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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 18 January 2017

 


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 18 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; Social empowerment

1) In India violence against women in various forms has continued unabated. What are the economic costs of violence against women? Critically examine. (200 Words)

Livemint

Introduction-

One of the many surprising features of the Indian economy and one that makes it stand out even among other large developing countries and “emerging markets” is the low workforce participation of women. The most recently available estimates of work and employment (relating to 2011-12) based on the large sample survey of the National Sample Survey Office suggest that only 25% of rural women above the age of 15 years, and 17% of urban women, were gainfully employed on a regular basis.    These are shockingly low figures compared to most other developing countries, and the rates of rural employment of women have actually declined over time, which is unprecedented in a relatively fast-growing economy.

One of the important reasons for such low participation of women in labor-force is violence faced by Indian women particularly domestic violence, physical violence at workplaces and public areas. Violence against women in public spaces creates an environment in which not just the families but the women themselves are more reluctant to engage in economic activities that could expose them to different sorts of violence. Violence against women not only has social implications but also has economic implications.

Economic costs of violence against women-

  • The negative impact on women’s participation in education, employment and civic life undermines poverty reduction. It results in lost employment and productivity, and it drains resources from social services, the justice system, health-care agencies and employers.
  • Violence against women is a clear barrier to sustainable development. This has been acknowledged in the recently adopted Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. For the first time, violence against women and girls is included as a target area under Goal 5 on gender equality, reaffirming that such violence is a barrier to gender equality, women’s empowerment and overall sustainable development, as well as to the achievement of the other Goals.
  • The cases of physical assault and news of violence against women deter women of other countries coming to India thus, loss to tourism.
  • Domestic violence could hamper the educational opportunities for women thereby limiting their employment opportunities.
  • In India women can lose an average of at least five paid work days for each incident of intimate partner violence. This fact would mean the affected woman would get 25 per cent less of her salary each time an incident of violence happens.
  • Further state apparatus like police and security forces have been insensitive towards women and even officials from these forces have committed crimes against women. Thus women have been subjected to dual kind of violence ie not only from family members but also from government officials. This has deterred women from taking night jobs or high risk jobs.

 However Government has taken number of steps to eliminate violence and crimes against women. The Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, 33% reservations at Panchayat level which may increase to 50% have been enacted to safeguard women’s rights.  Also numbers of schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, MGNREGA, Bhartiya Mahila Bank, Stand up India etc have been initiated to increase women’s participation in Public life.

Conclusion-

This is an important issue for India’s economic development as India is now in the phase of “demographic dividend”, where the share of working-age people is particularly high, which can propel per capita growth rates through labour force participation, savings, and investment effects. But if women largely stay out of the labour force, this effect will be much weaker and India could run up labour shortages in key sectors of the economy. Also, there is a wealth of evidence suggesting that employed women have greater bargaining power with positive repercussions on their own well-being and that of their families.

 


General Studies – 2


Topic:Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, 

2) In your opinion, what does autonomy for the RBI entail? In the light of doubts expressed on its autonomy in the wake of demonetization decision, critically comment. (200 Words)

The Hindu

The demonetisation decision has led several observers to express concern about the autonomy and institutional integrity of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).  The reasons are-

  • Critiques argue that RBI was not involved in the decision making of Demonetization and it was not given sufficient time to consider the decision.
  • The decision of demonetization was imposed on the RBI and RBI practically surrendered its independence.
  • The unpreparedness of RBI was evident when it could not make available enough amount of cash in given time. Thus RBI was neither taken into confidence nor given enough time to prepare for the consequences.

However there is need to analyze the functional role of the RBI to determine whether autonomy and institutional integrity of RBI was violated?

RBI is entailed with 3 important functions-

  • The central goal of central bank independence was to ensure low and stable inflation via the autonomous conduct of monetary policy. It is important to note that is not the central bank’s discretion to decide what the targeted rate of inflation ought to be (or indeed what the optimum rate of growth should be); that remains the job of the elected government. But once that target is laid down, the central bank must ensure that it meets those targets with complete operational autonomy.
  • The RBI is the government’s debt manager, a function that has been proposed to be hived out to an independent debt management agency but resisted by the central bank. The separation of debt management from the RBI is not an assault on the RBI’s independence by the government. Instead, it is to remove the conflict of interest that exists in the RBI’s functions of setting interest rates, and management of the government’s debt. The latter could influence the former when it ought not to. The RBI’s independence to carry out its primary mandate, the efficient conduct of monetary policy, will only be enhanced by hiving off the debt management function.
  • The third major role played by the RBI is in the regulation of the banking system. Like any regulatory agency, RBI must be allowed to operate at an arm’s length from the government while doing its work.

What does Autonomy for the RBI entail?

  • RBI Act (Section 7 on Management) lays out things quite unambiguously. Part (1) of Section 7 states: “The Central Government may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest.” Parts (2) and (3) spell out the roles for the Central Board and Governor. There is a clear ‘seniority’ principle with (1) taking precedence over (2) which takes precedence over (3).
  • The motive behind this clause is that RBI is comprised of only bureaucrat and technocrats hence they are not elected they are not accountable to people.
  • In a democracy, the final responsibility of all policy decisions must lie with the elected representatives of the people, either the government or Parliament or both. 
  • The RBI could not take a policy decision as major as demonetization unilaterally. Nor indeed could it turn it down unilaterally.

Conclusion-

The government, when it exercises its right as sovereign, whether to set an inflation target or to demonetize high-value currency, is acting well within the norms of the law and the spirit of democracy. Any attempt by unelected officials to obstruct would only be abuse of their autonomy.

In a democracy, the final responsibility of all policy decisions must lie with Government at the same time there should be no compromise on RBI’s autonomy side- in the maintaining targets of interest rates, the regulation of banks, or in other operational spheres. Therefore there should be mutual cooperation and coordination between RBI as a regulator and Govt as owner of public sector banks for the larger public interests for an efficient and sustainable economy.

 


Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

3) In your opinion, how should Trump try to resolve Afghanistan problem? In the light of an assessment of Obama’s  Afghanistan policy, discuss critically. Also discuss what role could India play in Afghanistan during Trump Presidency. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Livemint

Obama’s Afghanistan Policy-

For Afghanistan and the Afghans, Mr. Obama was a President of contradiction whose Afghan policy proved markedly disastrous. He wrongly believed that he would win the War on Terror militarily and by appeasing the military establishment in Pakistan. Mr. Obama relied excessively on Pakistan while dealing with Afghanistan. However this did not resulted into actual gains on the ground and Afghanistan remains engulfed into turmoil. The Obama administration severely undermined human rights by downplaying the threat of its overall military operations to civilian lives in Afghanistan. The substantial militarisation of the U.S. Afghan policy and the expansion of war killed any chance of peace in Afghanistan. 

How should Trump approach to the Afghanistan problem?

  • The new administration in Washington should stop appeasing Pakistan which has brought the disastrous results in earlier regime. Mr. Trump should compel Pakistan to squeeze those who harm Afghanistan and nurture, shelter and finance forces of terror. Further there is need to curb blind aid given to Pakistan under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
  • On Afghanistan, Mr. Trump should embrace a vibrant diplomacy and regional cooperation towards Russia, China, India and Iran. This would help in achieving consensus on the issue where interests of different stakeholders are involved.
  • President Trump can avoid the errors of the past in Afghanistan. He should boost the security and defence capabilities of the Afghan national armed forces. 
  • US can play a very important role as an intermediary in resolving the conflict of ‘Durand Line’ which is the major reason for Afghan’s current situation. Since 1947, Afghan does not recognize Durand Line, which in turn results in more and more infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan.

India’s role in Afghanistan-

  • India is playing prominent role in stabilizing the political situation in Afghanistan. India is actively engaged in building infrastructural capacities like Parliament, dams etc. in Afghanistan. India should continue its work in building infrastructure which would allow it to have good relations with all the stakeholders in Afghanistan.
  • Being the largest democracy in the world, India could help nourishing democracy in the war torn Afghanistan through supplying expertise and best practices of democratic system.
  • India could help Afghanistan in modernizing and training the Armed forces that could prove effective in fighting terrorist groups.
  • India could prove as the greatest market for Afghan industries and goods. Enhancing the economic capacity would be the main objective once political solution is achieved.
  • India can be a large investor in Afghanistan particularly in developing energy resources, local industries and viable economic structure.

Conclusion-

India enjoys great good-will among Afghans. Thus India could lead role in stabilizing Afghanistan and developing its economic capacities. This would give India strategic advantage of entry to Central Asia bypassing Pakistan.

 


Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,

4) What is an orphan drug? It is said that there is a need for a nationwide policy on the treatment of rare diseases that incentivizes the development of orphan drugs. Elaborate. (200 Words)

Livemint

Rare disease or Orphan disease-

A rare disease, also referred to as an “orphan disease” is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population. Most rare diseases are genetic, and thus are present throughout the person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. Many rare diseases appear early in life, and about 30 percent of children with rare diseases will die before reaching their fifth birthday. With a single diagnosed patient only, ribose-5-phosphate isomerase deficiency is considered the rarest genetic disease. No single cutoff number has been agreed upon for which a disease is considered rare. A disease may be considered rare in one part of the world, or in a particular group of people, but still be common in another. Global Genes have estimated that more than 300 million people worldwide are living with one of the 7,000 rare diseases.

Orphan drug-

An orphan drug is a pharmaceutical agent that has been developed specifically to treat a rare medical condition, the condition itself being referred to as an orphan disease.

Need of nationwide policy-

  • State has responsibility for providing affordable, accessible and reliable health-care services to every citizen. In fact constitution also mentions importance of health-care services under articles like 21, 38 and 47 and thus state cannot evade this responsibility under the pretext of non-justifiability of articles.
  • Given the low volumes at which the drugs needed to treat such diseases would be consumed, pharmaceutical companies have little commercial incentive to produce them. Thus a nationwide policy on orphan drugs could incentivize these players.
  • Even if pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to develop drugs to treat rare diseases, pharmaceutical companies remain beholden to the laws of economics and, given the low demand for orphan drugs, price these drugs as high as they choose to. By way of example, Rituximab, an orphan oncology drug, is the world’s second highest revenue generating drug by lifetime revenue potential. Hence there has to be regulation of the government in restricting the exorbitant prices of the drugs.
  • Although proportion of rare diseases is much less than the other diseases, it does not reduce the importance of the life of person affected by rare diseases. Thus national policy would remove this adverse distinction and would make government committed equally to all people.

Way forward-

  • Karnataka became the first state to release a Rare Diseases and Orphan Drugs Policy. It recommended the implementation of preventive and carrier testing as a means of reducing morbidity and mortality. Given that over 80% of rare diseases have a genetic basis, it suggested the use genetic testing to accelerate the identification of the critical genes involved in rare diseases. Other state governments can take a cue from this initiative to make law in their respective states. Union government can prepare a model law so that all states can follow it.
  • Awareness and education should be used as a tool to combat delayed diagnosis and treatment.
  • Also there is need for the enactment of an orphan drugs statute to allow for tax breaks, funding and exclusive marketing rights as incentives for orphan drug discovery.
  • Private insurance companies treat genetic disorders as pre-existing conditions and on that ground, exclude them from coverage. Since most rare diseases are genetic, patients are routinely denied insurance cover. The law should make insurance companies to re-consider this exclusion and affirmatively require that insurance companies provide basic coverage of rare diseases at reasonable premiums.

 


Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability,

5) Critically examine various views of the Supreme Court on the precondition of “sanction” for prosecution of a public servant under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988. Also comment how these views have impacted fight against corruption among public servants. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Introduction:-

The conflicting views of the Supreme Court on the precondition of “sanction” for prosecution of a public servant under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988 have created a legal vortex which could be exploited by unscrupulous public servants to stifle a criminal investigation.

Section 19 of the PC Act states: “No court shall take cognizance of an offence… alleged to have been committed by a public servant except with the previous sanction.” The provision aims to balance two competing interests.

  • One is the need to ensure that an honest public servant is not hounded in the performance of his or her duties by frivolous complaints.
  • The other is that investigation into an allegation of crime isn’t stifled at the threshold due to the power wielded by a public servant.

SC Views in favor of Section 19-

  • Validity of Section :-In Manzoor Ali Khan vs UOI (2015) and Subramanian Swami (2014) case provision for sanction for prosecution in a corruption case is not unconstitutional as mere possibility of abuse cannot be a ground to declare a provision unconstitutional , but executive needs to expedite the sanction process.
  • Requirement :-It has healthy objective of protecting an innocent public servant against unwarranted and mala fide prosecution and act applies at threshold itself (Aiyappa vs Anil Kumar (2013) and Narayana Swamy vs State (2016) cases)

Counter-Views

  • In Subramanian Swami vs UOI (2014) case, SC held Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which required prior sanction for investigation as invalid (Similar views in Rajasthan vs Raj Kumar-1998 and R.R. Chari vs. State-1951).
  • No tolerance to corruption :-Undermines core constitutional values of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity as status of offender is not relevant during investigation of crime.
  • Subjugation of judicial power:- By imposing a restriction on investigation by police at preliminary level itself

Impact on Fight against corruption-

  • Protection to dishonest and corrupt politicians and Government officials even after proof of their involvement have been found Eg-> Captain Satish Verma (96) for arbitrarily allocating petrol pumps.
  • Subjugation of constitutional and judicial provisions -> Violation of Art. 14 (Equality before law) and restraining powers on court to punish the culprit.
  • Not in line with the provisions under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 which has resulted into contradictory principles.
  • High-ranked official can influence the police for not registering an FIR and threaten the victim, and courts would remain powerless to initiate any action.
  • Instill fear among citizens regarding highlighting of crime and reduce motivation leading to degradation of public trust

Conclusion:-

Corruption in public office in any way is detrimental to the society. A fine balance need to be maintained between need to protect a public servant against mala fide prosecution on the one hand and of upholding the probity in public life in prosecuting the public servant against whom critical evidence is available in support of allegation of corruption. A relook regarding overhaul of Section 19 is warranted

 


General Studies – 3


Topic: Resource mobilization

6) The Goods and Services Tax Council has made some breakthroughs on outstanding negotiables that were holding up the introduction of the indirect tax regime. What are these breakthroughs? Discuss their significance. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction:-

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect taxation in India merging most of the existing taxes into single system of taxation. It was introduced as The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2016, following the passage of Constitution 122nd Amendment Bill. The GST is governed by GST Council and its Chairman is Union Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley.

  • GST is a comprehensive indirect taxon manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services throughout India (Except state of Jammu and Kashmir) , to replace taxes levied by the central and state
  • This method allows GST-registered businesses to claim tax creditto the value of GST they paid on purchase of goods or services as part of their normal commercial activity. Administrative responsibility would generally rest with a single authority to levy tax on goods and services.
  • Exports would be considered as zero-rated supply and imports would be levied the same taxes as domestic goods and services adhering to the destination principle in addition to the Customs Duty which will not be subsumed in the GST.
  • Introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a significant step in the reform of indirect taxationin India. Amalgamating several Central and State taxes into a single tax would mitigate cascading or double taxation, facilitating a common national market.
  • The simplicity of the tax should lead to easier administration and enforcement. From the consumer point of view, the biggest advantage would be in terms of a reduction in the overall tax burden on goods, which is currently estimated at 25%-30%, free movement of goods from one state to another without stopping at state borders for hours for payment of state tax or entry tax and reduction in paperwork to a large extent.
  • GST is expected to be applicable from 1 July 2017

Recent breakthrough made by GST councils:-

  • A compromise has been reached between the Centre and the States on the formula for administrative control over taxpayers under the GST, which will subsume myriad existing State and Central levies on commercial activity. 
  • COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM:- 2/3rd power of voting is given to states , hence now states will have say in deciding indirect tax all over India.
  • FINANCIAL AUTONOMY TO STATES:- Some autonomy is provided for states as taxing power for sin goods is vested with them .
  • LOSS OF REVENUE:- GST council has decided that centre will provide all revenue lost by states for period of 5 years from GST roll out . Its agreed by states.
  • ADMINISTRATIVE POWERS:- Council decided to give administration power to 90% GST assesse below 1.5 Crore annual turnover to states and half of the assesse administration above 1.5 crore annual turnover.
    Above provision of administration of GST also addresses the problem of revenue loss by state.

SIGNIFICANCE:-

  1. With the revised implementation date industry gets much needed clarity and some additional time for preparing for this huge reform. The date also gives room to declare certain policies before it’s rollout as budget will be presented earlier in February so as to done away flurry of growth downgrade projections. 
    Through this move center has addressed the autonomy issue of state governments over tax domain.

Conclusion:-

Significance of these decisions lie in improving coordination between centre and states and reducing overdependance of states on central fund . An effective implementation of GST policy is importance to achieve objectives listed in the policy.

 


 

Topic: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

7) A flurry of videos has emerged in the social media in recent days showing jawans of both the paramilitary forces and the Army complaining against a host of issues from diet to colonial-era practices. Analyse these issues. Also comment critically how these complaining jawans should be treated by the military and government. (200 Words)

The Hindu

The Hindu

Introduction:-

The Indian Armed forces are the prime guardians of national integrity or sovereignty .However maltreatment of the armed forces in revealed in a few videos on the social media.

Some of the issues are:
(a) Poor Food Quality: Highlighted in BSF jawan video complaining on “burnt chapati” and “watery lentils” served along LOC.
(b) Sahayak System: Colonial era-practice meant to assist the officers but now days making soldier turn into servants doing their(officer) household & personal works , especially seen in cantonment areas.
(c) Buddy system: Prevalent in Army so instead soldier getting groomed , they end up doing their personal chores.
(d) Absence of Paramilitary Forces Tribunal: Fails to keep court martial order outside judicial review which generally has less safeguards and are sometimes found injust as in SC ruling in Lt. Col Prithvi Pal Singh Bedi vs Union of India (1982) and used to vicitimize poor soldiers.

(e)Ration – Armed forces especially paramilitary forces only receive ration on 40 percent of items that have been allotted.

(f) Disparity between the Army and the BSF in terms of pay, service conditions, grievance redress mechanisms and deployments.
(g) Step-motherly treatment in service conditions exist even today across all paramilitary forces in India

STEPS TO BE TAKEN:-

Grievance Redressal mechanism: Across Military Headquarters To Streamline Complaints and keep it under supervision of Senior leadership to speed up response.
(b) Conducting Workshops and Seminars: To help them to tackles behavioural challenges faced every day in right manners certainly not through Social media and increase interaction between officers and soldier.
(c) Auditing Food Quality: Frequent Surprise visit by senior leadership across military canteen can keep check on quality and quantity served.
(d) Setting up a Paramilitary Forces Tribunal: Centre should come up with certain legislation regarding this considering the present time-consuming writ petitions and limited access to Fundamental Rights under Art. 33, seeking civilian judicial system a challenge for them.

(e ) Recreational activities needs to be arranged for soldiers such as yoga practices, hobbies clubs in order to stress out them out of challenging working conditions.

(f)Government should ensure that the money must be not be misutilized and army is taking due course of action in handling these cases.

Conclusion:-

The resort to social media to air grievances could compromise national security, especially when the forces are in sensitive locations. But that should not take the attention away from the larger malaise reflected in them, and it is in tackling them that the senior leadership, both in the executive and the security establishment, must spend time now. The videos are a wake-up call.

 


Topic:  Environmental pollution and degradation

8) The union Environment Ministry last week notified a ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ against air pollution for Delhi and the National Capital Region. Discuss the feasibility of this Plan. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Introduction:-

The union Environment Ministry recently notified a ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ against air pollution for Delhi and the National Capital Region.

What does a ‘graded response’ mean?

  • The plan was prepared by the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
  • A graded response lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutantsi.eparticulate matter, reaches a certain level. Eg At the level of 100 microgrammes per cubic metre(µg/m³) of PM 2.5mechanised sweeping and water-sprinkling along roads has to start.
  • Traffic police personnel have to ensure smooth flow of traffic, and all pollution control measures that are already in place — such as stopping landfill fires, and enforcing Pollution Under Control (PUC) norms and a ban on firecrackers — have to be imposed strictly.
  • The response will change as pollutant levels increase.
  • In January 2016, the average PM 2.5 concentration was 211 µg/m³, with concentrations crossing 300 µg/m³ on a few days. If this level persists for more than 48 hours, an emergency will be declared.
  • This will mean a return of the odd-even road rationing scheme, ban on construction activity, and no entry of trucks in Delhi unless they are carrying essential commodities.
  • The actions under the graded response plan are cumulative in nature i.e the actions under the previous level will be continued along with actions recommended in the current level.

What was the need for such a system?

  • According to EPCA, the idea is to put in place graded response actions in a way that the emergency level is never reached.
  • The plan focuses on taking progressively tougher actions as pollution crosses each level, without waiting to impose strict measures when the emergency situation has already been reached.
  • During the first week of November 2016 — post Diwali — pollution levels were so high that several actions were taken simultaneously, including stopping construction, restricting the entry of trucks into Delhi, and shutting the Badarpur power plant.
  • Such knee-jerk reactions will not be required if the graded plan is followed.
  • Beijing and Parishave implemented graded action plans over the past few years. Paris recently implemented the odd-even road rationing scheme when PM 2.5 levels crossed 95 µg/m³.
  • Several Chinese cities have a road rationing scheme when pollution reaches severe levels.

How will the system work?

  • The concentration of pollutants will be communicated to EPCA. This will be an average for the entire city.
  • The EPCA will be ensuring implementation of the action plan.
  • It will delegate the responsibility to the concerned departments like the municipal corporations of all NCR towns, the traffic police, police, transport departments, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation etc.
  • Each body has been set a task that it will have to carry out when EPCA asks it to, based on the concentration of pollutants.

What are the challenges?

  • A large number of agencies, from different states, will have to work together.
  • Some agencies have already pointed out problems in implementing the plan. e.g Odd-even has to be imposed during an air quality emergency. But the Delhi government hesitated that it will be very difficult to implement the scheme without at least a week’s notice.
  • The municipal corporations, which have to hike parking rates by 3-4 times if the air quality is very poor, have to hold an elaborate meeting each time they change these rates.
  • A system will have to be devised to smooth out these problems.