-India organizations use this border to plant their people in the territory of India.
  • Also, smuggling of gold, small arms, drugs and fake currency helps terrorists in executing an attack.

Indo-Bhutan Border:

  • This border (699 km) passes through states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim.
  • Illicit establishment of camps by militant outfits in the dense jungles of south-east Bhutan helps insurgents from India in executing anti-India activities.

Indo-Myanmar Border:

  • The northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share the border with Myanmar (1,643).
  • Some of the insurgents groups like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and ULFA operate from Myanmar, which threatens the security of India as well as Myanmar.

India has had to deal with numerous challenges with respect to border management such as:

Current fence:

  • The present one has a high rate of degradation due to snow and has to be repaired after every season which costs about Rs. 50-60 crore every year
  • Over time infiltrators have devised ways to cross it.
  • India’s internal security challenges are inextricably linked with border management. This is so because Indian insurgent groups have for long been provided shelter across the nation’s borders by inimical neighbours.

No real-time coordination:

  • Due to the lack of understanding of military issues among the decision-making elite, India’s borders continue to be manned by a large number of military, paramilitary and police forces
  • Each of which has its own ethos and each of which reports to a different central ministry at New Delhi, with almost no real coordination in managing the borders.
  • Border management is designed for a ‘firefighting’ approach rather than a ‘fire prevention’ or pro-active approach
  • It is based on a strategy of ‘reaction and retaliation’ rather than on a holistic response to the prevailing environment, resulting in stress and decision making problems at the functional level.
    • Perennial and Seasonal Rivers via which terrorists can infiltrate.
    • Un-demarcated boundaries with overlapping claims cause constant friction along borders.
    • Mountainous and Hilly terrain especially in North Indian borders which are snow clad and inhabitable during winter season.
    • Unilateral actions by some nations to change the status quo in their favour.
    • Little or no support from counterparts of neighbouring nations and in some cases active support by cross border elements to illegal activities.
    • Cultural, ethnic and linguistic affinity across borders and clan loyalties
    • Multiple agencies are involved in border management, lack of Inter agency cooperation and coordination
    • Support of state and non-state actors to aid infiltration, smuggling, trafficking etc.

Significance of the relations with neighbor countries

  • India advocates the policy of constructive engagement, despite such serious provocations as have been in the past (attack on Parliament, Mumbai terrorist attacks etc). It believes that violent retaliation and confrontation can only complicate the matters. This applies in particular to Pakistan- the origin of State-sponsored terrorism targeted at India.
  • India adheres to its benign and noble policy of non-interference into internal affairs of other countries in the region. However, if an act – innocent or deliberate – by any country has the potential of impinging upon India’s national interests, India does not hesitate in quick and timely intervention.
  • Foreign policy in India by and large enjoys national consensus. At times, however, there are instances when it appears that the foreign policy is being held hostage to domestic regional politics. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are the most glaring examples.
  • India has endeavoured to deal with the government-of-the-day, be it a democracy, monarchy or military dictatorship, insisting that the choice of the form of government is best left to the people of the country concerned.
  • India has skilfully used its policy of non-prescriptive development assistance as its soft power since early 1950s. In return India has sought “good will” and “friends of India”. In a slight departure India is gradually switching over from pure charity to a judicious mix of outright grants and soft loans linked to project/commodity exports
  • Finally, India is ready to go an extra mile in seeking the integration of the region. As often cautioned by the International Financial Institutes, only through regional cooperation can the South Asia be a part of Asian century.

Solutions for addressing cross border terrorism:

  • Infrastructure along with border has to be improved – rail connectivity along with road connectivity has to be provided for quick mobilization.
  • Building of additional checkpoints and Border posts along major and minor trade routes connected with borders
  • Building of floating bridges, walls & electrical fences where there is high probability of infiltration.
  • Taking up of joint Border management with Countries like Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal.
  • Improving healthcare, physical infrastructure and digital connectivity in villages around borders thus making them stakeholder in Border Management.
  • Madhav Godbole task force recommendations on border management need to be implemented.
  • It had recommended that the CRPF should be designated as the primary national level counter-insurgency force. This would enable the other central paramilitary forces like the BSF and Indo-Tibetan Border Police to return to their primary role of better border management.
  • It had also recommended that all paramilitary forces managing unsettled borders should operate directly under the control of the army and that there should be lateral induction from the army to the paramilitary forces so as to enhance their operational effectiveness.
  • The principle of ‘single point control’ must be followed if the borders are to be effectively managed.
  • The advances in surveillance technology, particularly satellite and aerial imagery, can help to maintain a constant vigil along the LAC and make it possible to reduce physical deployment.

Conclusion:

Keeping a strong vigil on its border is very important for any nation to check any kind of illegal activities or intrusion through them. For India, the task becomes difficult where terrain and climate is very complex across some of its border areas. Focussing on improved technology will help in making the task easier for the security forces and make its borders more secure.

 

Topic: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

6.  The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) is a controversial law that has been a subject of criticism and debate, with arguments both in favor of its retention and for its repeal. Analyse. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 3 and mentioned as part of Mission-2024 Secure timetable.

Key Demand of the question:

To comment as to whether or not AFSPA be repealed.

Directive word: 

Analyse – 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.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by writing about aims of AFSPA.

Body:

First, mention the broad features of AFSPA.

Next, giving context of killing of innocent civilians and other instances of its misuse. Mentions pros and cons of AFSPA.

Conclusion:

Conclude by commenting on the action that India must take with regards to AFSPA.

Introduction

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act commonly known as AFSPA came in to force decades ago in the context of increasing violence in the North Eastern states. Passed in 1958 for North East and in 1990 for Jammu and Kashmir , the law gives armed forces necessary powers to control disturbed areas which are designated by the govt.

Body

Key features of act

  • In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
  • They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
  • Under the provisions of the AFSPA armed forces are empowered with immunity from being prosecuted to open fire , enter and search without warrant and arrest any person who has committed a cognizable offence.
  • As of now this act is in force in Jammu and Kashmir , Assam , Nagaland and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

AFSPA – a draconian act

  • It has been dubbed as a license to kill. The main criticism of the Act is directed against the provisions of Section 4, which gives the armed forces the power to open fire and even cause death, if prohibitory orders are violated.
  • Human rights activists object on the grounds that these provisions give the security forces unbridled powers to arrest, search, seize and even shoot to kill.
  • Activists accuse the security forces of having destroyed homes and entire villages merely on the suspicion that insurgents were hiding there. They point out that Section 4 empowers the armed forces to arrest citizens without warrant and keep them in custody for several days.
  • They also object to Section 6, which protects security forces personnel from prosecution except with the prior sanction of the central government. Critics say this provision has on many occasions led to even non-commissioned officers brazenly opening fire on crowds without having to justify their action.
  • Critics say the act has failed to contain terrorism and restore normalcy in disturbed areas, as the number of armed groups has gone up after the act was established. Many even hold it responsible for the spiralling violence in areas it is in force.
  • The decision of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ cannot be challenged in a court of law. Hence, several cases of human rights violations go unnoticed.

Should AFSPA be repealed?

  • The Army clearly sees AFSPA as a capstone enabling Act that gives it the powers necessary to conduct counter-insurgency operations efficiently.
  • If AFSPA is repealed or diluted, it is the army leadership’s considered view that the performance of battalions in counter-insurgency operations will be adversely affected and the terrorists or insurgents will seize the initiative.
  • Many argue that removal of the act will lead to demoralising the armed forces and see militants motivating locals to file lawsuits against the army.
  • Also, the forces are aware that they cannot afford to fail when called upon to safeguard the country’s integrity. Hence, they require the minimum legislation that is essential to ensure efficient utilization of combat capability.
  • AFSPA is necessary to maintain law and order in disturbed areas, otherwise things will go haywire. The law also dissuades advancement of terrorist activities in these areas.
  • Also, extraordinary situations require special handling.

Way forward

  • Security forces should be very careful while operating in the Northeast and must not give any chance to the militants to exploit the situation.
  • Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of people out of frustration for not being able to locate the real culprits should be avoided. All good actions of the force get nullified with one wrong action.
  • Any person, including the supervisory staff, found guilty of violating law should be severely dealt with.
  • The law is not defective, but it is its implementation that has to be managed properly.
  • The local people have to be convinced with proper planning and strategy.

Conclusion

The practical problems encountered in ensuring transparency in counter-insurgency operations must be overcome by innovative measures. The army must be completely transparent in investigating allegations of violations of human rights and bringing the violators to speedy justice. Exemplary punishment must be meted out where the charges are proved.

Value addition

Expert recommendations

  • A committee headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy was appointed in 2004 to review AFSPA. Though the committee found that the powers conferred under the Act are not absolute, it nevertheless concluded that the Act should be repealed.
  • However, it recommended that essential provisions of the Act be inserted into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by then Union law minister M Veerappa Moily also recommended that AFSPA should be repealedand its essential provisions should be incorporated in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

 

Topic: Case Study.

7. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, 100 cases of custodial deaths were reported in 2017, 42 of which were in police custody. Thirty-three policemen were arrested while 27 were charge-sheeted. Forty-eight police personnel were charge-sheeted and three convicted in cases of human rights violation. Overall, 2,005 cases were registered against police personnel, 1,000 of whom were charge-sheeted. With 456 cases, Maharashtra topped the list, while Gujarat and Rajasthan followed with 191 and 169 cases, respectively; 128 personnel were convicted.

According to the NCRB’s 2019 figures, 85 cases of custodial deaths were reported in the year with Tamil Nadu registering the highest number of cases followed by Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan and Odisha. No policeman was convicted, though 14 personnel of Gujarat were arrested, and charge-sheeted. For six custodial deaths in Rajasthan, three magisterial inquiries and two judicial inquiries were initiated against erring policemen.

While several policemen do get convicted, there are good reasons to believe that many go scot free — by manipulating records, intimidating complainants or political patronage. It’s up to senior officers to ensure that prompt actions are initiated against policemen who resort to brutal torture. When erring personnel are promptly punished, the message goes out loud and clear to other rogue policemen that the law will catch up with them. In the case of custodial deaths, those guilty should be tried for murder.

      1. Suggest steps to tackle custodial violence in India?
      2. Should superintendents of police should be held accountable for the impropriety committed by those under their supervision.

Introduction

Right to life and Right to live with dignity are the fundamental rights provided by the Constitution to every citizens of India. Custodial torture is global, old and stubborn. Incidence of increase in custodial deaths (both police custody and judicial custody) in India provides a warning signal to regulate the respective areas.

Body

Custodial torture is an inhuman practice:

  • It represents the worst form of excesses by public servants entrusted with the duty of law enforcement.
  • The practice of custodial power is about men — and sometimes, women — who are in positions of power, even if for a brief while and over a limited terrain, having custody over a powerless person.
  • Custodial death, when not ‘natural’, is the extreme end-point of custodial torture. The death penalty, notwithstanding ‘due process’, is a close kin to this lawless and heartless game.

Measures needed:

  • In a matter that concerns ‘life and liberty’, the Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution’s guarantees.
  • The Law Commission of India submitted its 273rd report recommending government to ratify the UNCAT and also proposed the Prevention of Torture Bill 2017.
  • Police Reforms: Guidelines should also be formulatedon educating and training officials involved in the cases involving deprivation of liberty because torture cannot be effectively prevented till the senior police wisely anticipate the gravity of such issues and clear reorientation is devised from present practices.
  • Access to Prison:Unrestricted and regular access to independent and qualified persons to places of detention for inspection should also be allowed.
  • CCTV cameras should be installed in police stations including in the interrogation rooms.
  • Definition of torture should be broadened to include discrimination of any kind as one of the purposes of torture. It is widely recognised that discrimination based on religion, caste and association with ideas does have an impact on the incidence and extent of torture.
  • Given the fact that there is a possibility of a range of acts that can be committed under torture, cruelty and ill-treatment leading to differing severity of harm—the punishment prescribed should have further gradation. Also, death penalty should not be included as the punishment.
  • The anti-torture legislation should enlist possible factors based on which the calculation of compensation should be devised.
  • Surprise inspections by Non-Official Visitors (NOVs) should also be made mandatory which would act as a preventive measures against custodial torture which has also been suggested by Supreme Courtin its landmark judgment in the DK Basu Case in 2015.

Should superintendents of police be held accountable?

  • Yes, the SP should be held accountable in a particular district for custodial deaths.
  • Police system in India follows a hierarchical order where the lower officers are accountable to their higher ups.
  • Thus, grave human rights incidents such as custodial death can be avoided if the 2-way accountability mechanism is implemented well, which is the responsibility of SP.
  • The responsibility devolves on senior police officers, who need to devise methods to monitor the number of suspects in each police station and the reasons for their detention.
  • Any detention or arrest should be promptly reported to district superintendents, who should, thereafter, ensure that SC and NHRC guidelines are strictly adhered to.
  • To check against such abuse of power, various countries have adopted safeguards, such as accountability of the police to the political executive, internal accountability to senior police officers, and independent police oversight authorities

Way forward

  • Once the police are given functional independence, they must be held accountable for the wrongs they do.
  • The existing mechanisms of accountability must be strengthened and improved.
  • In addition, new mechanisms, working independently to monitor the functioning of the police and to inquire into public complaints against the police, must be established.
  • The performance of the police as an organization and the behaviour of police personnel as individuals both need constant monitoring.

Conclusion

The prevention of torture has been one of the key human rights developments in the last decade. With India’s strong stake for a seat at the UNSC, the issue has assumed importance. There is an urgent need to address the ways in which inequalities continue to exist and question the nature of our criminal justice system which turns a blind eye to torture. Erring personnel must be promptly punished to send out the clear message that no one is beyond the reach of the law.


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