SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 January 2017
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 time gives you extra points in the form of background information.
General Studies – 1;
Topic: Role of women
1) Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to “transform our world”. Why do you think there is sluggish progress in furthering the gender agenda? What should be done to remove the gender gap? Critically examine. (200 Words)
Achieving gender equality though mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goal, has moved slowly not only in India but across the world. Human race cannot achieve its full potential if half of its part is discriminated and deprived of basic rights.
World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report ranked India 87 in terms of gender equality in economy, education, health, and political representation. Women’s declining labor participation, under-representation in Parliament, skewed child sex ratio, and prevalent gender-based violence are recognized challenges. To bridge these gaps, India formally adopted Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) in 2005.
Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB)-
- The rationale behind GRB is that policy outcomes are not as gender-neutral as commonly believed, and can reinforce or exacerbate exiting hierarchies. Hence, gender budgeting initiatives aim to integrate critical gender concerns into fiscal policies and administration to address disparities.
- Every annual budget since 2005 has included a statement that lists out two parts. There is Part A, which reflects ‘Women Specific Schemes’, namely, those which have 100 per cent allocation for women, and Part B, which reflects ‘Pro Women Schemes’, namely, where at least 30 per cent of the allocation is for women. Over the years, India has stood out for its implementation of gender budgeting, and with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) playing the central role, it has managed to successfully institutionalise the concept at both the national and State levels (16 States have embraced the exercise). Studies substantiate the positive link between GRB and improved indicators for women. For instance, a recent International Monetary Fund study found that States that employ GRB also show better female to male school enrolment ratios. Further, it was observed that GRB also has a positive impact on infrastructure spending.
Despite the successes, there exist some obstructions in furthering the gender agenda
Why do you think there is sluggish progress in furthering the gender agenda?
- India lacks better implementation and planning needed to ensure that government policies percolate right down to the last woman in the most remote parts of the country.
- In recent years, allocations have either remained stagnant or have been on the decline.
- The budget 2016-17 initiated the decentralization of funding in GRB, thus shifting the onus for budgeting and implementation from the Central Ministry to State counterparts. While this did empower the States to come up with women-specific policies as per their respective challenges, the obvious downside was the risk that States could choose to not prioritize gender in their budgeting. In this way, the intent of universalizing the process, so that it equally benefits women in all States, was lost in the pragmatism of the move.
- So far, GRB has focused on identifying schemes that are exclusively dedicated to women. While this focus is imperative, it has restricted benefits without the incorporation of a gender lens across all welfare schemes. Sectors such as energy, urban development, food security, water supply and sanitation continue to operate in silos, despite having direct interrelationships with women’s empowerment.
- Women’s potential in enabling development, instead of being passive beneficiaries of it, has not been recognized in GRB processes.
What should be done to remove the gender gap?
- Increasing allocation for various women specific ministry & department at national & state level to augment their resources.
- Budgeting should take a broader, gendered approach which includes planning targeted interventions, getting the right policy push with the right budget allocation, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure implementation.
- Moreover, policies should also be flexible to change based on feedback from the intended recipients as their exclusion from planning and execution processes is often the reason behind the failure of well-intentioned policies.
- It would also help if the Central government could, through an incentive mechanism, encourage State governments to take up GBR as a priority in their budget layouts.
- Ministry of Finance organizes pre-budget consultations. It must be ensured that women are given adequate representation and opportunities to voice their different experiences on such platforms.
While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
Facts and figures-
- About two thirds of countries in the developing regions have achieved gender parity in primary education.
- In Southern Asia, only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 1990. By 2012, the enrolment ratios were the same for girls as for boys.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Western Asia, girls still face barriers to entering both primary and secondary school.
- Women in Northern Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector. The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 41 per cent in 2015.
- In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 per cent of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
How to reduce gender gap-
Need of adequate resources for women’s initiatives- world over many initiatives have been undertaken to improve gender parity. Unfortunately many of them are facing fund crunch hampering their effectiveness and outcomes. The governments of all nations must themselves pledge towards making adequate resources available to such programs.
Give proper value to ‘women’s work’- The unpaid work women and girls do provide the foundation for the global economy. This fact needs to be highlighted more in the media, with the private sector and in communities. We also need a concerted campaign for equal pay for equal work worldwide.
Get women into power-A proven way to overcome many systemic barriers to a woman’s success has been increased participation by women in local, regional and national legislation as empowered change agents. In just 10 years, the number of women holding seats in houses of national parliament in south Asia rose from 7% to 18%.
Encourage women into non-traditional vocations-Supporting women in non-traditional jobs is crucial in not only making long-lasting change in their lives but also help break social taboos.
Stop the violence-Gender inequality allows for violence against women to continue unabated. The UN has found that globally, one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime. This violence must be stopped to bring true gender equality.
Empower mothers- Empowering women on the community level will also enhance girl’s education. When mothers are educated and empowered to make choices in their lives, they enable their daughters to go to school.
General Studies – 2
Topic : Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
Committee on Public Accounts was first set up in 1921 in the wake of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms. The basic function of the committees had been to ensure that the expenditure had been incurred for the intended purposes as authorized by the authority concerned.
Under the Act of 1935, there was a specific provision that “the accounts and audit report thereon should be placed before the legislature”. So, the Rules of Procedure provided for the appointment of Public Accounts Committee to Scrutinise the Accounts and Audit report.
The Finance Member of the Executive Council was the Chairman of the Committee. The Finance Department (now the Ministry of Finance) provided secretariat assistance to the Committee up to 1949. During the days of the Interim Government, the then Finance Minister was the Chairman of the Committee and, after Independence the Finance Minister of India became Chairman. This naturally restricted the free expression of views and criticism of the Executive.
With the Constitution coming into force on January, 26, 1950, the Committee became a Parliamentary Committee functioning under the Speaker with a non-official Chairman appointed by the Speaker from among the Members of Lok Sabha elected to the Committee. But even then, a member from the ruling party continued to be Chairman.
The Congress had the post until 1967, when Minoo Masani of Swatantra Party became Chairman. Since then the PAC has always been headed by a member from the Opposition.
At present it consists of 22 members (15 from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha). The members are elected by the parliament every year from amongst its members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. Thus all parties get due representation in it. The term of the office of the members is one year. A minister cannot be elected as a member of the committee. The chairman of the committee is appointed by the speaker from amongst its members. Since 1967 a convention has developed whereby the chairman of the committee is selected invariably from the opposition.
Powers and functions-
- To examine the appropriation accounts and the finance accounts of the union government and any other accounts laid before the Lok Sabha.
- In scrutinizing the appropriation accounts and the audit report of CAG on it, the committee has to satisfy itself that-
- The money that has been disbursed was legally available for the applied service or purpose;
- The expenditure conforms to the authority that governs it;
- Every reappropriation has been made in accordance with the related rules.
- To examine the accounts of state corporations, trading concerns and manufacturing projects and the audit report of CAG on them.
- To examine the accounts of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, the audit of which is conducted by the CAG.
- To consider the report of the CAG relating to an audit of any receipts or to examine the accounts of stores and stocks.
- To examine money spent on any service during the financial year in excess of the amount granted by the Lok Sabha for that purpose.
Thus the PAC examines public expenditure not only from legal and formal point of view to discover technical irregularities but also from the point of view of economy, prudence, wisdom and propriety to bring out the cases of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency and nugatory expenses.
It can also make recommendations to streamline the administration for efficient, speedy and economical implementation of policy.
The PAC’s power to scrutinize expenditure provides for Parliamentary oversight over Executive decisions and acts as a check on slackness, negligence and even wrongdoing on the part of the Executive.
The PAC can summon the persons related to policy decision for the explanation. Recently RBI governor was summoned for explaining motives, impact and other questions related to the demonetization move.
Thus due such wide powers vested in the PAC, it is known as the mother of all committees.
- Lack of technical expertise hinders the PAC’s examinations. Officers are sometimes able to dodge PAC summons, which has prompted suggestions that it should have the power to hand out harsher punishments.
- There are no suo motu powers of investigation for the PAC.
- It takes up any issue after the CAG has examined and submitted its report, thus lagging behind the issue in terms of time.
- Lack of adequate funds and Lack of strength to carry out all investigation
- Institute of Public Auditors of India (IPAI) sought suo motu powers of investigation for the PAC.
- Making the CAG and Auditor General (AG) accountable to Parliament.
- PAC should be consulted on the appointment of the CAG, and that it should have powers to examine Public-Private Partnership projects.
- Services of experts should be availed on technical matters.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation..
he social services sector like education, health etc has been considered as “public goods” not central to market ,growth or stable economy, the reason is that these are long term investment and unlike other sectors have multidimensional effects which due to limited government tenure and limited resources cannot be assessed well.
How investment in social sector would create much needed jobs and boost economic growth-
- Spending on health, which is currently very low, can improve health of people, which in turn enhance the capability of work force. It also reduces man-days lost due to poor health. Diseases also take heavy toll of life and wealth. Improved health sector can also generate jobs and promotes medical tourism. For eg Kerala model where high level of education and health drive growth and jobs
- Currently India has demographic dividend, whose benefits can only be reaped if they are given proper skills. Expenditure on education needs to be increased to 6% from current 3%. Most of the Indian are involved in unorganized sector, which underutilizes their potential and make them vulnerable to exploitation. Education can equip our workforce to require skill set that will have positive impact on economy.
- Skills up gradation: these will help to create market competitive workforce that can be harnessed both at local and global scale. Schemes like skill India, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana would play important role in this regard.
- GENDER EQUALITY: gender sensitive education and women oriented health services will help in large scale women employment which promotes not only the family living standard but also the economic growth. India can increase its 2025 gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at $4.83 trillion, by between 16% and 60% simply by enabling women to participate in the economy on par with men, according to study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).
- Social sector also includes providing basic amenities to all, which will reduce social and regional inequality. Currently most of economic activities are centred in cities putting heavy burden on them. Equitable distribution of wealth and regional development will boost domestic demand and create jobs throughout the country.
- Creating an effective social security net in the social sector can also check the dependence of large sections of population on unorganized sector. It can also ensure increased female participation in education and health sector.
- Increasing budgetary allocation for health and education. The combine spending should be around 10% of GDP.
- Union government should allow decentralised spending decisions by states and focus on the quality of learning. And in the health sector, it should change the focus from tertiary to primary care and spend more there.
- Recent initiative of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao different skill development schemes like PMKVY, SKILL INDIA PROGRAM, etc are steps in right direction and should be implemented effectively.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- Recently Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited India and participated in Vibrant Gujarat Global summit as a special guest and also had meeting with Indian Prime Minister in New Delhi.
- At the summit-level dialogue in Delhi, the two leaders have given momentum to deepening bilateral ties, with the focus most likely to be on strengthening economic cooperation. Kenya is an important trade and investment partner for India. Bilateral trade was US$ 4.235 billion during 2014-15. India’s exports were worth nearly US$ 4.12 billion.
- Diverse sectors in Kenya, such as energy, pharmaceuticals, textiles, agriculture and financial services may receive greater involvement of India Inc. Some major Indian corporates, including the Tatas, Reliance, Essar, Kirloskars and Dr. Reddy’s, are flourishing in Kenya.
- India has announced a $100 million Line of Credit to Kenya for agricultural mechanization in the recent meet between the leaders of the both nations.
- MoUs on defence cooperation, space technology, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, Housing and expertize sharing on Bureau of Indian Standards.
Significance for India-
- Both India and Kenya cooperate in providing maritime security in Indian Ocean. The littorals of East Africa serve as a gateway to the wider Indian Ocean Region. This region not only hosts large energy reserves, but also is home to some of the world’s most important strategic waterways and congested, ambush-prone maritime chokepoints. Through these chokepoints, more than 50 percent of Africa’s maritime energy trade passes.
- India and Kenya are focussed on quick operationalisation of defence cooperation. Some of the specific areas of priority would be hydrography, communication networks, anti-piracy, capacity building, exchanges and defence medical cooperation.
- Kenya stands as good market for Indian exports such as pharmaceutical, Automobile and IT sector.
- Long-term arrangement with Kenya for production and import of pulses is being explored and discussed.
Significance for Africa-
- The India-Kenya relationship does not only hold potential for these two countries but for the whole of the continent. Similarly American President Donald Trump is more focused on Europe and Asia-Pacific. Thus India has many opportunities to get along with Africa.
- The East African Community (EAC), comprising Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, has emerged as one of the most successful of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities. Having established a customs union, it is building a single market and wants to set up a monetary union. This organization is hungry for more foreign investment. India can provide this much needed capital which would strengthen their relations with India.
- India’s Africa policy is broadly in line with Agenda 2063, promoted by the African Union. Thus India could contribute in the progress and development of Africa.
- India could cooperate with Africa in fields like Climate change, terrorism, renewable energy, containing piracy etc.
- African continent is resource rich but lacks advance technology and expertise. India could contribute in using African resources for the benefit of Africa. Ultimately prosperous Africa is good not only for India but also for the whole world.
Having shared historical and cultural bonds, India and Kenya have great potential to come together and build partnership which would not only help both countries but to the whole of African continent.
Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies ; Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability;
5) In the light of the Supreme Court’s observations on the quality of a round of appointments made to the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission last year, critically comment on deteriorating institutional integrity of the constitutional body in various states and measures needed to make these institutions transparent and accountable. (200 Words)
Recently a Standing by the Madras High Court judgment quashing the appointment of 11 members, the court has directed the State government to make a fresh selection of TNPSC members after a “meaningful and deliberative process”.
In this light the Second ARC report has highlighted several structural flaws:-
- Appointment: The ascribed based instead of merit based appointments done in various constitutional bodies, act more like retirement home.
- Nepotism: The constitutional bodies are plagued by class, caste, regional interest which overpower them in various aspects.
- Fictitious bodies: For example Himachal Pradesh for over a decade had fictitious zonal planning committee.
- The constitutional bodies lack devolution of 3F: finance, function and functionaries for example State Human Right Commissions are regarded as toothless tigers.
- Centralization of power with chief minister office makes bodies inconsequential.
- Lack own vision as each state has own distinct requirement: Like state public commission mindlessly copies UPSC.
Measure for reform:
- Merit based selection: The selection at the important posts like members of constitutional bodies must hold educational qualifications like university degree must for state public commission.
- Consultation with parent body at center must be made a ritual in order to integrate and inculcate the best practices practiced in central bodies.
- More autonomy must be given to the bodies with respect to functions, functionaries and funds.
- Yearly report regarding the performance and evaluation must be laid out timely and if possible in public domain in order to take feedbacks.
- Increase transparency by making available proceeding digitally and readily replying to RTI queries.
- Sensitizing citizen of roles and responsibilities of particular institution.
- Fixing the strength of the board so as to eliminate extraneous appointments and appointment of outsiders to a SPSC to achieve political neutrality.
- Making it mandatory for all state PSC to have a laid down procedure for recruitment and penalty for deviating from it.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Agriculture; Energy; Industrial policies
Urea, also known as carbamide, is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO(NH2)2. This amide has two –NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl (C=O) functional group. More than 90% of world industrial production of urea is destined for use as a nitrogen-release fertilizer. Urea has the highest nitrogen content of all solid nitrogenous fertilizers in common use.
India is the world’s largest importer of fertilizers. It imports nearly 10 million tonnes of urea annually from global suppliers. That represents one-third of its domestic consumption.
Why India unable to produce urea:
- Low availability of natural gas(as it is a major constituent as much as 80%)
- Flexible international gas priceswhich is detrimental for import based production.
- Due to disagreements on right price of natural gas, even the locally extracted gas from sources like KG basin is not being utilized for urea.
- Lack of investment: Lack of private and public investment in setting up new plants results in huge import bills.
- Policy paralysis:- there is not sincere efforts toward refurbishment of domestic producers, subsidy now under New Urea Investment Policy given according to their energy efficiency, which due to the lack of technological investment, set aside in dismay.
- Even Natural gas Based urea is not cost effective:- processing in India is costly[1 tonne/25mmbtu] against international methods[2ommbtu], which further pushed CAD.
There are several challenges faced by domestic sector in pursuing it:-
- Subsidy-Reimbursement delay: Fertilizers are subsidized hence domestic industries face delay of payments.
- Availability of natural gas: Despite of some great exploration projects (like KG basin), India has failed to boost domestic production of natural gas to support domestic industries
- Volatility in international market: Volatility can compromise on profits of domestic industries and thus risk prone.
Government of India has understood their limitations on natural barriers to production and have undertaken several steps to ensure domestic fertilizer needs and curb shortage:
- Joint venture: With natural gas surplus nations, we have signed joined ventures for on shore production (India-Oman).
- Made outside India: Indian government is keen to set its production units in surplus nations (investment at Chabahar).
- Outside explorations: Indian gas companies are acquiring gas reserves in several nations (Russia, Vietnam).
- Curbed black marketing: To avoid shortage, government has taken tough stands on illegal cross border trade.
- Neem coated urea: To avoid domestic industries misusing subsidy, Neem coated urea can only be used for agriculture.
- Nutrient based subsidy: NBS will curb over use of urea (as it has happened in several parts like Punjab, Haryana).
Government of India has come up with features like agricultural extensions and soil health cards to ensure urea being used judiciously. However we should look urea as import burden and should act swiftly to boost domestic production. With significant investment in exploration projects and policy support to domestic industries, we can become self-sustainable.
Topic: Resource mobilization
Introduction:- The potential fiscal benefits of demonetization are being speculated with the most important question being asked is whether demonetization will prove to be the silver bullet for tax collections by increasing the tax-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio.
The tax-GDP ratio (Centre+state) in India is the lowest in its league — at 16.6 per cent as compared to China at 19.4 per cent, Brazil at 35.6 per cent and the overall emerging markets’ average at 21.4 per cent.
NEED TO IMPROVE TAX ADMINISTRATION:-
- Currently about 2% people pay tax in India as against much higher in developed world and China due to informal economy
- Direct tax collection is meager 20% of total GOI revenue. More revenue is from indirect taxes through inflation, Cess.
- Difficulty in certain sectors like tea plantation, textile due to demonetization shows the extent of unbanked informal sector.
- Currently only 25 lakh people show income less than 10 lakh which is strike contrast to current status of living in urban India.
- Boom in real estate sectors, ghost town and benami properties.
- Informal economy as pointed by NN Vohra report in 1993 includes tax officials, top bureaucrats etc who promote evasion.
- FDI and FPI investments are from tax havens which have existing clause of double tax avoidance & round tripping.
NEED TO IMPROVE TAX ADMINISTRATION POST DEMONETISATION:-
- This situation—the fact that most of the invalidated notes have reportedly returned to the banking system and a large number of new notes are being recovered from various locations—suggests, obviously, that implementation of the currency swap was not as desired.
- It also exposes flaws in the existing system that make detection of black money difficult and underscores the scale of the problem that the administration has decided to deal with. It will be a huge challenge for the tax administration.
- At the operational level, the tax department will now have to mine a vast volume of data to zero in on accounts that have been used to deposit unaccounted cash. This will not be easy as it will substantially increase the workload and can lead to litigation.
- Further, the department will have to handle the entire exercise with care and avoid causing discomfort to honest taxpayers. This will put enormous pressure on the existing capability and infrastructure of the tax department.
The government has taken various steps, including the currency swap, to deal with black money. But if it is to build on any of the benefits that have accrued so far, it must make the structural changes to the tax administration needed to minimize the generation of black money and make detection of tax evasion an ongoing process.
Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas;
Cold Start is a military doctrine developed by the Indian Armed Forces for use in a possible war with Pakistan. It involves the various branches of India’s military conducting offensive operations as part of unified battle groups. The Cold Start doctrine is intended to allow India’s conventional forces to perform holding attacks in order to prevent a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of a conflict.
Following are key features-
- Key objective of the doctrine is to limit conflict to offensive and tactical localized war and prevent nuclear escalation.
- Indian armed forces were expected to engage Pakistan through offensive in a localized area to prevent escalation.
- Doctrine was adopted to prevent unwanted international intervention and prevent Pakistan to use nuclear weapons which it calls “deterrence” and its First Use Policy (FUP).
- Doctrine reflected lack of ability to launch full scale on multiple fronts by India and Pakistan.
- Pakistan nuclear warheads reflects this doctrine. They contain low range cruise based tactical missiles for localized area.
Doctrine has not been acknowledged by the Army however recent reference to Cold Start by Army Chief has opened Pandoras’ Box over India’s capability to adopt and execute the same. India has capability because-
- Well disciplines military units and successful exercises like Myanmar and Surgical Strike Operations.
- Experience of dealing with ISI in major four battles which have been localized war
- Presence of troops and equipment near border
However India’s capability is questioned because-
- Lack of coordination between Army and Air Force for localized offensive. Air Force to install monitoring systems for same.
- Lack of tactical and cruise weapons for second strike like – failure of Nirbhaya
- Obsolete tanks and equipment which need modernization
Cold Start Doctrine is a doctrine developed to ward off nuclear warfare between nuclear neighbors. However the same to be discussed keeping in mind all the stakeholders and India’s capability to execute the same.