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UPSC Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 18 JUNE 2024

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.

Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

1. The Nagara style of northern Indian temple architecture features towering shikharas, intricate carvings, and a linear axial plan. Explain with examples. (150 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 1.

Key Demand of the question:  

To write about features of Nagara style.

Directive word: 

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start by giving the origins of nagara style.

Body:

First, draw a simple representative diagram of Nagara style with its various key features. Describe the essential features of Nagara style. Cite examples of Nagara style temples to substantiate.

Conclusion:

Conclude by summarising

Introduction

Nagara style is one of the styles of temple architecture. It is the temple construction style of North India. Nagara style is associated with the land between the Himalayas and Vindhyas. The Nagara style has its origin in the structural temples of the Guptas period The major example of the temple of Nagara Style is Sun Temple at Modhera, Kandariya Mahadeva Temple at Khajuraho, Jagannath Temple at Puri, etc.

Body

Various features of Nagara style of architecture

  • The cruciform ground plan and curvilinear mountain-peak like tower are the two most fundamental features of Nagara style.
  • The temples of Nagara style generally have a square plan with a number of graduated projections in the middle of each face which give the structure a cruciform shape in the exterior.
  • In Nagara style, the Shikhara remains the most prominent element of the temple and the gateway is usually modest or even absent.
  • In this style, temples have elaborated boundary, less emphasised.
  • The entire temple is built on high stone platform called Jagati
  • Generally, they do not have large enclosures and entrances.
  • The temple has only one peak or shikhara above the Garbagriha.
  • There was a Kalasha placed on the Shikara of a temple.
  • Sikhara(the tower) slowly bending inwards and capped by a spheroid plate with ribs around the edge (Amalaka) give the height.
  • Temples of Nagara styles are categorized on the basis of the shape of the Shikhara. They are – Rekha Prasad, Phamsana, and Valabhi.

Classification of Nagara style of temple architecture based on the style of Shikhara

  • Rekha-Prasad or Latina: These temples are characterized by a simple Shikara with a square base and inward curving walls that have a pointed top. Early medieval temples such as the Sun Temple at Markhera in Madhya Pradesh (MP). The Sri Jagannath Temple of Odishahas been constructed in the Rekha-Prasad Shikara style.
  • Shekari: is a variation of the Latina where the Shikara comprises of a main Rekha-Prasad Shikara and one or more rows of smaller steeples on both sides of the central spire. Additionally, the base and corners also feature mini Shikaras.The Khajuraho Kandariya Mahadev Temple is one of the most prominent temples built in this style.
  • Bhumija: Another type of Nagara temple that evolved from the Latina style was the Bhumija architecturedeveloped in Malwa under the Paramara dynasty. These temples have a flat upward tapering projection comprising of a central Latina spire and miniature spires on the quadrant formed by the tapering tower. These mini Shikaras carved out both horizontally as well as vertically. The Udayeshwar Temple in MP is built in this style.
  • Valabhi: style temples are rectangular in shape comprising of barrel-vaulted roofs. The vaulted chamber roof has earned them the moniker wagon vaulted buildings/structures. Teli Ka Mandir, a 9th Century temple at Gwaliorhas been built in this style.
  • Phamsana: are shorter but broader structures comprising of roofs with numerous slabs that rise upwards in a gentle slope on a straight inclinelike a pyramid meeting at a single point over the mid-point of the building. The Jagmohan of Konark Temple is constructed in the Phamsana mode.

Sub-schools of Nagara style of temple architecture

  • Odisha School– The most prominent distinguishing feature is the Shikara (Deul) which rises vertically before curving inwards at the top. The main type is square while the upper reaches are circular. These temples have intricately carved exteriors and usually bare interiors. Unlike Nagara temples of the north, most Odisha temples have boundary walls.
  • Chandel School– Unlike Odishan style, these temples are conceived as a single unit and have Shikaras that curved from bottom to top. There are a number of miniatures Shikaras rising from the central tower and towers that gradually rise up to the main tower cap both the porticos and halls.
  • Solanki School– They are similar to the Chandel School except that they have carved ceilings that appear like a true dome. The distinguishing feature of these temples is the minute and intricate decorative motifs. Except for the central shrine, one can find carvings on both the inner and outer sides of the walls.

Conclusion

Nagara style is seen from the Himalaya to the north of Bijapur district in the South, from the Punjab in the west to Bengal to the east. Therefore, there are local variations and ramifications in the formal development of the style in the different regions. However, the cruciform plan and the curvilinear tower are common.

Topic: The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.

2. Khilafat Movement created a conducive environment for the emergence of the Non-Cooperation Movement by fostering Hindu-Muslim unity and providing a model of mass protest and non-cooperation against British rule. Elaborate. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 1.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the nature of the Khilafat movement and how its carved out the space for the emergence of Non-cooperation movement.

Directive word: 

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Give the context for the launch of Khilafat movement

Body:

Describe the features of Khilafat movement such as its pan-Islamic nature across the world, as well as it trying to align its goals towards Indian Nationalism, rise of two streams of education among Indian Muslims, rise of political organisations such as All-India Khilafat Committee and the Jamiat al-Ulama-e-Hind, important leaders  and the rising anti- British sentiments.

Mention the role of Gandhi in Khilafat movement, that through Gandhi’s interlinking of the demands of the Khilafat leaders and leaders of INC and the disappointment of the Khilafat leaders  with the Peace treaty of 1920,and various grievances of Congress, Sins of Jallianwala Bagh led to the rise of the Non-cooperation movement.

Conclusion:

Write about how the movement functioned jointly and its achievements.

Introduction

Khilafat and Non-cooperation movements were important milestones in the history of modern India. Both these movements ushered in a new era of mass mobilisation and shaped the future of Indian polity in important ways. Although their trajectories were somewhat different, both were anti-imperialist movements. They emerged from separate issues. The Khilafat issue was not directly linked to Indian politics but it was deeply anti-imperialist and nationalist in its impulse. These two movements were brought together during 1920-22, under the leadership of Gandhiji.

Body

Nature of Khilafat Movement:

  • The Khilafat movement in India arose out of the sentiments of the Indian Muslims to protect the institution of the Khalifa in Turkey.
  • The Khalifa in Islamic tradition was considered as the successor to the Prophet Muhammad, religious leader and the custodian and protector of the Muslim holy places.
  • As Turkey was defeated in the First World War, the Allies imposed strict terms on it. Turkey was dismembered and the Khalifa removed from power.
  • The Muslims in India launched the Khilafat movement to pressurise the British to be lenient and preserve the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire and the institution of Khalifa.
  • In early 1919, a Khilafat Committee was formed under the leadership of the Ali brothers (Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali), Maulana Azad, Ajmal Khan and Hasrat Mohani.
  • The Khilafat may be seen as the attempt on the part of the Indian Muslim leadership to bring their pan-Islamic and Indian nationalist sentiments together.

Role of Khilafat movement in formation of Non Cooperation movement:

  • On 20 March 1919, a Khilafat Committee was formed in Bombay under the leadership of prominent Muslim leaders
  • Initially, they took a moderate stand, and their activities were restricted to meetings, petitions and deputations
  • The advocates of a militant movement wanted to launch a non-cooperation movement against the colonial government.
  • An all-India Khilafat Conference was organised in Delhi on 23-24 November 1919. A call for boycott of British goods was made in the conference.
  • They also threatened to stop all cooperation with the government in case unjust treatment was meted out to Turkey during the peace settlement
  • Gandhiji was declared as the leader under whose guidance the movement would be carried forward
  • Gandhiji saw an opportunity to bring together Hindus and Muslims on a common platform for nationalist movement
  • It was his leadership that made the convergence of the two anti-imperialist streams – nationalist and the Khilafat – possible during this period.

Evaluation of Khilafat and Non Cooperation movement:

  • The Khilafat and non-cooperation movements played extremely important role in generating and spreading anti-imperialist consciousness among the Indian people.
  • The Hindus and Muslims together participated in the movement throughout the country and often it was difficult to point out the difference between khilafat and non-cooperation movement
  • Despite the Malabar happenings, in which the Muslim peasants revolted against their largely Hindu landlords and killed many of them, the Hindu-Muslim unity remained intact throughout the period.
  • An important issue which the non-cooperation movement brought to the fore was the need to fight against caste discrimination and untouchability.
  • The need for social justice was clearly acknowledged, pushed forward and was later enshrined in the Constitution of independent India.
  • Strong anti-colonial movements were afoot among various sections of population.
  • Peasants and workers were particularly active during this period, besides the middle classes in both the urban and rural areas.
  • Moreover, Gandhiji’s insistence on non-violence brought a large number of women into the movement.
  • Thus, these movements under the leadership of Gandhiji revolutionised the structure of Indian politics in several ways.
  • The most significant success of the movement should be located in its mobilisation of various sections of people across the country and the creation of political and social consciousness in them.

Conclusion:

The movement brought the urban Muslims into the national movement. With the Non-Cooperation Movement, nationalist sentiments reached every nook and corner of the country and politicised every strata of population—the artisans, peasants, students, urban poor, women, traders etc. It was this politicisation and activisation of millions of men and women which imparted a revolutionary character to the national movement. Colonial rule was based on two myths one, that such a rule was in the interest of Indians and two, that it was invincible. The first myth had been exploded by the economic critique by Moderate nationalists. The second myth had been challenged by Satyagraha through mass struggle. Now, the masses lost the hitherto all-pervasive fear of the colonial rule and its mighty repressive organs.

Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

3. The Finance Commission ensures equitable financial distribution between the central and state governments, promoting balanced development and fiscal federalism. Examine. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Why the question:

The Finance Commission is a constitutional body instituted by the Union government once in five years without any transparent discussion on selecting its members and its terms of reference (ToR).

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the role of Finance Commission in fiscal federalism in the country.

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 the giving the context of article 280.

Body:

In the first part, write about the role of the Finance Commission – financial needs and capacities of the central and state governments, promoting economic development, and ensuring that resources are distributed equitably for the benefit of the entire nation.

In the next part, mention the major limitations of the commission.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward to overcome the limitations.

Introduction

The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under article 280 of the Constitution, mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves. Two distinctive features of the Commission’s work involve redressing the vertical imbalances between the taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities of the centre and the States respectively and equalization of all public services across the States.

The Finance Commission is a constitutional body instituted by the Union government once in five years without any transparent discussion on selecting its members and its terms of reference (ToR).

Body:

Composition of Finance Commission:

The Finance Commission is appointed by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution.   As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who:

  • are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of a High Court; or
  • have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government; or
  • have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration; or
  • have special knowledge of economics.

Functions of the finance commission:

  • It is the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to:
  • the distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds;
  • the principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
  • the measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State;
  • any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance.
  • The Commission determines its procedure and have such powers in the performance of their functions as Parliament may by law confer on them.

Role of Finance Commission as a Neutral arbitrator

  • To balance the horizontal and vertical fiscal imbalances
  • Balance the fiscal issues due to differing historical backgrounds or resource endowments
  • Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between Centre and the States
  • Determine factors governing Grants-in-Aid to the states and the magnitude of the same.
  • Ensuring greater financial autonomy to states by increasing the share of revenue- 14th FC
  • Measures needed to augment the Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the panchayats and municipalities in the state on the basis of the recommendations made by the finance commission of the state.
  • Any other matter related to it by the president in the interest of sound finance.

Threats to the neutrality

  • Dominance of the centre in the financial sphere
  • GST and associated irregularities and delayed compensation
  • Increasing cess and surcharges from 9% in 2014-15 to 15.3% in 2019-20- States have no share in the same.
  • Shrinking of divisible pool of taxes
  • Inefficient devolution of the 42% fiscal share to the states as per the 14th finance commission recommendation.
  • 15th FC Recommendations
    • Use of 2011 census for devolution- southern states find the move, a disincentive
    • The viability of creating a separate defence and national security fund as suggested by the Centre; this would result in lower share of funds to the states. – 15th Finance commission recommendation.

Way forward

  • Any attempt to shift the uneasy balance in favour of the Centre will strengthen the argument that this government’s talk of cooperative federalism serves as a useful mask to hide its centralising tendencies.
  • As a neutral arbiter of Centre-state relations, the Finance Commission should seek to maintain the delicate balance in deciding on contesting claims.
  • This may well require giveaways especially if states are to be incentivised to push through legislation on items on the state and concurrent list.
  • The fiscal stress at various levels of the government necessitates a realistic assessment of the country’s macro-economic situation, the preparation of a medium-term roadmap, as well as careful calibration of the framework that governs Centre-state relations.
  • At this critical juncture, the Finance Commission should present the broad contours of the roadmap.
  • Though it could request for another year’s extension to present its full five-year report citing the prevailing uncertainty.
  • A relook at the Centre’s expenditure priorities would create greater fiscal space 
  • The Centre can reduce States’ fears by tabling the report of FC without delay, and address any apprehensions it may give rise to.

Conclusion:

The Indian federal system allows for the division of power and responsibilities between the centre and states.  Correspondingly, the taxation powers are also broadly divided between the centre and states.  State legislatures may devolve some of their taxation powers to local bodies.

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

4. Gig workers face issues like job insecurity and lack of benefits, necessitating legal protections, fair wages, and social security to safeguard their rights. Analyse. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Tough

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Why the question:

The article highlights the importance of prioritizing gig economy workers, who encounter challenges like job instability and insufficient social security.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the issues faced by gig workers, need to ensure and protect rights of gig workers.

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 defining gig workers and present a statistic regarding the number of gig workers in the Indian economy.

Body:

In the first talk about the ambiguity in gig economy which results in the exploitation of gig workers – lack of formal employer-employee relationship, remuneration, rigidity of working hours and the working conditions etc.

Next, write about the benefits of regulating the gig economy and steps needed to protect the rights of workers and grant them social protection.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

Introduction

Gig workers are independent contractors who perform temporary, flexible jobs, often through digital platforms. They’re paid for each “gig” they complete, such as a ride-share trip or a freelance assignment, rather than receiving a regular salary or benefits from an employer.

A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements Examples of gig employees in the workforce could include freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires.

According to the Oxford Internet Institute’s ‘Online Labor Index’, India leads the global gig economy with a 24% share of the online labor market.

Body

Issues faced by gig economy workers

  • This workforce has limited employment rights like minimum wages, health benefits, sick leaves or even retirement benefits to fall back on.
  • Also, the payment is assured only on the completion of the project giving a sense of financial insecurity.
  • The lack of any kind of protection was also deterring several talented workers against participating in the economy
  • No stable and secure employment: These so-called jobs do not provide health insurance, nor pay for overtime with no sick leave.
  • Lack of income security: There is no room for wage negotiations, and unions are absent. In the gig economy, job creation should be seen as the provision of livelihoods for entrepreneurs.
  • Grievance redressal mechanism: For instance, when Ola and Uber started cutting back incentives, the drivers in Mumbai decided to go on ‘strike’.
    • But there was no clarity against whom they were striking. When the strikers agitated at a local transport commissioner’s office, he had to tell them that he did not regulate the hail-a-taxi business.
  • The Central government recently passed the social security code which could cover gig worker as well.
  • One of the key proposals includes the creation of a social security fund which is around 1 per cent of the aggregators’ annual turnover.
  • This fund would be used primarily for the welfare of the unorganized and the gig workforce

Regulation of gig economy

  • Constant upskilling and reskilling is required for such talents to stay industry relevant and market ready.
  • A categorical clarification could ensure that social security measures are provided to workers without compromising the touted qualities of platform work.
  • Countries must come together to set up a platform to extend their labour protection to the workforce who are working part-time in their country.
  • Companies employing the workforce on a temporary basis should also be made responsible to contribute to their insurance and social obligation other than just their tax commitment.
  • There is a need for a socio-legal acknowledgement of the heterogeneity of work in the gig economy, and the ascription of joint accountability to the State and platform companies for the delivery of social services.
  • In the Code on Social Security, 2020, platform workers are now eligible for benefits. Actualising these benefits will depend on the political will at the Central and State government-levels and how unions elicit political support.

Way forward

  • The government needs to come out with some more regulations to protect the workforce of the gig economy.
  • Also, at present, there is no mechanism to address the issue of redress of disputes.
  • It could also mean countries coming together to set up a platform to extend their labour protection to the workforce who are working part-time in their country.
  • Companies employing the workforce on a temporary basis should also be made responsible to contribute to their insurance and social obligation other than just their tax commitment.

Conclusion

The scope of the gig economy in a country like India is enormous. The government needs to come out with a comprehensive legislation to empower and motivate many to take this path. The gig economy and its workforce cannot be overlooked when we talk about the future of employment.

With a population of over 1.3 billion, and a majority of them below the age of 35, relying on the “gig economy” is perhaps the only way to create employment for a large semi-skilled and unskilled workforce. Therefore, it is important to hand-hold this sector and help it grow. We need policies and processes that give clarity to the way the sector should function.

Value addition

Statistics

  • Human resources firm TeamLease estimates that 13 lakh Indians joined the gig economy in the last half of 2018-19, registering a 30% growth compared to the first half of the fiscal year.
  • Better Place, a digital platform that does background verification and skill development in the informal sector, estimates that of the 21 lakh jobs that will be created in the metros in 2019-20, 14 lakh will be in the gig economy.
  • Food and e-commerce delivery will account for 8 lakh positions and drivers will account for nearly 6 lakh positions, says the report, based on 11 lakh profiles in over 1,000 companies.
  • Delhi, Bengaluru and other metros are expected to be the biggest drivers of this sector. And two-thirds of this workforce will be under the age of 40.

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

5. By addressing the root causes of accidents and implementing preventive measures, railway accidents in India can be significantly reduced, ensuring safer journeys for passengers and enhancing the overall efficiency of the rail network. Examine. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Tough

Reference: Indian Express , Insights on India

Why the question:

The train accident involving the Kanchenjunga Express near New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal belies the railways’ claims on a safe train journey. At least nine passengers were killed and 40 others injured when a goods train smashed into Kanchenjunga Express from the rear.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the causes of railway accidents in India and ways to avoid 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 giving context.

Body:

First, write about the causes of Railway accidents in the country – track failures, human errors, equipment malfunctions, level crossings, overcrowding, sabotage, and natural disasters etc.

Next, write about the steps that are needed to mitigate the above risks – upgrading infrastructure, modernizing equipment, enhancing safety training, improving maintenance, deploying technology, raising public awareness, enforcing regulations, ensuring level crossing safety, and fostering continuous improvement in safety practices etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing way forward.

Introduction

The Indian Railways is one of the largest railway networks in the world, with millions of people relying on it for transportation every day. Statistics show that over the last two decades, the number of derailments which constitute the majority of accidents has drastically declined from around 350 per year around the turn of the millennium, to 22 in 2021-22.

The train accident involving the Kanchenjunga Express near New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal belies the railways’ claims on a safe train journey. At least nine passengers were killed and 40 others injured when a goods train smashed into Kanchenjunga Express from the rear.

Body

Major causes leading to railway accidents

  • Derailments have been a major cause of train accidents in India.
  • Lapses in safety protocols, track maintenance, and failure to identify and rectify track defects have resulted in derailments.
  • The railway infrastructure, which includes tracks, bridges, overhead wires, and rolling stock, is often defective due to poor maintenance, ageing, vandalism, sabotage, or natural disasters.
  • Much of the infrastructure was built in the 19th and 20th centuries and has not been upgraded to meet the growing demand and modern standards.
  • The railway system also suffers from a lack of funds, corruption, and inefficiency, which hamper its development and maintenance.
  • Moreover, many routes are operating at over 100% capacity, which increases the risk of accidents due to congestion and overloading.
  • The railway staff, who are responsible for operating, maintaining, and managing the trains and tracks, are prone to human errors due to fatigue, negligence, corruption, or disregard for safety rules and procedures.
  • Human errors can result in wrong signalling, miscommunication, over speeding, or overlooking defects or hazards.
  • The railway staff also lack adequate training and communication skills, which affect their performance and coordination.
  • The signalling system, which controls the movement and direction of trains on the tracks, can fail due to technical glitches, power outages, or human errors.
  • Signalling failures can lead to trains running on the wrong track, colliding with other trains or stationary objects, or overshooting stations. For example, the recent train accident in Odisha was reportedly caused by a change in electronic interlocking that was not communicated properly to the drivers.
  • Unmanned level crossings are places where railway tracks crossroads without any barriers or signals to regulate traffic. They pose a high risk of accidents as vehicles or pedestrians may not notice the approaching train or may try to cross the track when the train is near. In 2018-19, UMLCs accounted for 16% of all train accidents in India.
  • The railways have eliminated all the unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) on broad gauge routes, but there are still many manned level crossings (MLCs) that pose a risk of accidents.

Government Initiatives undertaken so far

  • KAVACH is an indigenously developed Automatic Train Protection(ATP) System for Indian Railways.
  • The government initiated the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh in 2017-18, a dedicated fund aimed at carrying out safety-related work in a systematic manner.
  • Project Mission Raftar is an Indian Railway project, introduced in the Railway Budget of 2016-17 and approved by NITI Aayog in 2017. The goal is to double the average speed of freight trains and increase passenger train speed by 50%.
  • The government has been investing significant funds in the modernization and upgradation of railway infrastructure. This includes the electrification of railway lines, the expansion of rail networks, and the introduction of high-speed and ultra-high-speed lines, such as the Vande Bharat Express.
  • Lighter and safer coaches for Mail/Express trains. These coaches are based on German technology and have better anti-climbing features, fire retardant materials, higher speed potential and longer service life than conventional ICF design coaches.
  • The government has been working towards the elimination of manned level crossings, which are prone to accidents. Efforts are being made to replace them with underpasses, overpasses, and other safety measures to enhance railway safety.
  • Efforts have been made to implement safety measures across the railway network. These include the installation of fire and smoke detection systems in coaches, the provision of fire extinguishers, and the development of technologies like the Kavach application that aids locomotive pilots in triggering the brake system automatically.

Way forward

  • Allocate more funds for track renewal, bridge repair, signalling upgrade, coach refurbishment, etc.
  • Provide regular and comprehensive training to the railway staff on the latest technologies, equipment, systems, safety rules and procedures.
  • Construct Road overbridges (ROBs) or road underbridges (RUBs) to replace the unmanned and manned level crossings.
  • Install anti-collision devices (ACDs) such asKavach/ Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Train Protection Warning System (TPWS), Automatic Train Control (ATC), etc. The railways are in the process of installing these technologies on some sections of tracks, but they need to be expanded to cover the entire network.
  • Reward the railway staff based on their performance and compliance with the safety rules and procedures.
  • Transfer the non-core activities such as maintaining hospitals, colleges etc to private or public sector entities, which can improve efficiency and reduce costs.
  • Set up a railway safety authority as a statutory body with powers to frame safety standards, conduct safety audits and inspections, enforce accountability and penalties for lapses, and investigate accidents.
  • Monitor, evaluate and audit the safety performance of the railway staff, infrastructure and equipment, and enforce strict accountability and penalties for lapses.
  • Improve the communication and coordination among the railway board, zonal railways, divisions, production units, research organisations, etc., which are involved in railway operations.

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

6. What are the causes and consequences of desertification in India? Engaging local communities in land restoration efforts and promoting sustainable land management practices, are crucial to mitigate the impacts of desertification. Discuss. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Down to EarthInsights on India

Why the question:

Three decades after the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was adopted, the United Nations on June 17 urged support from all generations for sustainable land stewardship.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the causes and consequences of desertification in India and ways to prevent 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 defining desertification and present statistics regarding it.

Body:

First, write about its causes – It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world ‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use.

Next, elaborate upon the socio-economic impact of desertification.

Next, stress on the measures needed to fight desertification.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward.

Introduction

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one-third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land usePoverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.

Three decades after the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was adopted, the United Nations on June 17 urged support from all generations for sustainable land stewardship.

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Main reasons that cause desertification in India are:

  • Man-Made Causes:
    • Overgrazing: It reduces the usefulness, productivity, and biodiversity of the land. India lost 31% of grasslands between 2005 and 2015.
    • Deforestation: A forest acts as a carbon sink. Deforestation releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect.
    • Farming Practices: Slash and burn agriculture exposes the state to soil erosion hazards. Heavy tilling and overirrigation disturbs mineral composition of the soil.
    • Urbanization: As urbanization increases, the demand for resources increases drawing more resources and leaving lands that easily succumb to desertification.
    • Climate Change: It may exacerbate desertification through alteration of spatial and temporal patterns in temperature, rainfall, solar radiation and winds.
    • Overexploitation of Resources: Increasing demand for land resources due to issues like overpopulation leaves land vulnerable to desertification.
  • Natural Causes:
    • Natural Disasters: Natural Disasters like Floods, Droughts, landslides results into
      • Water Erosion
      • Displacement of fertile soil.
    • Water erosion: It results into Badland Topography which itself is an initial stage of desertification.
    • Wind Erosion: Sand encroachment by wind reduces fertility of the soil making the land susceptible to desertification.

Consequences of Desertification

Socio-economic impacts:

  • Farming becomes next to impossible
    • If an area becomes a desert, then it’s almost impossible to grow substantial crops there without special technologies.
    • This can cost a lot of money to try and do, so many farmers will have to sell their land and leave the desert areas.
  • Decrease in Crop Yields
    • A major effect of desertification is the decrease in crop yields.
    • Once land turns from arable to arid, it is often on longer suitable for farming purposes anymore.
    • In turn, many farmers may lose their livelihood, since they often solely rely on farming as their single source of income.
    • If their land becomes arid, they may no longer be able to provide sufficient crop yields to make a living out of it.
  • Hunger
    • Without farms in these areas, the food that those farms produce will become much scarcer, and the people who live in those local areas will be a lot more likely to try and deal with hunger problems.
    • Animals will also go hungry, which will cause even more of a food shortage.
  • Overpopulation
    • When areas start to become desert, animals and people will go to other areas where they can actually thrive.
    • This causes crowding and overpopulation, which will, in the long run, end up continuing the cycle of desertification that started this whole thing anyway.
  • Poverty
    • The problem of desertification can lead to poverty if it is not kept in check.
    • Without food and water, it becomes harder for people to thrive, and they take a lot of time to try and get the things that they need.
  • Migration
    • The desertification implies the destruction of the livelihood of farmers.
    • This problem becomes even worse when large areas of land that are currently used for farming will then no longer be suitable for farming due to a lack of water triggered by global warming.
    • This results in serious migration movements.

Climatic Impacts

  • Flooding
    • Without plant life in an area, flooding is a lot more imminent.
    • Not all deserts are dry; those that are wet could experience a lot of flooding because there is nothing to stop the water from gathering and going all over the place.
  • Poor Water Quality
    • If an area becomes a desert, the water quality is going to become a lot worse than it would have been otherwise.
    • This is because plant life plays a significant role in keeping the water clean and clear; without its presence, it becomes a lot more difficult for you to be able to do that.

Environmental Impacts

  • Biodiversity Loss
    • In general, the destruction of habitats and desertification may also contribute to a loss of biodiversity.
    • While some species may be able to adjust to the altered environmental conditions properly, many species will not be able to do so and may suffer from serious declines in population.
  • Endangerment and Extinction of Species
    • The desertification results in a decline in population for which species may become endangered or even extinct.
    • This problem is especially severe for species that are already endangered as the small number of animals or plants that remains may also die off over time, which may even lead to the extinction of species.
  • Destruction of Habitats
    • Desertification often leads to a loss of habitats for many animals and plants.
    • Desertification may alter the living conditions of the local flora and fauna that makes it impossible for animals and plants to sustain their populations.
    • After desertification, regions suffer from water shortages due to climate change and animals may suffer and die since water is vital for all life on our planet.

Measures needed

  • UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework: It is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of vast expanses of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations to build.
  • Setting up of an Intergovernmental Panel on Land and Soil will be very helpful in speeding up efforts to check desertification.
  • Farmers must be incentivised to choose cropping patterns that require less water, and go for drip irrigation or other water management mechanisms to save our only available deeper aquifers.
  • Developing countries need to integrate their poverty eradication programmes with strategies to fight desertification.
  • Lessons from the world:
    • In Africa, several countries have come together to form a 12,000 sq.km “great green wall” extending from Senegal to Djibouti with the participation of local communities.
    • People’s participation is crucial in reclaiming lands. China’s “great green wall” project is on a massive scale and is now starting to show results.
  • The techniques include agro-forestry and farmer-managed natural regeneration. Small community initiatives like
    • Closure of degraded lands for grazing
    • Curtailing farming
    • Growing fast-growing plants
    • Raising tall trees that serve as a barrier against winds and sandstorms are very effective.
  • National governments could consider building large green belts, prioritise forestry programmes and launch projects of fixing and stabilising sands.

Conclusion

Desertification is being accentuated by climate change. Thus, a comprehensive sustainable developmental approach is needed by the countries.

Topic: role of Family society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

7. Families play a crucial role in providing children with a strong emotional foundation and ethical framework. Elaborate. (150 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 4.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the role of family in providing emotional and ethical foundation to their children.

Directive word: 

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

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin the answer by mentioning the role of family in inculcating values in children.

Body:

First, write about family as an institution of socialization for a person is his/her family. Since values have an affective component, family plays a major role in an individual subscribing to certain values. Mention as to how these lay foundation to strong emotional and ethical foundation in children’s life.

Next, write about the importance of above.

Conclusion:

Conclude by summarising.

Introduction

If there is one cohesive, cementing force at the heart of traditional Indian society it is our family system. It is a single, powerful strand which for centuries, has woven the tapestry of our rich, social fabric replete with diversity, into a whole.

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Role of family in transforming children

Despite changing values, the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (world is one family) is ingrained well in our minds, especially in India.

  • Cohesive society: One of the main advantages of a joint family system is the strong bonding it creates among siblings and other members of the family even while providing a sense of security to the children.
  • Virtues: It is believed that children who grow up in an extended family with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will imbibe the qualities of sharing, caring, empathy and understanding.
  • Emotional intelligence: The bonding and bonhomie one finds in close knit joint families has a positive impact on the emotional quotient of children.
  • Caring for the old: Family values play an important role in shaping the outlook of people. Respect and care for elders are among the central principles in Indian family system.
  • Unity: It should also be remembered that the family system creates a strong bond of unity at an early age, paves the way for social cohesion and in a broader sense promotes national unity.
  • Morals: Adopting our age-old philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which embodies the spirit of humanism, compassion, magnanimity and tolerance, family becomes the basic building block of a harmonious, inclusive society.
  • Peaceful world view: Family can shape the world view, foster and reinforce the value system of the individuals and therefore, consequently, be the warp and weft of a sustainable, peaceful, inclusive, prosperous world.

Conclusion

Children who grow up in an extended family not only imbibe qualities of tolerance, patience, democratic attitude of accepting others’ viewpoints, but also develop sportsman’s spirit while playing with siblings and cousins. Various age-old traditions, customs and ways of living are all products of family system. In fact, the family system lays the seeds for social cohesion and democratic thinking.

 

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