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UPSC Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 22 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.

1. Tribal revolts in India, driven by a multitude of factors, despite their failure, significantly raised awareness, inspired future resistance, and contributed to policy changes. Examine.

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Introduction

The Tribal population, being conservative, was interested in retaining the existing salient features of their society. Tribal movements were inspired by revolutionary tendencies. They wanted to make use of the situation to fight and eliminate evils and ill-tendencies that existed in the contemporary tribal society. Before British influence, tribals had depended on the forest for food, fuel and fodder. They practiced shifting cultivation (jhum, podu, etc.), taking recourse to fresh forest lands when their existing lands showed signs of exhaustion. The colonial government changed all this.

Marking the 124th death anniversary of revolutionary tribal leader Birsa Munda, Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren paid his tributes.

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Tribal revolts and rebellions : Causes

  • Imposition of Land revenue SettlementFor instance, Famine, enhanced land revenue demands and economic distress goaded the Chuar aboriginal tribesmen of the Jungle Mahal of Midnapore district and also of the Bankura district (in Bengal) to take up arms.
  • British policies and acts like the establishment of the Forest  department  in  1864, Government  Forest  Act (1865) and Indian  Forest  Act (1878) which restricted the activities of tribals in forest areas led to their ire against the British. : Koya revolt against British for denial of tribal’s rights over forest areas.
  • Extension of settled agriculture. E.g.: The British expansion on their territory led to an uprising by the martial Pahariyas of the Raj Mahal Hills in 1778.
  • New excise regulations which imposed a ban on tribals to make their own liquor, an important trait of their culture.
  • Large scale transfer of forest land. : large-scale transfers of land from Kol headmen to outsiders like Hindu, Sikh and Muslim farmers and money-lenders who were oppressive and demanded heavy taxes.
  • Restrictions on shifting cultivation in forest. For e.g.: Khasi and Garo rebellions against occupation of hilly land and ban on shifting cultivation.
  • Introduction of the notion of private property.
  • Exploitation by low   country   traders   and money lenders. E.g.: Santhal rebellion against moneylenders and traders. The Ulgulan uprising against money lenders
  • Work of Christian Missionaries and against the interference of other religions such as Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. g: Tana Bhagat Movement

Significance in raising moral quotient of national movement

  • The uprisings helped create an united notion against the oppressive nature of British rule.
  • It laid bare the colonial rule of East India company.
  • It played an important role in bringing the tribal people together and imparting to them the consciousness of belonging to one country.
  • The Tribal rebellions in India took place for social, cultural and political reasons, particularly against the acquisition of their land and exerted their rights over forest resources.

Conclusion

It is evident that the colonial rule even, during the days of the east India Company witnessed numerous uprising and disturbances. These varied grievances reached their climax in the revolt of 1857, which in spite of targeting certain groups of Indians remains the prominent uprising against the British before the beginning of the Indian Freedom movement.

2. Caste inequality remains a critical determinant of social and economic disparities, requiring targeted policies and inclusive growth efforts to address systemic discrimination and historical injustices. Examine.

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Introduction

Caste system refers to a broad hierarchical institutional arrangement along which basic social factors like birth, marriage, food-sharing etc are arranged in a hierarchy of rank and status. These sub-divisions are traditionally linked to occupations and decide the social relations with respect to other upper and lower castes.

A recent working paper of the World Inequality Lab has reignited discussion on the widening gap between the rich and poor. Inequality in India, however, transcends the dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots, as caste-based inequalities are among the defining features of the country’s socioeconomic framework..

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Caste discrimination is still widely prevalent in the contemporary society because

  • Indian society has been bearing the brunt of this social evil since the post-Vedic times and continues to bear despite Constitutional and Legal measures.
  • Hereditary: An individual’s caste is determined by the caste of the family he is born in. It is generally hereditary. One’s caste is unalterable no matter what his/her social position is. One inherits the membership of a caste by his/her birth.
  • Persistence is that ancient inequities and prejudices are slow to change. The higher castes, which exploited the lower castes for centuries, continue to discriminate against them both socially and economically.
  • Sense of caste prestige: Feeling of own caste superiority over other castes Is the main factor. It is people’s strong desire to enhance caste prestige. Members of a particular caste or sub-caste have the tendency of developing loyalty to their own caste.
  • Caste endogamy: Caste endogamy refers to marriage within the same caste. Caste endogamy is therefore responsible for the emergence of the feeling of casteism.
  • Belief in religious dogmas: Due to illiteracy, people are governed by belief in religious dogmas, blind beliefs and superstitions. Due to the practice of ‘Jati Dharma’ they take interest in their own caste. It leads to caste feeling and casteism.
  • Social distance: Especially in rural areas, people belonging to the higher caste maintain social distance from the lower castes.
    • Dalits in rural villages are forbidden in Hindu temples and disallowed with their shoes on in higher-caste neighborhoods.
    • They maintain it through different restrictions like inter-caste marriages, Inter-dinning etc.
    • The ideology of an individual is associated with his caste norms and values. This has given rise to casteism.
  • Caste reservation in higher education and the government has served to perpetuate a system that would otherwise have withered away.

How casteism can be removed?

  • Emotional and intellectual appeal to economic determinism, as was advocated by Karl Marx
  • Awareness about Constitutional values, ethics, ill effects of castiesm etc. by debates, nukkad natak, puppetry,
  • Promote and incentivise inter caste marriages as is already done for marrying a SC ST women in some parts of India.
  • Evaluate the existing customs, rituals etc. on thetouchstone of Human Rights. Here judiciary can play a positive role but with due respect to religious feelings.
  • Implement laws and agreements like ICCPR, Protection of human rights, Prevention of atrocities against SC ST etc. with full letter and spirit.
  • Dalit capitalism, check on extra judicial bodies like Khaps etc.
  • Economic empowerment of Dalit through education and ownership of land and capital.

Conclusion

Caste system is a terrible anomaly of society which became more prevalent over time. It is the strong enemy of the concept of social justice mentioned in the Indian Constitution and causes economic, social damage to the country from time to time. Undoubtedly, along with the government, it is the responsibility of the common man, religious leaders, politicians, and civil society to resolve this discrepancy as soon as possible.

Value addition

Caste system is the bane for the Indian society:

  • Segmental division of society:It means that social stratification is largely based on caste. Membership to a caste group is acquired by birth, on the basis of which people are ranked in relative to other caste groups.
  • Hierarchy:It indicates that various castes are categorized according to their purity and impurity of occupations.
  • Civil and religious disabilities:Example, lower caste groups had no access to wells, they were restricted from entering temples etc.
  • Endogamy: Members of a particular caste have to marry within their caste only. Inter caste marriages are prohibited.
  • Untouchability: It is the practice of ostracizing a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom.
  • Hindered national unity:The caste system and religion developed a parochial feeling and made the people unduly conscious of their own castes/religion.
    • Many a time caste/communal interests were given priority over national interest.
    • Thus the whole system stood against the very concept of national unity.
  • Hinders democracy: Democracy presupposes human equality, but the caste system believed in inequality and there was a hierarchical arrangement.
    • Today caste has manifested into a subject to gain political benefits, like reservation in educational colleges, government jobs etc.
  • Lowered women’s status: The practice of Sati, child marriage etc  were result of caste system. Women were treated as second-class citizens. This patriarchal behaviour is still prevalent today.
  • Violence and conflict: Dalit atrocities, sexual assault on lower caste women etc are result of such discrimination and exploitation which are in turn a result of caste and communal identities deeply entrenched in Indian society

The evil face of Caste System:

  • Manual scavenging: Manual scavenging eventually became a caste-based occupation, which involves the removal of untreated human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines. It has been officially abolished by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.
  • Caste based violence in India: Increasing trend of caste based violence are related to instances of inter-caste marriage and assertion of basic rights by Dalits including landrights, freedom of expression, access to justice, access to education etc.
  • Dalit violence: Increasing trend of caste-based violence are related to instances of inter-caste marriage and assertion of basic rights by Dalits including land rights, freedom of expression, access to justice, access to education etc.
    • A group of Dalits were attacked in Una, Gujarat when they had participated in the movement for demand of land ownership for the Dalits.
    • Hathras Gang rape of a Dalit womanwas touted as caste based violence.
  • Jati Panchayat: The status of each caste is carefully protected, not only by caste laws but also by the conventions. These areopenly enforced by the community through a governing body or board called Jati Panchayat.
  • The Concept of Purity and Pollution: The higher castes claimed to have ritual, spiritual and racial purity which they maintained by keeping the lower castes away through the notion of pollution. The idea of pollution means a touch of lower caste man would pollute or defile a man of higher caste.
  • Restriction on Food and Drink: Usually a caste would not accept cooked food from any other caste that stands lower than itself in the social scale, due to the notion of getting polluted.
  • The caste system is a check on economic and intellectual advancement and a great stumbling block in the way of social reforms
  • It undermines the efficiency of labour and prevents perfect mobility of labour, capital and productive effort
  • It perpetuates the exploitation of the economically weaker and socially inferior castes, especially the untouchables.
  • Inflicted untold hardships on women through its insistence on practices like child-marriage, prohibition of widow-remarriage, seclusion of women
  • Caste conflicts are widely prevalent in politics, reservation in jobs and education, inter-caste marriages etc.

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

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

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).

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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.

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. 

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

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.

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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.

5. Evaluate the various benefits and risks associated with the Agnipath scheme. Suggest reforms that are needed in the scheme.

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Agnipath Defence Policy Reform is a government scheme launched to recruit young men and women in the Indian Armed forces. The Agnipath scheme was announced by the defence Minister Rajnath Singh on June 14th 2022.

The government on Tuesday unveiled its new Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers across the three services. The new defence recruitment reform, which has been cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, will come into effect immediately, and the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be called Agniveers.

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About the Agnipath scheme

  • Agnipath is a new defence recruitment model that would allow “patriotic and motivated” youth to serve in the armed forces for a period of four years.
  • The process of recruitment will commence in 90 days.
  • The plan is to recruit about 45,000-50,000 personnel below officer rank in the three services every year through a biannual exercise with a six-month gap.
  • As per the Agnipath scheme, this year there will be a planned intake of about 46,000 young men and women.
  • Soldier recruited through Agnipath scheme will be known as ‘Agniveers’.
  • This scheme will be the only form of recruitment of soldiers into the three defence services Armed Force, Indian Navy and Air Forces, hereon.
  • Enrolment of Agniveers to all three services will be through a centralized online system, with special rallies and campus interviews at recognised technical institutes such as the Industrial Training Institutes, and the National Skills Qualifications Framework. The Model is based on an all-India merit-based selection process.

Objectives

  • It aims at providing an opportunity to the patriotic and motivated youth with the ‘Josh’ and ‘Jazba’ to join the Armed Forces.
  • It is expected to bring down the average age profile of the Indian Armed Forces by about 4 to 5 years.
  • The scheme envisions that, the average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years.

Various benefits to Youth

  • Upon the completion of the 4-years of service, a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of Rs 11.71 lakhs will be paid to the Agniveers that will include their accrued interest thereon.
  • They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years.
  • In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
  • The government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses.
  • Furure Ready Soldiers: It will create “future-ready” soldiers.
  • More Employment Opportunities: It will increase employment opportunities and because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields.
  • Higher Skilled Workforce: This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth.

Issues related to the scheme

  • Difficult to Find Another Job:The ‘Agnipath’ scheme opens the way for recruitment of about 45,000 soldiers into Army, Navy and Air Force in the first year but on a short-term contract of four years. After the completion of the contract, 25% of them will be retained and the rest will leave the forces.
    • The four years of service will mean other jobs will be out of reach after that, and they will be left behind their peers.
  • No Pension Benefit: Those hired under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will be given a one-time lumpsum of a little more than Rs 11 lakh when they end their four-year tenure.
    • However, they do not receive any pension benefits. For most, seeking a second job is essential to support themselves and their families.
  • Training May Remain Unutilized: Forces will lose experienced soldiers.
    • The jawans joining the Army, Navy and Air Force will be given technical training so that they are able to support the ongoing operations. But these men and women will leave after four years, which could create a void.

Conclusion

Despite the reservations, there is potential for future employment to these youth as the defence industry is ready to take off in a huge manner in India. Once this happens, the industry will have readily skilled youth for the jobs and hence there is also future to these youths. At the same time, national security is ensured.

6. Meerabai significantly impacted the Bhakti movement through her devotional bhajans, challenging traditional gender roles and inspiring countless followers with her unwavering spiritual devotion. Discuss.

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Introduction

Bhakti was accepted as a means to attain moksha along with jnana and karma. The Bhakti Movement originated in the seventh-century in Tamil, South India (now parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala), and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reached its peak between the 15th and 17th century CE. The Bhakti Saints moved against the austerities propagated by the Buddhist and Jain schools and professed that ultimate devotion to god was the means to salvation.

Meera Bai, a Rajput princess from Rajasthan, Meera Bai’s unwavering devotion to Lord Krishna transcended societal boundaries. Her soul-stirring bhajans and poems continue to resonate across generations.

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Contributions of Meerabai to Bhakti movement

  • Mirabai embraced the Bhakti movement wholeheartedly.
  • She identified herself as Krishna’s spouse, transcending societal divisions.
  • Gender, caste, and class boundaries held no sway over her devotion.
  • She cared for the poor and marginalized, embodying compassion and equality.
  • Mirabai composed soul-stirring bhajans (devotional songs) expressing her love for Krishna.
  • These bhajans were deeply emotional, lyrical, and resonated with spiritual longing.
  • Through her verses, she transcended societal boundaries and connected directly with the divine.
  • Challenging Traditional Gender Roles: At a young age, Mirabai was married to a prince from Mewar. Her in-laws disapproved of her devotion to Krishna, considering it excessive. Following advice from poet Tulsidas, she left her husband and family to pursue her spiritual calling.
  • Unconventional Widowhood: Instead of following the norm of sati (self-immolation), Mirabai refused to burn herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. She rejected seclusion and chose to worship Krishna openly. Her devotion defied the traditional role of a widowed Rajputi princess.

Mirabai’s Legacy and Spiritual Liberation:

  • Symbol of Devotion: Her unwavering love for Krishna made her an icon of pure devotion.
  • Spiritual Revolution: Mirabai’s songs ignited a spiritual revolution across India.
    • Her emotional verses resonated with seekers, inspiring them to connect with the divine.
  • Resistance and Survival: Despite attempts on her life by her late husband’s family, she miraculously survived.
    • Poisonous snakes, poisoned drinks, and drowning failed to deter her.
  • Metaphysical Realm: Mirabai broke free from traditional spiritual norms.
    • She elevated her devotion beyond societal constraints, reaching the metaphysical realm.
  • Legacy: Her legacy continues to inspire people worldwide to find their divine nature and celebrate life’s joys.

Significance:

  • Spiritual Freedom: Mirabai’s life exemplifies liberation from societal expectations.
  • Courage and Resilience: Her resilience in the face of adversity inspires courage.
  • Unity in Devotion: She emphasized devotion over divisions, uniting people through love for Krishna.
  • Eternal Love: Mirabai’s bhajans echo through time, reminding us of eternal love and devotion.

Conclusion

Mirabai’s unwavering commitment to Krishna and her defiance of norms make her a beacon of spiritual liberation—a timeless reminder that devotion transcends earthly boundaries.

7. India’s poor performance on the Global Gender Gap report is attributed to several factors. Improving political participation of women is pivotal for achieving gender equality and has far-reaching impacts on society. Discuss.

Reference: Down to Earth

Introduction

India has slipped two places on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap index to 129th place, while Iceland retained its top position in the rankings published on June 12, 2024.

Within South Asia, India was ranked fifth after Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, while Pakistan was ranked last. Globally, Sudan was ranked last on the index of 146 countries, while Pakistan slipped three places to 145th.

India figured among the economies with the lowest levels of economic parity, alongside Bangladesh, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, and Morocco. All of them registered less than 30% gender parity in estimated earned income.

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Other findings from report

  • India showed the best gender parity in terms of enrolment in secondary education, while it scored well on political empowerment of women at 65th rank globally.
  • With regard to parity in the number of years with female/male heads of state for the last 50 years, India was ranked 10th.
  • With a population of more than 140 crore, India has closed 64.1% of its gender gap in 2024 and the decline of two places from 127th last year, mainly happened due to small declines in ‘Educational Attainment’ and ‘Political Empowerment,’ parameters, while ‘Economic Participation’ and ‘Opportunity’ scores slightly improved.
  • The WEF said India’s economic parity score has trended upwards for the past four years.
  • In the Political Empowerment subindex, India scored within the top-10 on the head-of-state indicator, but its scores for women’s representation at the federal level, in Ministerial positions (6.9%) and in Parliament (17.2%), remain relatively low.
  • The WEF said the world has closed 68.5% of the gender gap, but at the current pace it will take another 134 years — equivalent to five generations — to achieve full gender parity.
  • Since last year, the gender gap has closed by 0.1 percentage points.

Factors Leading to Gender Gap:

  • Low Female Labor Force Participation:
    • Globally, only 55% of adult women participate in the labor market, compared to 78% of men.
    • In India, women face barriers such as social norms, caregiving responsibilities, and lack of safe workplaces.
  • Wage Disparity:
    • Women still receive 34% less wages than men for the same work.
    • The gender pay gap affects women of different ethnicities and races differently.
  • High Dropout Rates Among Girls:
    • Girls from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often lack access to education.
    • Lack of toilets in schools and proper menstrual hygiene management facilities contribute to dropout rates.
  • Gender-Based Violence:
    • Violence against women sets them back economically and perpetuates inequality.
    • Discriminatory social norms and laws contribute to this issue.

Role of Improving Political Participation:

  • Inclusive Governance:
    • Women’s active political participation ensures diverse perspectives in decision-making.
    • Inclusive policies benefit society as a whole.
  • Empowerment:
    • Political representation empowers women, giving them a voice in shaping policies.
    • It challenges traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
  • Equitable Policy-Making:
    • Women bring unique insights and priorities to policy discussions.
    • Gender-sensitive policies address specific needs and promote equality.

Steps to Overcome Gender Gap:

  • Education and Skill Development:
    • Ensure equal access to quality education for girls.
    • Skill-building programs can enhance employability.
  • Workplace Policies:
    • Implement maternity leave policies that support working mothers.
    • Promote flexible work arrangements and equal pay for equal work.
  • Role Models and Mentoring:
    • Encourage more female role models and mentors.
    • Representation matters for inspiring future generations.
  • Transparent Pay Structures:
    • Eliminate wage disparities by ensuring transparent salary structures.
    • Regular audits can identify and rectify gender-based pay gaps.
  • Political Participation:
    • Encourage women to participate in local and national politics.
    • Quotas or reserved seats can increase representation.

Way Forward:

  • Holistic Approach:
    • Address gender inequality across education, health, and economic sectors.
    • Recognize intersectionality (race, ethnicity, caste, etc.) in policy formulation.
  • Legal Reforms:
    • Strengthen existing laws and enforce them rigorously.
    • Promote gender-sensitive legislation.
  • Awareness and Sensitization:
    • Educate society about gender equality.
    • Challenge stereotypes and discriminatory practices.
  • Corporate Responsibility:
    • Companies should promote diversity and equal opportunities.
    • Mentorship programs can foster women’s leadership.
  • Community Engagement:
    • Grassroots initiatives can empower women at the local level.
    • Encourage women’s participation in community decision-making.

Conclusion

Achieving gender equality requires concerted efforts from governments, organizations, and individuals. By addressing systemic barriers and promoting women’s active participation, we can bridge the gap and create a more equitable world.

8. The India-U.S. relationship, strong in strategic and economic ties, faces challenges like trade disputes and human rights concerns, requiring careful diplomacy to maintain resilience and mutual benefit. Analyse.

Reference: The HinduInsights on India

Introduction

India USA have seen ascendance of relationship in the 21st century, which was crystalised by 2008 India Nuclear Civil Nuclear Agreement. Various factors, including LPG reforms, rise of China, increasing influence of Indian community in USA are the factors behind this. Also, the shared values of democracy, rule of law, human rights, religious freedom bind the countries together.

Its been a year since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States, where U.S. President Joseph Biden rolled out the red carpet and the U.S. offered to restart the decade-old plan to transfer technology for jet engines to India.

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India and USA relations aligned with each other

  • Security: Combat terrorism and weapons of mass destruction Protect global commons like sea routes and sea lanes of communication.
    • Eg:India has mentioned Taiwan issue in public for the first time while USA has been passing through South China sea and Taiwan straits to protect freedom of navigation in high seas.
    • Recently, India and the US have agreed to co-produce the Stryker armoured vehicles that will give a big boost to India’s defence preparedness against China.
  • Global cooperation:International Cooperation through platforms like UN, ASEAN, G-20, IMF, Quad. Quad security dialogue has been initiated to reign in China’s dominance in the region.
  • Defence cooperation: Defence agreements Iike LEMOA, COMCASA, Industrial Security Agreement and BECA; Bilateral military exercises like Yudh Abhyaas, Vajra prahar, etc have been taking place every year.
  • Space cooperation: Indo-US science and technology cooperation agreement; Joint Microwave remote sensing satellite named NISAR.
  • Diaspora and people to people ties: Strength of Indian diaspora in US is around 4.5 million which is around 1% of its population. Indian diaspora is a source and agent of soft power, an effective public diplomacy tool and is acknowledged for its work ethos, discipline, non-interference and peaceful living with the locals.

Divergences and friction areas

  • Tariffs war: Since 2018 both countries were engaged in tariffs war. E.g. In 2018, the US imposed additional tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium imports from various countries, including India. India’s refusal to remove the 20% tariffs on ICT products caused the trade deal between India and USA to delay which remains still pending.
  • WTO disputes: India USA are involved in WTO disputes on issues like, Capping prices of medical devices by India, greater Indian market access for American agriculture and dairy products etc.
  •  IPR: India is also on U.S.’s “Priority Watch List” which identifies countries posing challenges to American intellectual property rights. Also, The US wants India to strengthen patent regulations, and to ease the limitations American companies investing in India face.
  • USA tensions with Iran, Russia: Putting unilateral curbs on Russian and Iranian imports into India through CAATSA would impinge on India’s relations with Iran, Russia, both relations in which India has strong stakes.
  • Divergence of interests in Afghanistan: In the backdrop of Afghan Peace deal, U.S. left Afghanistan. Decades of work was scrapped as Taliban took over and freedom of people and the developmental work India did is hampered.

Conclusion

Despite the differences in some areas, the upward trajectory in India USA relations indicates a sense of greater nuance to the need for institutionalisation of bilateral ties — towards not only graduating the bilateral dynamic away from over-dependence on chemistry between the top political leadership, but also design frameworks in a manner that maximise convergences between the two countries.

The changing geopolitics, and increased Chinese aggression necessitates closer cooperation between India USA. Thus, the relationship is two-sided. Just as India benefited from US inputs during Doklam and recent India China standoff, the US has benefited from Indian defence spending.

9. 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.

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

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.

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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.

 

10. Deforestation is continuing unabated and it needs a comprehensive strategy integrating sustainable economic and technological measures to harmonize development and environmental protection. Examine.

Reference: Down to EarthInsights on India

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.

 

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