General Studies – 1;
Topic: Poverty and developmental issues
1) It is often said that poverty and declining economic conditions lead to frustration among the poor and revolt against the political elites. Is it true today? In your opinion, which factors increase individual’s support for polity and confidence in government? Analyse. (200 Words)
- People’s participation, fairness, accountability, good governance, secure society etc are some of the pillars of a true democracy.
- Any pitfall against any of the above specially relating to the poor causes frustration and builds ground for a revolt against the political elites.
This scenario is true even today as:
- No real decline in poverty: The poverty levels declined from 37pc from 2004-05 to 22 pc in 2012-13, but the relative decline in worsening economic conditions is not felt by people.
- Non -affordability of basic services – Quality Education, health, housing facilities and nutritious food necessitates money power
- Lack of jobs- Inadequate jobs for both skilled and unskilled manual labourers and also low growth in agriculture leaves many in vexation
- Agitations for reservation among upper and influential castes on ground of poor economic conditions: Ex- Jat, Patidar agitations against the State and national politic
- Rise of Naxalism
But many a times these agitations are due to other factors as well:
- The Jat and Patidar agitations were also due to the fact that OBCs were getting reservations and getting jobs at their cost.
- People are not able to get basic services also due to corruption, bad governance practices etc.
Factors which increase individual’s support for polity and confidence in government:
- Strengthen remote areas connectivity by provide all-weather roads to explore educational and job opportunities- recent CAG audit report has criticised the scheme for fund wastage, misplaced construction.
- Provision of public utilities like electricity, LPG access, basic internet services should be improved. For example, PAHAL yojana has been doing great in reaching people, but support after initial subsidy is yet to be addressed
- Health: Universal Health Insurance, Subsided education up to higher education- create productive human capital
- Improve transparency and accountability in the governance system by digitization, local participation.
- Inclusive Development – To reduce poverty and include people in mass decision making.
- Policy Making:-
- For people of different classes as their set of problems are different. So people specific policies should be formulated.
- Rationalizing our reservation system, by revamping reservation criteria, removing free riders.
- Efficient Judicial Mechanism: So that the grievances are addressed and solved faster.
Thus along with economic aspect of growth , social and political aspects are to be addressed. The feeling on everyone being equally important is what will help gain the support of the people in the democratic institutions.
Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
Tipu Sultan has been portrayed over the time differently by different sections like the Indian Left historians, Indian Right Historians, the British and the literary figures.
A critical examination of their perception about him is:
The Leftist Historians:
- Profounder of knowledge: rich range of his intellectual interests were astronomy, law, mathematics, among others.
- Right to follow religion: He didn’t believe in domination of any one particular religion. As can be seen from the fact that the administrative transactions within Mysore were done in Persian, Kannada and Marathi. All of his key ministers were upper-caste Brahmins.
- Secular: He made generous donations to Hindu temples. The 10-day grand Dasara celebrations continued with a member of the Wodeyar royal family presiding over the festivities. Also, There were no forcible religious conversions recorded anywhere during his time.
- Science and technology-His up gradation of military equipment describe him as a ruler who gave technology a priority.
- Administration-Tipu fine-tuned his revenue collection networks and tried to create a centralized bureaucracy.
The Rightist historians:
- The allegations that he killed thousands of Kodavas in Coorg and forcibly converted Catholic Christians of Mangalore into Muslims are the reasons which project him as Muslim bigot.
- Criticize over projection of Tipu Sultan as he did not win a single war against war against the British on his own.
- They cast him as communal on ground of his actions against Hindu temples and promotion of Islam.
- Plays from 19th and 20th century ,history textbooks and popular literature, like the Amar Chitra Katha comics and “Bharata Bharati” series depicted him as a brave martyr who fought against British.
- Heroic Identity-Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore (1782-1799), appeared as everyone’s icon. He was the Tiger of Mysore. Several Kannada folk songs lamenting his death were in circulation in the 19th century. This is special since no other king had had such folk songs sung after him.
- Colonial historian depicted him as a religious fanatic because he was the strongest enemy of British east India Company.
- Even though the tax taken from the farmer was high but still British absorbed that the farmers are better off in Tipus’s era in compare to east India company jurisdictional area.
- Any heroic figure casts a long-lasting impression on society as it depicts the old-cultural and religious traditions of India.
- Singling out few fighters and leaving the rest will lay a huge negative impact which must be avoided.
- Before projecting any allegations against any personality, a reality check should be done.
General Studies – 2
Topic:Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
Both India and USA being big democracies, there are both similarities and differences in their electoral system.
The comparison and contrast can be given as under:
- The registration of voters is voluntary and the responsibility to register lies with them in the US as against India where the voters’ registration is done by the EC. As a result around 95% of the people eligible for voting in India are registered as against 71% of them in the US as of 2012.
- The election ballot in US is composite and this makes it very complex compared to the Indian system
- The method of casting votes is varied in the US but in India it is EVM except few exceptions.
- Election Commission: Unlike The EC of India which has full authority over Indian elections, USA has FEC(Federal Election Commission) and EAC (US Election Assistance Commission) formed in 2002 both of which are not like EC in functioning. They are limited to campaign finance regulations and are advisory in nature
- Voting system: No uniform ballot system formed across the US states, where in India, EVMS would be placed in all the poll booths to ensure efficiency and correctness
- Polling stations : it could be any place even religious, fire emergency stations, polling staff can be from government, private and even elected members. In India, mostly government schools and colleges are used, EC trained government staffs are placed in booths. In this EC considerably reduce the influence by various groups during elections. Also, they are much larger in no.
- US democracy is old and matured, whereas for India it is young and vibrant. Accordingly nature of elections is different.
- The Indian election system is undoubtedly modern compared to the US in that in first election itself women were given voting rights which was done only after 144 yrs in US and India had women president within 19 yrs but US still does not have one even after 240 yrs.
- Also, the diversity and volume of votes that EC handles is way more than their USA counterparts.
- But Election in USA has never been charged with frauds as much as has been in India. Also, the system is robust but the people who vote are not politically as educated the ones in the US.
- Both democracies can hence learn from each to develop their electoral process.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Prevention of money laundering
4) The union government has announced that five hundred and thousand rupee notes will cease to be legal tender from today (9 Nov 2016). Critically discuss objectives and likely impact of this move on various sectors and stakeholders. (300 Words)
- This is only the second time after 1977 that the Govt. has taken this revolutionary decision of ceasing some denominations of old currencies.
The goals of this step are:
- Curbing hawala transactions.
- Preventing terror funding: Especially from fake currency notes supplied through Pakistan.
- Curbing organized crime( such as drug trafficking, illegal trade) being funded by this black money
- Curbing fraud cases and fake currency cases.
- Bringing in wealth back within Government treasure so that this money is utilized for people welfare and development.
But this step also entails certain big risks and problems such as:
- Complete cashless Economy: Small shop owners and roadside vendors might be badly affected
- Issue of Black money: It will still remain untreated with introduction of new 500 and 2000 denominated currency notes.
- Lack of a proper Cyber Security Infrastructure: Puts the country’s financial security at greater risk.
- Excessive Investment: This money in banks will chase investment avenues which may lead to situations like a bubble like the DOTCOM Bubble or 2008 Crisis.
- The top Elite still remains almost unscathed: Most of their Black Money is stashed abroad which will not be affected by this Govt. move.
Impact on various sectors and stakeholders:
- Real Estate – will be affected the most as most black money are stored in this sector. Now people will rush towards benami transaction law implementation that at least tax will save some money on their black money converted at last to white.
- Political funding will be hit greatly.
- Retail Manufactures: Their sale manufacturer will stay unaffected to the extent the amount of money they have is legal.
- Drop in share market due to panic and confusion.
- Encouragement to Cashless Economy
- Inflation in long term can be controlled due to less black money in the market.
- Agriculture sector is going to be affected the most in negative way as this income is not tax and many farmers are out of banking access.
- Banking recapitalization problem faced by government itself has made difficult for the successful implement-ion of this step since condition of bank is not good for providing currency properly affecting people leading to long queue and chaos.
- Immediately though hospitals, petrol pumps , railways are allowed to accept old currency still there are facing shortage of small notes like 100rs or 20 rs 50 rs.
- Develop Banking and Cash transaction infrastructure.
- Promote More Inclusive Development.
- The new currencies should be monitored adequately so as to not fall back to corruption and black marketing by using them.
- Generate awareness about cashless economy specially among rural sections.
Though this step has been welcomed by all as it will hit the black marketing and hoarding, sudden announcement without providing certain time limit is affecting low end common man and proper mechanism should be placed to allay any fear of them.
Topic: Resource mobilization; Industrial policy
Background – GST council has fixed four bands of tax rates at 5 percent, 12 percent, 18 percent and 28 percent. This apart, another category of tax between 40 percent and 65 percent will be imposed on luxury goods like high-end cars, pan masala, aerated drinks and tobacco products. Food grains will be zero-rated to insulate people from inflationary pressures. A decision has also been taken to levy a cess in order to raise funds to compensate states for the revenue losses they will incur. This along with multi-tier- State GST (SGST), Central GST (CGST) and Interstate GST i.e IGST will affect industries, which can be analysed in the backdrop of given points :-
- Multiple registration– GST requires suppliers (sellers) to individually register in all states where they have operations and state wise multiple tax filings which is a cumbersome task. It will promote nepotism, red tapism, etc. affecting the productivity of industries and unnecessary harassment and causing more complexity.
- Place of supply Provision– Classification of goods and services into “Interstate” or “Intra state” is complex especially in cases like online sales which may involve interstate transfers. While the goods will have a multiple rate structure, no clarity is provided on rates applicable to services.
- Unnecessary burden on E-commerce firms- they not only have the onus of collecting the GST from the consumer on behalf of all the suppliers but also these firms as well as their suppliers have to register across all states where sale occurs. It will hinder the growth of innovative digital sector.
- Rise of prices – extra burden of cess and exemptions will raise the price of the product and further makes it less competitive for Indian industries, in front of cheaper Chinese products. In addition, there are cesses on luxury and sin goods and exemptions too which enhance the complexity.
- More frauds – multiple taxes on one object would lead to tax evasion, duplication of an invoice and other frauds.
- Benefit to transportation/logistics sector- The GST panel report highlights a quarter of total travel time for road transport providers is spent at check-points (to pay inter-state taxes, central level taxes in form of excise, customs duty and CST, and then there are varying state level taxes in form of VAT and other levies like Octroi, state level cess etc.) and other official stoppages. Hence, most industries – like manufacturing/third party logistics players – generally have warehouses/offices in each state to reduce tax burden of Central Service Tax(CST).Thus, planning is more driven by logic of saving taxes, rather than achieving operational efficiency. This impact of inefficiency and cost burden is passed to end consumer, either in terms of quality or in terms of cost. Introduction of the GST and resultant elimination of state-specific taxation will lower barriers to trade.
Canadian dual tax structure are more advisable and easily for Indian federal structure .FICCI has suggested that given the robust automation backbone of the GST Network, centralised single registration be introduced for service companies (such as banking, telecom, insurance) which promote more innovative sectors as well. The GST is for great purpose and ease of doing business and thus it should be kept simple, lucid, and transparent as far as possible.
Topic: Indian economy
Background – The government has scrapped existing Rs500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes from midnight of 8 December. The move, is aimed at targeting black money and will also encourage and accelerate the move to a cashless economy. An individual has following options to transact without cash:-
- Plastic money – Three types of cards available to use—credit, debit, and pre-paid — for all kind of transactions. All debit cards are issued by banks and are linked to a bank account. Credit cards are issued by banks and other entities approved by the reserve Bank of India. Prepaid cards are issued by the banks and non-banks against their value paid in advance. Prepaid cards issued by the banks can also be used to withdraw cash from an ATM, purchase of goods and services from a point of sale machine (the swipe machine used for card transactions), or online purchases.
- Electronic fund transfer – There are three options available for such transfers: national electronic funds transfer (NEFT), real-time gross settlement (RTGS) and immediate payment service (IMPS).According to the RBI website, there is no maximum limit for NEFT money transfer. RTGS is for high value transactions—starting at Rs2 lakh. With IMPS the money gets transferred immediately and the service is available 24×7. The maximum amount possible to transfer through IMPS is Rs2 lakh.
- E-Wallets – E-wallets are payment instruments where people can preload money and make payments. There are three types of wallets—closed, semi-closed and open. A closed wallet can be used to buy goods and services exclusively from the issuing company. Semi-closed wallets can be used to buy goods and services, including financial services, at select locations. Open wallets can be issued only by banks and can be used for purchase of goods and services, including at merchant locations or point of sale terminals that accept cards, and also for cash withdrawal at ATMs or business correspondents.
- Unified payments interface (UPI) – UPI, launched by National Payments Council of India (NPCI) allows one-click, two-factor authentication on mobile phones across bank accounts. It is run on the IMPS platform which means transfers are immediate. To use this facility, people will have to download a UPI-enabled app on their Android smartphone. They also need to have a bank account and a registered mobile number. With these, they can create a virtual ID on the app or use IFSC code and bank account number to complete the transaction.
- Cheque and Demand Draft: People facing difficulty in using Internet can reply upon the traditional cheque for transferring and withdrawal of cash. Similarly Demand draft can be issued for transfer of money.
However, all the above options are good and useful for a literate person. A person with poor digital literacy, above options are alien and it would lead to growth of a different level of intermediaries, who will provide services at some cost to such poor and illiterate people.
Though the digital literacy and financial literacy is penetrating to masses from all background, but a kind of insecurity about digital money, cyber threats, data theft has made it unpopular among masses who are not familiar with above methods.
So, government and service providers need to gain the trust of such people and need to educate / upgrade them to use the available platform. This also needs up gradation of infrastructure in remote areas to avail the benefits of above mentioned platforms. Though the move taken by the government can cause temporary inconvenience to the public but its positive impact in the long run should be appreciated.
Topic: Cropping pattern; Pollution
Agriculture contributes to land, water and air pollution through eutrophication, land degradation, methane and carbon emissions from paddy fields and tilling. Excessive use of fertilizer, pesticides also pollute the ground water and though bioaccumulation and magnification affect the food chain, thus pollute the human health. As recognised by Subramanium committee Pulses (pigeon pea) production has a potential to reduce pollution through agriculture as:-
- Green manure- Pigeon pea’s straw, unlike paddy straw, is green and can be ploughed back into the soil. In paddy straw, the problem is the high silica content, which does not allow for easy decomposition. Farmers, therefore, choose to burn it, which releases black carbon as particulate matter and causes pollution in non-source region too. For example, straw burning in Punjab and Haryana in recent past has caused pollution issues in NCR region.
- Soil enrichment – Pulses enrich soil with nitrogen so lesser fertilizers will be required unlike paddy which depletes soil of essential nutrients and issues of fertilizers run-off polluting soil & water will be tackled (eutrophication).Also, leaching of fertilizer to ground water can also be checked. It will also help in land reclamation which have been degraded due to continuous cropping and use of fertilizers.
- Less use of water – Pulses are less water intensive in comparison to paddy, where we practise flood irrigation, causing release of methane from paddy filed, which is a major GHG. It will also reduce power subsidy bill to farmers and in turn pollution from thermal power plants will reduce. Indirectly, there would be less requirement of extracting water from ground water, which will check groundwater depletion and pollution due to excessive extractive (Arsenic pollution)
However there are many challenges, MSP is highly skewed towards wheat, rice and there is no incentive to grow pulses, Isopam(integrated scheme for oilseeds production and pulses) scheme has not been able to enhance pulses production according to its target. Experts say stubble burning is not the sole reason for increasing pollution. Hence pulse production can help to a limited extent..
The need is to diversify MSP to support pulses, incentivise sustainable organic farming, and implement existing laws with stake holding states besides other necessary measures to check air pollution. Scientific methods for utilisation of straw from paddy fields and diverting them towards power generation. Pulses can be grown in the areas where paddy is currently grown but the concerned authorities must focus a lot on changing the mindset of the farmers and ensuring a safe market for the alternative crop.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Political attitude
The presidential election held in USA was gripped under various controversies surrounding the two candidates. The factors that contributed to the rise of Donald Trump, a seasoned businessman to 45th President of USA, representing the republicans are :
- Dissatisfaction among Americans: – The Americans were dissatisfied with the current politicians in both the major parties. Their foreign policy bled America of its resources by waging wars across the globe like in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc.
- Personality of Trump and call for nationalistic development- Donald Trump was able to attract Americans and could mesmerize the voters with his demagoguery on the promise of leading the nation towards greater heights. The call for reinvigorating the ‘American dream’ and creation of new jobs, gave push to his campaign.
- Charges against Hillary Clinton – The use of private server by Hilary Clinton when she was the Secretary of State reflected lack of probity in her actions. The re-opening of FBI investigation against her reduced her acceptance among voters. She was also charged of supporting big corporates and implicitly supporting crony capitalism.
- Bringing practical end to violence:Trump’s promise of withdrawal of forces in Syria, avoiding the proxy war between USA and Russia, appealed the Americans. Also, his strategy towards terrorism (checking the growth of ISIS) and no support to state sponsored terrorism like Pakistan has attracted praise from Native Americans.
- Failure of previous government – Failure of Obamato fulfill his promises on peace, employment, economic growth and losing ground in international arena triggered the fear that same would continue if Hillary Clinton wins. Long drawn Obama’s regime and the economic crises compelled the citizens to go for change of ideology for governance inclining them towards Donald Trump.
Though, these factors have contributed to his rise, but this trend among Americans shows acceptance of Chauvinist and right wing attitude of Trump – that is putting their country first and foremost. He was able to gain support of the masses by publicly belittling religious minorities, immigrants and also provoking white supremacy in making America greater. Misogyny has also played great role in making Trum a favourite candidate for male white supremacists. Such things have pushed the democratic ethos practiced by the world’s oldest democracy to the back seat. It is being seen as compromise with the values and ideas of the founding fathers of America in true spirit.