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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 19 April 2017


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 19 April 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:  Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues

1) Write a note on the contributions of Muhammad Iqbal. Do you think both India and Pakistan are adhering to his teachings and philosophy? Critically comment. (200 Words)

The Indian Express


Sir Muhammad Iqbal  (November 9, 1877 – April 21, 1938), widely known as Allama Iqbal was a poet, philosopher, and politician, as well as an academic, barrister and scholar in British India who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement. He is called the “Spiritual father of Pakistan”. He is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu literature, with literary work in both the Urdu and Persian languages.

Philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal:-

Iqbal stands alone in the post classical period of Islamic philosophy as a reviver of the discipline within the Muslim world.  He is the only Islamic philosopher to make a serious attempt at grabbling with the problems of modern western philosophy within an Islamic context.   His thought has been extremely influential throughout the Islamic world today. 

Iqbal introduces his notion of Khudi, or self.  Arising from a desire to awaken the Muslim Ummah and drawing upon inspiration from western existentialists like Nietzsche, and Muslim spiritual teachers he empowers the Muslim individual.  Beyond its superficial, and important, role as a motivator for Muslims Khudi embodies a deep philosophical concept prevalent throughout his philosophical writings.

His letters and lectures depict islam as a religion as well as a political and legal philosophy. He professed tolerance towards other faiths as a necessity for a true muslim. However, he felt that Muslim society would not be able to blend in secular society not based on Islamic principles as its spiritual foundations would be weakened. Also, he rejected tolerance towards rebellious thought within Islam, like that of Ahmadiyyas.

Is it adhered in both nations?

India is a secular country tolerant towards all religions whereas Pakistan is as an islamic state that recognises freedom of religion. India, on the other hand is largely peaceful and tolerance towards all faiths as professed by Iqbal is followed. However, few incidents of cow vigilantism and communal riots occur. 
In Pakistan, incidents of violence against non muslims and sects like Ahmadiyyas happen more frequently and its blasphemy laws are a matter of concern. This can be seen as an manifestation of intolerance in Iqbal’s teachings.
The dichotomy towards tolerance in iqbal’s teachings is irrational, hence, it is necessary that the fringe elements of both the nations follow a path of tolerance towards all religions and sects within all religions and respect the individual right to religion.


General Studies – 2

Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations

2) Why does Pakistan want to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as their fifth province? Examine the impediments that Pakistan faces in making Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province. (200 Words)

The Indian Express


GB is one of the two parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the other being the so-called “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” (“AJK”), both of which formed part of the territory of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). GB has an area of 72,000 sq km and comprises about 85 per cent of the total area of PoK. Despite its strategic location — providing land access to China, containing vast reservoirs of fresh water and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through it, GB does not form part of the territory of Pakistan.

Why it wants to declare as fifth province?

  • With a $50 billion investment in the CPEC, China would hardly want the territory through which the route passes to have a dubious status. India has made its concerns over the CPEC clear to China at the highest levels since the area belongs to India.
  • Pakistan wants to give the impression of freezing its territorial ambitions in J&K in order to concentrate on the CPEC and remove any misgivings that the Chinese may have on the status of GB. This, however, would be a feint to lull India into complacence. In effect, Pakistan would end up absorbing GB while continuing to finance and materially support the violence and unrest in Kashmir.
  • Declaration will also help Pakistan to tap the fresh water resources in the region and to make use of it for agriculture, hydroelectricity generation etc
  • Such move can also help China to get increased access in region and counter India jointly

Impediments faced:-

  • GB is part of J&K and any such move would seriously damage Pakistan’s Kashmir case. Two UN resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949 clearly established a link between GB and the Kashmir issue.
  • GB was Shia-dominated and Pakistan was apprehensive of setting up a Shia state in its north. The Shia Political Conference had opposed Jinnah’s two-nation theory and saw few opportunities for themselves in an overwhelmingly Sunni Pakistan. Not surprisingly, Pakistan has been deliberately altering the ethnic and religious balance in the region.
  • Making GB its fifth province would thus violate the Karachi Agreement — perhaps the only instrument that provides doubtful legal authority to Pakistan’s administration of GB — as well as the UN resolutions that would damage its position on the Kashmir issue.
  • Any such move would also be violative of the 1963 Pak-China Boundary Agreement that calls for the sovereign authority to reopen negotiations with China “after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India” and of the 1972 Simla Agreement that mentions that “neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation”
  • Several court verdicts have averred that GB is a part of J&K. The most notable is the 1993 “AJK” High Court verdict. The order was set aside in 1994 by the “AJK” Supreme Court that held that GB was a part of J&K state as it existed until 1948.
  • Pakistan would also have to overcome the adverse reaction of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC. While it can manage the reaction of people in “AJK”, its constituency in J&K would be seriously damaged. Hurriyat leaders have already made this known.


 India’s statement opposing the move was timely. India has to ensure that it does not fall into a Pak-China trap to take GB off the table by making it the fifth province in the hope that Pakistan will curb its ambitions. It is unlikely that Pakistan will ever relent on the Kashmir issue.


Topic:  India and its neighborhood- relations

3) It is said that excess focus on bilateralism is leaving India isolated in its larger neighbourhood. Do you agree? Critically comment. (200 Words)

The Hindu


Both India’s greatest problems and its biggest opportunities lie in its neighbourhood. To this end, India’s neighbourhood first policy was a novel effort to connect and establish ties to neighbours both big and small. However, India’s excessive focus on bilateralism has come under fire because;

  • It has not yielded considerable dividend with many neighbouring countries. Eg. Teesta water issues, Kashmir problem etc.
  • Many times bilateral relations are poorly handled. Eg: unofficial blockade on Nepal over constitution issues.
  • Bilateral arrangements, treaties and projects remain on paper and not implemented swiftly.

Focus on multilateralism in the neighbourhood can help India by;

  • Realizing trade linkage, infrastructural developments and increased connectivity and people-people contact.
  • Increasing linkages between regional economies, especially those of India and SE Asia via steps like Trilateral Highway, BCIM, Kaladan Multi-modal project etc.
  • Possible resolution to the Kashmir and the Northeast problems due to economic connectivity and geo-political exigencies brought about by multilateralism.
  • And, Chance for India to lead the way by taking initiatives to revamp Multilateral projects like the BIMSTEC, SAARC etc to further regional integration.


However, multilateralism should not come at the cost of national interest and India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be protected from threats and encroachments. With this in mind, India should in the future up its multilateral engagement, both in the neighbourhood and beyond including looking into prospects like the CPEC, OBOR and continue her participation with vigour in existing organisations like the International North South transport corridor, so that she can pursue development and growth without being left out of beneficial engagement with countries.


Topic:  functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies. 

4) What is voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine? Should the Election Commission go with VVPAT for the 2019 Lok Sabha election? Critically examine. (200 Words)

The Hindu


The Election Commission recently received a memorandum from 16 political parties demanding that the paper ballot system be reintroduced for greater transparency during elections. 

What are VVPAT machines?

The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters. It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines. It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.

How a VVPAT unit works

VVPAT device functions like a printer attached to the ballot unit and kept inside the voting compartment. When the voter presses the button against the name of the candidate of her/his choice on the EVM unit, the VVPAT unit generates a paper slip, also called ‘ballot slip’. This paper slip contains the name, serial number, and symbol of the chosen candidate. The voter can see this slip through a screened window where it stays for seven seconds and then it automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box. Thus, the ballot slip neither goes into the hands of the voter nor others get to see it. The Ballot Slip can only be accessed by the polling officers in the rarest of the rare cases.

Benefit of VVPAT

The use of VVPAT gives the voter an opportunity to challenge her/his vote on the basis of the paper receipt for the first time. As per a new rule, the booth presiding officer has to record the dissent of the vote, which needs to be taken into account at the time of counting.

Reasons why Election Commission should go with VVPAT for 2019 Loksabha election?

  • Cross Verification for voters: The voter shall be assured that his vote has gone to the party desired.
  • End Political Bickering:This will put to rest the alleged claims of those parties that allege that EVMs are not full -proof.
  • Instil the faith in EC– all the doubts of political parties can be resolved by adopting the VVPAT machines thereby instilling the faith in the EC.
  • Security:VVPATs can act as an additional means to ensure that voting system is in order and is not tampered. Even if any party tries to tamper the EVMs, it would be easy to detect.
  • Transparency and accountability– addition of the VVPAT machine to the process is to allow for cross-checking of EVM results through a paper audit, completing another layer of accountability to the indigenously produced machines 

In the face of extreme and unreasonable complaints against Electronic Voting Machines by a number of political parties, the Election Commission perhaps had no choice but to have the working of the machines corroborated by a paper audit trail.

Some apprehensions-

  • Lack of funds- Election Commission of India is running short of funds to adopt the VVPAT machines in the next general election. As many as 16 lakh VVPAT machines will be required and only an urgent release of funds will allow the machines to be ready in time for 2019.
  • The adopting VVPAT system in absolute manner could result into wastage of huge quantity of paper. At the best, it should be adopted for specific constituencies to verify the authenticity of the EVMs.


studies show the introduction of EVMs has resulted in a drastic reduction in electoral fraud (rigging, stuffing of ballot boxes, etc.) and allowed for greater voter participation. Since reverting to the older paper ballot system will be regressive, the only option in the face of the protests is to have a back-up in the form of a paper trail — something that will hopefully put a quietus to the controversy.


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

5) It is argued that there are no radical changes in the new health policy (2017) and it continues to be an extension of the previous two such policies (1983 and 2002). Do you agree? Critically examine. (200 Words)



Coming after 15 years of the last such policy document, the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 is one of the most important policy at present for India. Though policy contains advanced features of healthcare, critics have argued that it continues to be extension of the previous policies.

Points of convergence-

  • NHP 2002 also spoke about “enhanced healthcare spending” and “restructuring of the national public health initiatives” to achieve more “equitable access” to healthcare. It is interesting to note that the stress in the 2017 document continues to be on these very aspects.
  • NHP 2002 had underlined the government’s intent to increase public expenditure on healthcare to 2-3% of GDP. NHP 2017 again lays down a modest target of reaching public health expenditure of 2.5% of GDP by 2025.
  • Ambitious infant and maternal mortality targets- The 2017 policy aims to reduce IMR to 28 per 1000 live births by 2019. The 2002 policy had aimed at reducing it to 30 by 2010. For MMR, the target of 2017 policy is 100 per 1 lakh live births by 2020, and for the 2002 policy was 100 by 2010.
    The failure to achieve 2002 policy targets have not been acknowledged, neither have corrective measures been suggested.
  • Silence on health governance- Health being a state subject, the effectiveness of any Centrally framed policy is determined by states’ capacity and will to implement the same. This calls for a shift of health to the conjoint ‘concurrent’ field, a question not considered by the 2017 policy, just like its predecessors.

New features-

  • This is perhaps the first time such a national policy document has recognized the shifting epidemiology of diseases, and put special focus on lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, along with communicable diseases.
  • Another notable announcement is the intent to make primary healthcare services more comprehensive and widen their net.
  • The government aims in shifting focus from “sick-care” to “wellness”, by promoting prevention and well-being.
  • Reforming medical education- The policy also lists quantitative targets regarding life expectancy, mortality and reduction of disease prevalence in line with the objectives of the policy.
  • To strengthen health systems by ensuring everyone has access to quality services and technology despite financial barriers. The policy proposes increasing access, improving quality and reducing costs. It proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency and essential healthcare services in public hospitals.


The above-mentioned points suggest that the new National Health Policy 2017 has some of the features which can be called as extension of the previous policy and at the same time some new features. It would be impractical to expect all the new features in the new policy and making break from the past ones.


General Studies – 3

Topic: Indian economy

6) Do you think there is a need for reviewing the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act of 2003? Discuss why. (200 Words)

The Hindu

FRBM act 2003-

  • The objective of the Act is to ensure inter-generational equity in fiscal management, long run macroeconomic stability, better coordination between fiscal and monetary policy, and transparency in fiscal operation of the Government.
  • The FRBM rule specifies reduction of fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP by 2008-09 with annual reduction target of 0.3% of GDP per year by the Central government.
  • Similarly, revenue deficit has to be reduced by 0.5% of the GDP per year with complete elimination to be achieved by 2008-09. It is the responsibility of the government to adhere to these targets. The Finance Minister has to explain the reasons and suggest corrective actions to be taken, in case of breach.
  • FRBM Act provides a legal institutional framework for fiscal consolidation. It is now mandatory for the Central government to take measures to reduce fiscal deficit, to eliminate revenue deficit and to generate revenue surplus in the subsequent years. The Act binds not only the present government but also the future Government to adhere to the path of fiscal consolidation. The Government can move away from the path of fiscal consolidation only in case of natural calamity, national security and other exceptional grounds which Central Government may specify.

Amendment in the act-

But the target to limit the fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP (by 2009) was abandoned after the 2008 global financial crisis as a liberal stimulus reversed the gains in the fiscal space, creating fresh macro-level instability.

  • As per the amendments in 2012, the Central Government has to take appropriate measures to reduce the fiscal deficit, revenue deficit and effective revenue deficit to eliminate the effective revenue deficit by the 31st March, 2015 and thereafter build up adequate effective revenue surplus and also to reach revenue deficit of not more than 2 % of Gross Domestic Product by the 31st March, 2015 and thereafter as may be prescribed by rules made by the Central Government.
  • Concept of “Effective Revenue Deficit” and “Medium Term Expenditure Framework” statement are the two important features of amendment to FRBM Act in the direction of expenditure reforms. Effective Revenue Deficit is the difference between revenue deficit and grants for creation of capital assets. This will help in reducing consumptive component of revenue deficit and create space for increased capital spending. Effective revenue deficit has now become a new fiscal parameter. “Medium-term Expenditure Framework” statement will set forth a three-year rolling target for expenditure indicators.

Need for reviewing the act-

  • N K Singh Panel recommendation- the panel has recommended to enact new FRBM act in the changing environment and creation of fiscal council.
  • More legroom:The current targets are specific percentages which leaves very little space for manoeuvring. A target that is range based in advisable than specific targets.
  • Better indicators:The targets set should be more reflective of solvency standards to be in consonance with standards adopted by global rating agencies. It is advisable that rather mere % numbers, debt/GDP targets need to be set.
  • Building Contingencies:A clause to deviate from the target (within specific limits) need to be brought in to address unforeseen events like global slowdown, calamity 
  • Set future targets:Previous Act was enacted a decade back. We need to assess the current domestic and global scenario to recalibrate our targets.
  • Greater Accountability:Often governments defer FRBM targets for populist means. Greater accountability is required. This can be done by setting up a body whose prior approval needs to be sought by the government for deviation.
  • 14th Finance Commission recommendation- 14th FC had also recommended government to reduce the fiscal deficit to the 3% of the GDP from 2016-17 onwards.

Recently panel under N K Singh was formulated to review the FRMB act and future steps to be taken in this regard. Some of its important recommendations are-

  • The panel has recommended enacting a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act after repealing the existing Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, and creating a fiscal council. The proposed three-member fiscal council will prepare multi-year fiscal forecasts for the central and state governments (together called the general government) and provide an independent assessment of the central government’s fiscal performance and compliance with targets set under the new law.
  • The committee has proposed to maintain the 3% target till 2019-20 before aiming for further reduction. This recommendation is pragmatic, as the ‘extraordinary and unanticipated domestic development’ of demonetisation happened during its tenure. Such an event, the committee has said, could trigger an escape clause from fixed fiscal targets in its proposed rule-based framework.
  • Instead of focussing purely on the fiscal and revenue deficit numbers, which should be brought down to 2.5% and 0.8% of GDP respectively by 2023, the panel has called for paring India’s cumulative public debt as a proportion to GDP to 60% by 2023 — from around 68% at present. The latter, a simpler measure for solvency purposes, should inspire confidence among rating agencies.
  • The panel also recommended debt-to-GDP ratio of 38.7% for the central government, 20% for the state governments together and a fiscal deficit of 2.5% of GDP (gross domestic product), both by financial year 2022-23.
  • The committee has prescribed a so-called glide path to these targets—steady progress towards them—and also suggested that there be some flexibility in the deficit targets on both sides, downwards when growth is good and upwards when it isn’t.


Topic: Agriculture; Libearlisation effect

7) It is argued that Maharashtra’s farm distress is market-driven. Examine why. (200 Words)


Growing clamour for loan waiver in MH despite good rains?

The Maharashtra economic survey for 2016-17 says the agriculture and allied sector recorded a growth of 12.5% over 2015-16. The survey also records that the state received 94.9% of its normal rainfall in 2016 which propelled farm sector growth, after droughts in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2014, the rainfall was 70% of the normal and the farm sector showed a decline of 8.5% over 2013-14. The actual rainfall in 2015—the year when Maharashtra experienced its worst drought since 1971—was 59.4% of the normal and the agriculture sector saw a further decline of 2.7%. The 12.5% growth in 2016-17, hence, comes on the back of two terrible years for the state farmers, and should have projected a happy farm scenario.

Why the agrarian distress is said to be market driven?

  • Experts, government officials and farm activists say the agrarian distress in 2016-17 is not “drought-driven” but “market-driven” and it is the government’s failure to ensure that the farm produce gets good remunerative prices which has caused the distress and pushed farmers to ask for a debt waiver.
  • Both central and state government appealed farmers to produce pulses rather than cotton and sugarcane. As a result, Maharashtra is estimated to have produced 1.1 million tonnes oftur this year as compared to only 440,000 tonnes in 2015-16. The MSP for tur has been fixed at Rs5,050 per quintal but according to farm activists and experts, farmers are being forced to sell for Rs3,000-3,500 to traders since the government procurement agencies claim they do not have the infrastructure to store tur on this scale.
  • Lack of an integrated market and quick connectivity within and outside the state as well as in the country leading to poor price discovery for farmers.
  • Also, state government has failed to provide storage facilities to the farmers for the bumper production in 2016. Small farmers lacking storage facilities had to sell their produce at low prices.
  • Even cash crops like Sugarcane, cotton etc are badly hit due to price fluctuations and foreign competition.

Along with these other problems too played their role in aggravating the situation of farmers in Maharashtra-

  • Debt-trap,
  • Failure of cooperative movement in banking sector of rural areas leading to unavailability of credit.
  • Lack of cushion and allied sources of income during the tough agricultural years.
  • Unpredictable weather conditions and cycle of drought and unusual rains are hampering the farm productivity.


The failure of governments in making markets pro-farmers coupled with other factors have intensified the plight of farmers in Maharashtra. Government needs to take urgent steps in integrating state and national market (eNAM), removing infrastructural bottlenecks, ensuring MSP for pulses along with Wheat and Rice, making facilities for easy availability of credit and helping farmers to devise allied sectors of income.