SYNOPSIS- Secure – 2017: 20, December 2016
General Studies – 1;
Topic: Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Background: The ICE 360° survey 2016, covering 61,000 households is among the largest consumer economy surveys in the country. The survey divides urban India into four clusters: metros (population more than 5 million), boom towns (2.5 to 5 million), niche cities (1 to 2.5 million) and other urban towns (less than 1 million) and rural India into 3 different clusters: ‘developed rural’, ‘emerging rural’, and ‘under-developed rural’. Survey was conducted by a not-for-profit organization, People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE).
Findings & Comment:
- Nature of the debt: More than a quarter of Indian households are indebted, and a majority of them borrow from informal sources rather than banks or financial institutions. The proportion of households in the bottom quintile which has informal loans (21%) is twice that of the proportion of households which has formal loans. This shows that the penetration of formal channels for loan provision has been poor, particularly in rural areas and for the poorer sections of the population. This leads to people taking loans from moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest rates, which has also led to cases of farmer suicides.
- Rural-urban debt distribution: The survey shows that 30% households in rural India are indebted while the comparative figure for urban India is 21%. This shows that more people in rural India are in need of loans and also, the capacity to pay back the loans is lower for the rural populace.
- Debt utilization: survey shows that substantial portions of debt in are utilized for meeting social obligations such as arranging for wedding feasts or other family functions puts a heavy debt burden on Indian households. Nearly a third of those having loans reported taking loans to meet social obligations. The proportion of such households is higher at the bottom of the pyramid than at the top. This shows that debt is being utilized for unproductive purposes which does not generate any income and thereby increases the difficulty in paying back the debt. This leads to defaults and sub-optimal utilization of capital. This also deepens poverty and leads to vicious cycle of debt.
- House ownership: survey has also busted the notion that house ownership is necessarily a sign of prosperity, with the results showing that 97% of the bottom 20% had own houses as compared to only around 80% for the top 20% rich. This also points to the preponderance of low quality and small houses in India.
Way forward: In all, the survey should serve as a wakeup call that much need to be done for the economic and social empowerment of India’s masses and the government should take adequate steps to address the issues brought forth therein. Promoting skill development for better employment opportunities, penetration of formal banking linkages via SHG linkages, provision of insurance against increasing agricultural vulnerabilities, social awareness to ensure debt is utilized for productive purposes are required to be taken in right spirit.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
2) In your opinion, what is the role and job of elected representatives in a democracy? In recent months, India is witnessing the shift to law-making by ordinance and disenchantment of people with the functioning of parliament. In this light, critically comment on the losing significance of parliament and its effect on democracy. (200 Words)
Representative democracy was envisaged to implement practically principle of ‘ Peoples Rule’. Representatives act as a link between State and people. People choose their representatives to protect their interest and place their voice in governance. Representatives are accountable to people of their constituency. The role of elected representative in a democracy is multi-faceted one.
Role of Representatives
- Representative function: the representative ensures the opinions, interests and needs of constituents are adequately, competently and effectively represented in forums of decision-making.
- Grievance-ventilation function: representatives put forward the grievances of the people they represent in the parliamentary debates, question hour and seek their redressal.
- Accountability: representative is accountable to her constituency for all acts of omission and commission
- Represents wider and common interests: political representatives represent all the members of a territorially delimited constituency, as opposed to say trade unions or a CSO.
- Policy implementation: with schemes like MPLADS, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, representatives also see to it that the allocated money is used in implementing projects for the welfare of the people of the constituency.
Losing Significance of Parliament
However, in the recent winter session of the parliament, only 2 bills were passed. Disruptive tactics of opposition parties stalled the functioning of both the houses. According to the think tank PRS Legislative Research, less than 1 per cent of the 330 questions listed for Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha were answered orally. Lok Sabha was slightly better with 11 %. Also, large number of ordinances are being passed which bypasses parliament as the supreme legislative body. Absenteeism is becoming a norm in the parliament.
Further, there is increased recourse to delegated legislation both due to increasing complexity of governance and also due to ineffectiveness and frequent disruptions in the parliament. Tendency towards dressing bills as money bills to bypass scrutiny of Rajya Sabha, disruptive tactics of opposition parties which has led to important bills like GST being delayed.
Effect on Democracy
However, various surveys show that citizens still have confidence in the democratic form of governance. They value democracy because this form of government has enabled them to realize the desire of each human being to be treated as an equal. Elections are marked by high voter turnouts, voters exercise freedom of choice and elect and dismiss governments in often unpredictable ways.
Way forward: the decline is the parliament as a representative body needs to be urgently arrested. Amendments to defection law to give freedom to representatives to represent their views, mandating a certain number of sitting for each session, strengthening the ethics committee of the houses to provide for penalty for unethical behavior in the houses, codifying the privileges, arresting the criminalization of politics by carrying out suitable electoral reforms are urgently needed to restore the confidence of ordinary citizen in democratic form of governance.
Topic:Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential;
Pressure points and vulnerabilities:
- National security: the defense establishment, critical infrastructure, governance all depend upon cyber networks for their functioning, communication and coordination. Also, in a future conflict, an adversary unable to match our military supremacy on the battlefield might seek to exploit our computer vulnerabilities at home. Details of Scorpene submarine was published online. Such disclosure of confidential information can threaten national security. (eg: hacking of US company Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter programme or the massive wave of Russian cyber-attacks against Estonia and Georgia in 2007 and 2008). Social media platforms are also being used for spreading radical content.
- Paralysis of governance: Taking down vital banking systems could trigger a financial crisis. The lack of clean water or functioning hospitals could spark a public health emergency, the loss of electricity can bring businesses, cities and entire regions to a standstill.
- Citizen vulnerabilities: recently, debit card hack affecting about 3.2 million cards. This leads to loss of confidential information and breach of privacy. Bank frauds can erode the trust of citizen in government’s ability to protect their rights and ensuring their security. (eg: hack of a billion Yahoo accounts in 2013)
How should the government fix:
- Cyber audit: a cyber-security audit of all government websites, networks should be done to detect the weak and vulnerable points so that they can be fixed.
- Financial allocations: financial outlay on cyber security needs to be increased to strengthen the robustness of the cyber space
- Transparent and effective regulations: SEBI for instances requires reports on detected breaches to be quarterly reported- which is too tardy to be of much use. Also, it does not mandate public disclosure. Mandatory disclosure of an attack or attempted attack must be implemented in both the public and private sectors.
- Cyber-skills: train personnel specializing in cyber security who can competitively detect and plug the vulnerabilities in the cyber architecture.
- A comprehensive legislation: India only has a policy, but no holistic legislation on the matter. A comprehensive legislation providing the framework of our cyber security architecture must be brought in
- Emergency response: CERT-In should be revamped and strengthened, a national cyber security coordinator should be created.
- Educate the public: about various threats they may face while using the digital space. For instance, educating about genuine and fake sites, reveling sensitive information and so on.
Information in this globalized world has become the most important asset. It’s misuse may put the whole economy on back foot. The advantages of Digital economy are many that would help in propelling our economy towards higher growth rate. But initial steps have to be taken with caution, and measures such as JAM trinity, Digital literacy should go hand-in-hand with upgradation of security infrastructure and strengthening of cyber legal standards.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,
4) When compared to tubectomies, of the 40 lakh sterilisation procedures done in 2014-15, vasectomies accounted for a minuscule 1.9 per cent. Examine the factors contributing to this gap in India’s family planning programme and suggest measures to address this issue. (200 Words)
Background: The government observed ‘Vasectomy Fortnight’ with the hope to create awareness about male sterilization and, more importantly, to facilitate district administrations reach sterilization targets through campaigns. Of the 40 lakh sterilization procedures done in 2014-15, vasectomies accounted for a minuscule 1.9 per cent. In Ranga Reddy district of Telangana for instance, with an annual target of 2,500 vasectomies this year, the count stands at 5.
Factors contributing to this gap:
- Misplaced sense of masculinity: men are unwilling to discuss vasectomy due to misplaced fear and concerns of losing sexual potency and physical vigor.
- Unintended pregnancies: in some cases, pregnancies were reported despite men undergoing vasectomy. This has raised questions regarding efficacy of the procedure.
- Side effects: some unfavorable side effects in certain cases have also been a cause of fear.
- Inadequate sense of urgency: as women sterilization is already common, and many states have reached fertility rate replacement levels, there is no pressure to meet targets on vasectomy.
- Patriarchal mindset: husband plays a key role in selecting the sterilization process and generally chooses women over himself
- Lack of trained health workers: lack of trained male health workers as government emphasized initially on women health care workers (ASHA)
- Lack of awareness: many men are unaware about the vasectomy procedure. Many believe sterilization to be synonymous to tubectomy.
Measures to address the issue:
- Vigorous campaigning and counselling: IEC campaigns addressed at removing the unwarranted fear and misplaced concerns to encourage men to come forward for vasectomy
- Training health care workers who can counsel by outreach programmes and carry out the procedure.
- Enhancing incentives for men to undergo vasectomy by providing monetary compensation
- Post-operative services: should be provided so that any cases of unfavorable outcomes can be addressed.
Medically vasectomy is a simpler procedure when compared to tubectomy. It should be advertised effectively so that this skewed ratio can be rectified. India can learn lessons on increasing the rate of male sterilization from counties like New Zealand , Australia.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education,
India’s literacy is well below the world average literacy rate of 84 per cent and already ASER reports have highlighted the poor learning outcomes in India.
Causes of the problem of poor learning outcomes:-
- Infrastructural issue –Problem related to infrastructure, no proper labs, lack of sanitation and toilets, especially for girl child, lack of 24×7 electricity and less number of computer penetration in rural areas. Lack of uniforms, books, materials for school, insufficient resources, lack of fund and awareness, etc are cumulatively causing problem of infrastructure for efficient learning among students.
- Poor quality of teachers – less quality teachers, old syllabus or no uniform syllabus, less of critical thinking and analytical skills, no standard teacher training, no child friendly pedagogy, bleak teacher student ratio.
- Poor retention – Even though enrolment is high, roughly, four in every 10 children enrolled in Class I were leaving school before completing Class VIII. So poor retention, especially for girls;
- Learning deficit – ASER 2014 survey highlights that 50 % of class 5 children not able to read class 2 level, 50 % of class 5 not having basic arithmetic skill of class 2. This is contributing to learning deficit.
- Rote learning – Zakir hussain report in 1930s itself pointed out that disproportionate focus on examination which promoted rote learning. And still, in independent India, it is becoming one of the structural issue pertaining to the design of curricula and ingrained rote learning methods, contributing to poor learning outcome
- Rural-urban gap: children in rural schools in Class II who could not even recognise letters of the alphabet increased from 13.4 per cent in 2010 to 32.5 per cent in 2014. Private-public gap is increasing too, contributing to lack of affordability, especially for poor’s.
- Early childhood education is neglected – This is critical for child’s mental & physical growth and less focus on it effects the This affects the cognitive development of children and significant impact on an individual’s lifelong learning
- Language barrier- In India English based education is more concerned but according to survey it is identified data there are children who write is English but they often fail to communicate in English which further pose impediment for them itself.
- Improving Infrastructure- Facilities like better labs, 24×7 electricity, improving digital literacy of teachers and students, adequate toilets and sanitation facilities will help in improving the infrastructure for better learning.
- Improving Learning tools- more focus on child friendly pedagogies, evaluation of teacher as well as student yearly basis, like- Gunotsav in Gujarat, followed to assess quality of education in schools should be done. More focus on qualitative and revising syllabus – following international standards, project based learning would be important tools to improve learnings. Technology based learning tools in institutions can be significant tool, which will cater the specific needs of the students and will enable learning. Technology will upgrade them for the employability.
- Greater investment in early childhood education – Education before the age of six remains a grossly neglected subject within the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Anganwadis lack capabilities (infra, human resource, skills) to provide children the learning inputs between the ages of two to six. Consequently, children moving on from anganwadis to primary schools usually lack a strong foundation, vital for their formative years. This affects the cognitive development of children and significant impact on not only an individual’s lifelong learning and employment capabilities but also at a national level on per capita productivity, and hence GDP. This was highlighted by the economic survey 2015-16,which needs to be addressed.
- An outcome-driven primary education system – proliferation of sub- scale schools, poor evaluation, poor learning outcomes, large number of teaching vacancies, greater administration responsibilities for teachers, etc has gripped the primary education system. So, need is to change the approach from focusing only on enrolment to providing quality education, with the all-round development of the children, so that in future they can actively participate in the economic growth and development of the country.
India should realize that demography which is an asset (since 10%literacy level increases GDP by 1%) should not become a liability so a holistic and delegated policy and its implementation is the need of the hour.
General Studies – 3
Topic: e-Technology in the aid of farmers
Background – While agriculture’s share in India’s economy has progressively declined to less than 15% due to high growth rates of industrial and services sector, but the sector is important keeping in mind that still approx. 48 % of people depend on it for employment.
Along with India’s general food security, agriculture also needs to feed the currently undernourished population and for that India needs to increase 3-4% of the food supply. With the population expected to grow even further, the strain on the sector is likely to grow more in the coming years. Agriculture, constitutes 10% of the overall exports.
Why Digitization is necessary?
- Unpredictable weather which a lot of times causes havoc in life if farmers and people also in the form of droughts and floods.
- Poor transportation and tracking of produce from farm to market renders farmers vulnerable to financial loss.
- Lack of safety measures in storage leads to allergic bacteria to develop in food and cause health problems.
- Lack of knowledge of cropping leads to the subdued topsoil and bad harvests in the long run.
How it can help?
- Unified national market- such as National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. so it will provide more choices to farmers to sell their produce and consumers would also get benefited.
- Information dissemination – digitization will help in faster dissemination of information from Metrological department, agricultural scientific communities, government policies, etc
- Track production – It will help to track produce from farm to the table. In the process, it will reduce wastage in the value chain and improve food safety.
- Track pathogens – Technology can help detect pathogens and allergens before they reach consumers. Thus it will reduce chances of outbreak of diseases.
- Better price discovery for farmers- The current wholesale market format suffers from a transparency challenge. With no data on volumes, prevailing prices or inventory levels, there is little information for buyers or sellers to make informed decisions. This information gap is a barrier to the entry of new players and, hence, increased competition and better price discovery.
- Precision farming – Farmers are using the Internet of Things and smart sensors to get access to valuable information like soil moisture, nutrient levels, temperature of produce in storage and status of farming equipment.
- Automation of farm equipment’s – Technologies such as automation, decision support system and agriculture robots using artificial intelligence, which are already being used in other countries can help in improving agriculture productivity.
- Helping future decisions of farmers- An inclusive platform will be able to provide end-to-end services for farmers—from selecting crops, optimising plantation timings, seeding and fertilization rates based on plants’ actual needs and regulatory requirements and limits. All the data collected during a crop’s cycle can be compared with other farmers who grow the same crop in similar conditions. Lessons learnt from one field can be applied automatically to another to maximize output.
However, government is already taking steps in this direction – digital green, Krishi Vani (voice message based agro advisory), Krishi Gyan Sagar (ICT enabled extension model), e- NAM, Rashitriya Krishi Vikas Yojana ,Soil heath Card , Krishi kalyan centres, etc.
Need is to bring all states on the same page for e-NAM, crop damage assessment through remote sensing and compensating for the same using JAM, spreading digital literacy and creating database for landholding records, which would be crucial to exploit the full potential of digitization in farming.
Topic: Awareness in S&T
Big data and analytics is the process to gather and examining the large sets of data to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences and other useful information. In this era of digitization and 4th Industrial revolution, big data and analytics has immense potential to transform the various sectors of economy in following ways :-
- Transport services – Ride-sharing services such as Uber are using geospatial mapping technology to match passengers with the nearest available driver in real time. Thus more satisfaction to service providers and consumers too.
- Banking and insurance – could dramatically improve their risk assessments by building massive data integration capabilities. For example – “Fintech” firms are providing financial services without building bank branches.
- Manufacturing Sector – by using big data analysis the owner can understand the market trend, preferences of customers, international trend, demand of goods, availability of raw materials and other infrastructure situation well. Already, many industrial companies are using data from the Internet of Things to make their equipment, plants and supply chains more efficient.
- Agriculture – It can be used to understand the local environment, weather pattern, dietary habits of masses, soil quality and need of fertilizers, seed quality and requirement, previous production level and further can improve the crop production.
- e- Commerce – This sector is highly influenced with customer tastes. So by using Big data and analytics the traditional pattern, demand of goods and services, choices of customers and delivery of services can understand and further improved.
- Education and Health sector – Data about individual’s nature, character and preferences can help in delivering these services more efficiently and effectively
- Transparency in Quinary sector – It can improve the accuracy and transparency of decision making- in everything from managing complex urban environments to making public policy decisions.
- Labour sector – Digital platforms indicating availability of work along with showing dynamic pricing matching the market price will be beneficial for labour as well as industry.
- Technology and consultancy – With increasing Big data and analytics more ‘business translators’, who can combine technology with the industrial need. Better technology like high memory storage, faster, more efficient and effective algorithms are needed as the chunk of data is increasing.
Data and analytics could provide an injection of transparency and efficiency that spurs commerce, builds more inclusive economies, and makes government services more effective.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Social influence and persuasion.
CSE Mains 2016 – GS IV
Social influence and persuasion, if effectively used, both play an important role in bringing both behavioural and attitudinal changes in an individual for the betterment of society and nation. Social influence appeals to both emotions and reason to bring attitudinal change in an individual. However, to the success of schemes like Swacch Bharath Mission, more than behavioural, attitudinal change is required.
Swachh Bharat aims to end the wide-spread practice of open defecation, build more toilets and improve waste management, among other goals. Due to deep entrenched social and cultural norms, especially in rural regions on the issue of open defecation, perseverance on part of policy makers and administrators is very much needed when they try to persuade such people to change their attitude towards personal and local hygiene. For example, the success of Polio campaign which used celebrities in a high persistent manner is a glowing example about the role persuasion and social influence could play in motivating individuals to change their ways for their own good.
Attitudinal change could be brought by helping individuals internalize the norms that are good for them – here helping them internalize the habit of defecating within confines of a toilet and keeping it clean for others to use. This is a difficult goal to achieve, but could be achieved when persuasion is carried on along with providing adequate water supply for the families and subsidies or incentives to own toilets. Unless individuals internalize good habits, missions like Swacch Bharat will fail to achieve their goals.
Schools can be effectively used for persuasion. For example, in a school in Gujarat, students were asked to say “Yes’ if they owned a toilet at home, and ‘No’ if they didn’t. This simple act compelled ‘No’ category students to force their parents to construct toilets.
In the same manner, certain crucial government services should be given only to those who own functional toilets. For example, birth or death certificate, marriage registration certificate, even ration or basic panchayat services should be given only to those who own and regularly use toilets but not to others who don’t own. However, at the same time care should be taken to help individuals to construct toilets by helping them overcome their problems. For example, a poor aged widow who is living in a hut should not be harassed by stopping giving her ration or pension, but authorities should help her construct toilet and home using government schemes.
One can take the help of local NGOs, religious heads, political leaders to persuade people. However, it should not be a once in a while effort. It should be continuous one.