SECURE SYNOPSIS: 24 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: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times
The music, dance and drama festival known as Urur Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha is held in an open area facing the sea with an aim to recognize the power of art in evoking the oneness of life and the samenesses of human societies. The festival is innovative is its approach as it also involves beach clean-up drives, crowd-funding of costs, social-media promos and other complimentary events.
Arts – Bridges the gap
- Platform to forgotten:-Opportunity for one forgotten exquisite to perform alongside other exquisites – for Villupaattu (bow song) recited by Carnatic artists, or Paraiattam (precurssion instrument) setting the beat for Bharatanatyam thus removing artistic barriers.
- Non-exclusive audience:-Brings classical and non-classical tradition to the rural areas (fishermen, beach stall vendors, agriculturists etc ) and offer them unique opportunity to savour these forms which are generally enjoyed by urban elites
- Promotes social cohesion:-Rural-Urban intermingling during festival given urban people an opportunity to learn about how adjacent fishing villages have contributed to the heritage of the Chennai.
- Celebrating life:-Collectively honors the good deeds (rescue work during Chennai floods) while also mourns for those who lost their lives thus enhancing emotional connect and solidarity between one another.
- Entry to all:-The festival is held in the open, on the Urur Olcott Kuppam beach and the venue is not exclusive (Zero entry fees) and is accessible to all, thus promoting equality (Artists also perform for free).
- Change in mindset:-Women volunteers and artists eagerly participate, and play important role in decision-making thus bridging the gender gap and change in patriarchal attitude.
Art used to develop crack in the bridge
- Aesthetic tension:-Race for recognizing one’s art as more superior than others, results into tension between artists with dominant group trying to impose their form.
- Lack of promotion:-Except this event very less support (financially, politically) is available for the marginalized art forms.
- Language barrier:-Carnatic tradition is much diverse in itself, with different small multi-lingual groups.
- Forgotten cultural identity:-Westernization of culture has decreased the relevance of indigeneous Art forms where modern people see these forms as sign of backwardness, thus limiting its capability.
Difference between artist and intellectual is that ‘An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way’. Thus, Arts surpass the artificial barriers created by we humans, and directly connects with one’s soul. The festival has a very noble cause, however additional efforts are needed to promote such indigenous forms which serve as a true hallmark for ‘Unity in Diversity’
Topic: Role of women and women’s organization
2) Recently women around the globe, especially in more numbers in the US, marched to express dissent against the Trump presidency and also to highlight inequality they face. Discuss significance of these marches and the issues they are concerned with. (200 Words)
A large number of women all around the world especially in the US have been marching in opposition to Trump’s presidency.
SIGNIFICANCE OF PROTEST MARCHES
- Voice to women:- Women are now able to voice their concerns by means of such protest marches.
- Democracy:- Such protest marches signify freedom of expression that forms a vital pillar of democracy.
- Drawing the attention of legislators:- Concerns voiced in these protest marches have drawn the attention of legislators and government, making them aware of women-specific issues.
- Women’s rights:- Demeaning statements about women, past record of misbehaviour with women.
- Racism and hatered:- Strong views of the president against Blacks, Mexicans and Muslims and a pro-white supremacist stand.
- Immigration issues:- Tough stand against immigration, proposes building a wall across US-Mexico border to prevent immigration, thus creating more opportunities for white Americans.
- Minorities rights:- Non-recognition of LGBT rights, discrimination of African-Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and other minority groups.
- Environment:- Non-acceptance of climate change as a threat to Earth’s future, non-compliance of climate change protocols and treaties such as Paris Agreement.
- Denial of reproductive rights:-withdrawal of parenting services, rollback of Obamacare.
Under such circumstances, governments across the world must take note of the fact that heads of government must not base their functioning on pre-election manifestos. Proper decision making and revamping of political agenda is the need of the hour.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interest
The Middle East is often referred to as India’s extended neighborhood due to glaring cultural and historical similarity. Underscoring Middle East vast geostrategic advantage, India has intensified its ties in recent times:-
- Economically India has begun deepening ties to include attract sovereign investment funds (UAE and Saudi) and free movement of skilled workers. This supplements the already large remittance gain ($40 billion).
- Middle East contributes to energy security with bulk of India’s oil and natural gas import sourced from this region. E.g. Kuwait, Oman
- Recent development in security area sees Middle East cooperating with India on intelligence sharing and curbing extremism. E.g. Manama declaration
- Frequent visits from both the sides and active formal communication have paved the way for opportunities and common interests.
- India has signed bilateral security agreements with Qatar and Saudi Arabia. India and Bahrain are also looking out for such agreements.
- Israel has been crucial for India since it is one of the defence equipment supplier to India. Similarly, Iran is strategically important to India because of Chabahar port. New Dellhi has been putting consistent efforts to get the flagship project done.
- At the time when economic growth is at its peak, India requires oil and gas in a good amount. Middle East is the biggest source of oil and gas to India.
- Middle East is home to lakhs of blue collar Indian workers. Since India receives good amount of remittance from the region, diaspora has been a major factor in India’s foreign policy.
Despite such gains, few challenges impeding the ties are:-
- Middle East is going through political turmoil and instability. Syrian civil war, Yemen crisis, Turkey’s political instability hinders bilateral relations.
- Relations between countries of Middle East are such that India’s relation with one country affects its relation with other country. New Delhi is, therefore, approaching the region circumspectly.
- India has not yet explored Middle East wholeheartedly. India-Egypt relations have lost momentum. Its relations with Cyprus are also confined to some specific interests.
- Discriminatory and rigid labour laws for Indian workers have been a major concern for India.
- India’s reluctance to play proactive role in ensuring peace and stability in the region
Leveraging its diaspora of close to 7million, India should steadfast its Link West policy with increased connectivity. It should aim to increase P2P ties via tourism, education and sports while cooperating for strengthening multi-polarity and UNSC reforms.
Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure
To minimize inequalities in the society and to deliver justice were the foundational objectives behind the making of the Indian constitution. In fact most of the important provisions of the constitution are directed at bringing equality and promoting socio-economic justice.
Some form of Inequality has always existed in India since ancient times. However with the rise and consolidation of caste system, this socio-economic inequality was institutionalized and given legitimate form. This type of inequality continued even after the India’s annexation by British. India’s constitution makers were aware of this fact and thus incorporated many provision that would usher the era of true equality in India.
Following features of the constitution that seek to address inequalities-
It mentions that Indian constitution shall try to achieve Equality of status and of Opportunity and Justice, Social, Economic and Political.
- Fundamental rights-
- Art 14- promotes Equality before law and Equal protection of laws.
- Art 15- Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. In fact constitution recognizes that some groups like Socially and Educationally Backward classes, Women need special assistance and made provisions for them to bring them at equal footing with others.
- Art 16- Equality of Opportunity in matters of public employment.
- Art 17- Abolition of untouchability and prohibition of its practices.
- Art 18- Abolition of titles except military and academic.
- Directive Principles of State Policy-
They direct the state-
- To promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order permeated by Justice- Social, Economic and Political and to minimize inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities (Art 38).
- Equitable distribution of material resources of the community for the common good (Art 39b).
- Prevention of concentration of wealth and means of production (Art 39c).
- To promote equal justice and to provide free legal aid to poor (Art 39A).
- To promote the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs and other weaker sections of the society and to protect them from social injustice and exploitation (Art 46).
- Constitution has envisioned equality not only for people but also for its federal units. Thus all states are placed on same footing for most of the matters. The exception being J&K, states under Art 371 and special category states on account of their historical and geographical aspects.
- Further Judiciary is tasked with most important function of delivering Justice and preserving the principle of equality as envisioned in the constitution. Constitution explicitly makes provision for its independence so that executives or legislatures do not venture into judicial territory.
All the provisions for equality have brought considerable results in pushing India towards equal society. The constitutional provisions have helped law-makers to enact different laws to bring socio-economic equality. For eg Protection of Civil Rights act 1955, SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, Right to Education act 2009 etc.
However glaring inequalities remain both in social and Economic matters among the people in India. Stricter laws have failed to eradicate caste based oppression, political barriers are still strong for them, income inequalities are growing starker, and women are still struggling to earn their equal rights with their male counterparts. Thus there is long way to go in making India a truly equal country.
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests,
5) In a message to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Chinese President warned about dangers of protectionism and called for free flow of goods and services. Do you think China could become a champion of free trade? Critically comment. (200 Words)
USA under new President Donald Trump may turn towards inward looking and protectionist policies. Chinese economy has benefited from free and open trade and has expressed concerns over shadow of protectionism. In the absence of USA, China may fill up the vacuum of leadership of free trade at global level. However it also faces some challenges in this pursuit.
Factors in favor of China-
- One Belt One Road initiative- China is embarked upon grand plan of reviving ancient Silk route to connect itself with Central Asia and Europe through the OBOR initiative. This would give China unprecedented Economic and Strategic advantage and would succeed in strongly integrating its economy with most of the countries of these regions. The logical outcome would be that Chinese influence would spread all across Central Asia and Europe.
- China is a global hub for manufacturing, and is the largest manufacturing economy in the world as well as the largestexporter of goods in the world. Thus it needs to explore new markets consistently to maintain its double digit growth. This appetite would propel China to maintain free flow of good all over the world.
- China is also the world’s fastest growingconsumer market and second largest importer of goods in the world. China is a net importer of services products. This could provide other nations opportunity to trade with China on equals.
- One of the most notable facts of the Chinese successes over the years, which should become more evident in next few years, lies in the creation of major Chinese groups with a world vision, accentuated by a strategy to move upmarket both industrially and technologically and in a context of increasing Chinese investments abroad – the so-called national “go-global” strategy.
- China has accumulated huge foreign exchange reserve and could leverage it for strengthening Renminbi so that it could become alternative to US Dollar.
- China is emerging as alternative to financial institutions of the west and to the American and European domination over them. The initiatives like NDB, AIIB and plans to create rating agencies are reflection of this. It would make China global financial leader, an important prior step to become global free trade leader.
Challenges that could pose threats to China-
- Rising crisis in Chinese economy-
China’s debt has ballooned to almost 250% of its GDP and slowing down of economy may stop its dream run of economy.
Capital outflows due to concerns about China’s economic performance have led to significant depreciation of Renminbi.
- Non-democratic set-up and excessive state control-
China’s non-democratic set-up and non-transparent policy making are acting like obstructions in China’s march towards global player.
Excessive use of state owned enterprises as agents of state policy in economic matters.
Non-competitive environment within China in some sectors like IT.
- Perception of Hard power rather than Soft power-
China has been considered to be as curtailer of freedom of speech, has hostile relations with many of its neighbors and known as military freak
China has all the potential for becoming the champion of free trade in the world if it works on improving transparency in its domestic policies, cultivates friendly relations with its neighbors and develops soft power.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
The persistence of high inequality and the prospect of job losses owing to automation in the advanced world have led several advanced economies to consider the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) to guarantee their citizens a minimum level of income support. The same idea seems to be gaining favour among a growing number of economists and policymakers in India. However the social and economic conditions in India differ widely than the advanced countries.
Universal Basic Income-
A Universal basic income is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.
There are three features of UBI:
- First, it is universal and not targeted. In the Indian context, this makes sense because of the less-than-satisfactory experience with targeting welfare services like PDS.
- The second feature of any proposed universal basic income scheme is cash transfer in lieu of in-kind transfer. Cash transfers are supposed to be much less market-distorting than in-kind transfers.
- The third distinguishing feature is that it is unconditional. Cash transfers are not tied to exhibiting certain behavior, and the people are free to spend the cash as they want.
Arguments for UBI-
- Everyone has equal right to reap the basic benefit of natural earth.
- Targeted subsidies like PDS have proved to be failures in our country. When food grain rots in the godowns of the Food Corporation of India, they are still getting accounted as food subsidy in the books. Also, much of the subsidy is actually getting landed in the hands of rich.
- In 2011, two pilots were launched in Madhya Pradesh, funded by UNICEF and coordinated by the Self-Employed Women’s Association, to study the effectiveness of income grants. It led to more labour and work”, with a shift from casual wage labour to more own-account (self-employed) farming and business activity. There was also a reduction in the migration caused by distress.
- According to an estimate, to pay a basic income equivalent to poverty line, it would entail a cost of 11% of GDP, which is way above the 4.2% of GDP that the government currently spends on explicit subsidies (Public Distribution System, fertilizers, railways, electricity, sugar, LPG, kerosene and water), ie, excluding MNREGA, health and education. However, 2011 pilots have shown that even smaller grants can be effective.
- A universal basic share in lieu of a basic income, wherein all individuals would be guaranteed a share of the country’s GDP has also been proposed. This would insulate the government from fiscal shocks.
- Bureaucratic expenses involved in providing subsidized items will be decreased and it would be easy to administer.
Arguments that can be made against the introduction of UBI-
- In our present state of development and given the current state of the public finances, the UBI would leave India bereft of public goods and services. Once everyone has been given a certain amount of income under the auspices of the state, it gets absolved of all responsibility for providing these goods and services which the private sector has no incentive to provide.
- An acceptable level of the UBI could be an income equivalent of the poverty line (the Tendulkar committee poverty line), which is about Rs1,090 per month for each individual, in 2015-16 prices. The total cost of providing this income to all Indians would amount to 12.5% of GDP, which is nearly equal to the size of the Union Government’s budget. Thus, such a UBI which provides poverty line-equivalent income to all Indians does not appear to be feasible because of budget constraints.
- The implementing of UBI would mean phasing out other subsidies like food, electricity etc. One big challenge relates to the phasing out of food-related subsidies. Any plan to replace food related subsidies has to contend with the implications of such a move on food security of the country. Whether farmers will continue to produce enough food grains in the absence of price incentives remains a big question.
- The other big challenge relates to co-ordination between state and central governments. Any plan to phase out subsidies and tax exemptions (relating to the GST) will require an extraordinary degree of co-operation between the states and the Centre.
- The unconditional transfer to the addicted persons or alcoholic may prove disastrous and defeat the very purpose of implementing UBI.
- The concept of UBI might end the motivation for work and seriously hamper the work culture in India.
- It is also argued that unconditional cash transfers might raise wages due to the decline in the supply of casual labourers.
- The well off people will be provided same amount as the needy ones. Also, the more responsible persons will be at par with the non-contributors. Thus it is neither socialistic nor democratic.
Thus the government should focus on increasing the use of conditional cash transfers with better targeting, which will not only help the poor but will also plug leakages. Progressively, the state would do well to rebalance its spending in favor of augmenting productivity and economic growth which will lift people out of poverty more decisively.
Topic: Government Budgeting
With the emergence of Welfare State, Governments have come to look after virtually every sphere of human life. They have to perform manifold functions from maintaining law and order, protecting their territories to implementation of plans for economic and social betterment. Besides, they provide a variety of social services like education, health, employment and housing to the people. Needless to say, Government requires adequate resources to discharge these functions effectively. Where is this money to come from and who is to sanction the funds? The necessary funds are mobilized from the country’s resources by way of taxes both direct and indirect, loans both long-term and short-term, to meet the Governmental expenditure. In India, the principal sources of revenue are customs and excise duties and Income-tax on individuals and companies.
It is not as if the Government can tax, borrow and spend money the way it likes. Since there is a limit to the resources, the need for proper budgeting arises to allocate scarce resources to various Governmental activities. Every item of expenditure has to be well thought out and total outlay worked out for a specific period. Prudent spending is essential for the stability of a Government and proper earnings are a pre-requisite to wise spending. Hence, planned expenditure and accurate foresight of earnings are sine-qua-non of sound Governmental finance.
Parliamentary Control over Finance
Ours is a Parliamentary system of Government based on Westminster model. The Constitution has, therefore, vested the power over the purse in the hands of chosen representatives of the people thus sanctifying the principle ‘no taxation without representation’. Preparation of Budget for the approval of the Legislature is a Constitutional obligation of the Government both at the Centre and the State levels. Legislative prerogative over taxation, legislative control over expenditure and executive initiative in financial matters are some of the fundamental principles of the system of Parliamentary financial control.
There are specific provisions in the Constitution of India incorporating these tenets. For example, article 265 provides that ‘no tax shall be levied or collected except by authority of law’; no expenditure can be incurred except with the authorisation of the Legislature (article 266); and President shall, in respect of every financial year, cause to be laid before Parliament, Annual Financial Statement (article 112). These provisions of our Constitution make the Government accountable to Parliament.
The budget process in India, like in most other countries, comprises four distinct phases.
- Budget formulation: the preparation of estimates of expenditure and receipts for the ensuing financial year;
- Budget enactment: approval of the proposed Budget by the Legislature through the enactment of Finance Bill and Appropriation Bill;
- Budget execution: enforcement of the provisions in the Finance Act and Appropriation Act by the government—collection of receipts and making disbursements for various services as approved by the Legislature; and
- Legislative review of budget implementation: audits of government’s financial operations on behalf of the Legislature.
Process starts August-September
- In the Union government, there is a budget division in the department of economic affairs under the Ministry of Finance. This division starts the process of formulation of the next financial year’s Union budget in the months of August–September every year.
To start the process, the budget division issues an annual budget circular around the last week of August or the first fortnight of September every year. This annual budget circular contains detailed instructions for the Union government ministries/departments relating to the form and content of the statement of budget estimates to be prepared by them.
Estimates, revised estimates and actuals
- It must be noted that the ministries are required to provide three different kinds of figures relating to their expenditures and receipts during this process of budget preparation. These are: budget estimates, revised estimates and actuals.
Call to reduce deficit
- In the past few years, the finance ministry has been vociferously arguing for reduction of fiscal deficit and revenue deficit of the Union government, citing the targets set by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act and its rules.
- Also, during the final stage of budget preparation, the revenue-earning ministries of the Union government provide the estimates for their revenue receipts in the current fiscal year (revised estimates) and next fiscal year (budget estimates) to the finance ministry. Subsequently, usually in the month of January, more attention is paid to finalisation of the estimated receipts. With an idea about the total requirement of resources to meet expenditures in the next fiscal year, the finance ministry focuses on the revenue receipts for the next fiscal.
- In the final stage of budget preparation, the finance minister examines the budget proposals prepared by the ministry and makes changes in them, if required. The finance minister consults the prime minister, and also briefs the Union Cabinet, about the budget at this stage. If there is any conflict between any ministry and the finance ministry with regard to the budget, the matter is supposed to be resolved by the Cabinet.
- In the final stage, the budget division in the finance ministry consolidates all figures to be presented in the budget and prepares the final budget documents. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) helps the budget division in the process of consolidation of the budget data, which has been fully computerised. At the end of this process, the finance minister takes the permission of the president of India for presenting the Union budget to Parliament.
- As per the Constitution, the Union budget is to be presented in the Lok Sabha on such a day as the president may direct. By convention, Union budget has been presented in Lok Sabha by the finance minister on the last working day of the month of February every year.
- The finance minister, by convention, makes a speech while introducing the budget. The annual financial statement is laid on the table of Rajya Sabha only after the finance minister concludes his budget speech in Lok Sabha. The budget documents are made available to the members of Parliament after the finance bill has been introduced in Lok Sabha, and the House has been adjourned for the day.
- It may be noted that the budget process in India lacks transparency in one aspect: while enactment of the Budget by the legislature and the review of its implementation are reasonably transparent, the process of budget preparation by the government is carried out behind closed doors.