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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) What is sustainability sector? Examine the role of women in sustainability sector. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Sustainability sector-

  • The sector which participates in environmental friendly activities to ensure that all processes, products and manufacturing activities adequately address environmental concerns while maintaining a profit are known as sustainable sectors.
  • Despite large number of women graduation and other degrees in sustainable sector, their actual role as leaders and managers is quiet limited.
  • The percentage of women working at climate and energy policy think tanks is 36% at the employee-level, 33% at the leadership level and 21% at the board of trustees level. Though these numbers seems fairly well, they are short when we look at the data that more than 50% of the graduates from sustainability and climate-related degrees in India are women. 40% of all science graduates and 37% of all science PhD candidates are women. They make up only 16% of employees at government-run scientific research organisations and only one out of the 39 directors at Council of Scientific and Industrial Research laboratories.
  • These two issues are not unrelated: women are often passed up for promotions due to perceived familial duties and may quit the workforce when their careers are not progressing. Equally, women often quit the workforce due to social pressures and insufficient support mechanisms and therefore, there are fewer women left vying for leadership positions. In the last two decades, female workforce participation in the country has declined by 11%.

Role of women in sustainability sector-

  • Economy
  1. The female labour force participation rate is abysmally low. This can be improved with the rising number of working women in sustainability sector as well as other sectors of economy.
  2. Greater female participation in engineering and technology oriented jobs would spur innovation & economic advantages.
  3. 70% of world’s poor are women, bringing them into mainstream will reduce their poverty and vulnerability.
  • Social
  1. Help in development assistance policies that promote mainstreaming gender perspectives more fully into the health policies and programs.
  2. Helps in raising Cost-effectiveness of health care & social programmers by better implementing services.
  • Environmental
  1. Women participation leads to better Crisis management.
  2. Better resource management, innovation, farming and care – giving and hold the key to adaptation to climate change.
  3. In any environmental crisis the most affected section of the society is women. Thus high number of women in the sustainable sector could reduce the vulnerability of women.
  • Political
  1. Women help develop more sustainable government policies and a better world economy.


“Women have a vital role in environmental management and development … and are therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.” The present lack of women’s participation in most policy-making signals a gap in the resources devoted to women. More balanced and effective approaches could be developed if international climate change negotiation processes as well as national climate policies considered gender aspects.


General Studies – 2

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

2) Why is Qatar isolated in the West Asia? Especially, discuss the role of US in this issue. (200 Words)

The Indian Express


A longstanding war of words between Saudi Arabia and its oil and gas-rich neighbor Qatar has just exploded into open diplomatic warfare, threatening the US-led fight against ISIS and setting off a new wave of instability in the Gulf region.

Reasons for the Qatar’s diplomatic crisis-

  • Tensions with Qatar’s Gulf Arab neighbours have grown in recent years as part of a tussle for regional leadership. Qatar has backed Islamist movements in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular. It has also counselled improving relations with Tehran, the Saudi’s arch-enemy.
  • Tensions between Qatar and its neighbors skyrocketed last month after Qatar’s state-run news agency published an article in which the Qatar’s ruling emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was quoted praising Israel and Iran — Saudi Arabia’s biggest adversaries in the region.
  • Saudi Arabia and other countries have criticized Al Jazeera and Qatar’s relations with Iran, and accused Qatar of funding terrorist organizations like Muslim Brotherhood which is disliked by Saudi Arabia for its anti-inheritance stand . Qatar denied that it supports terrorism, given that it has assisted the United States in the War on Terror and the ongoing military intervention against ISIL.



Role of USA in precipitating Qatar’s diplomatic crisis-

  • Spark for the current crisis is said to be Donald Trump’s visit to the region, during which he robustly denounced Tehran. Some analysts have suggested that the Gulf states have been emboldened by Trump and the row with Qatar is a Saudi-led attempt to bring Qatar into line.
  • Trump’s recent deference to the country, as well as toward Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, may have made it feel it had the license to do things it might not have pulled off during the Obama administration.
  • President Obama held some degree of ambivalence toward the Saudis, and didn’t give them totally free rein to do whatever they wished to. He angered them with his efforts at the Iran nuclear deal, which Saudi saw as giving too much latitude to their foremost regional rival. And he upset the Saudis when he nixed a major arms deal with them before he left office, out of disapproval of the way they were handling their war on Yemen. The Saudis also felt humiliated by Obama’s failure to stop the passage of legislation designed to help families of the victims of 9/11 sue the Saudi government.
  • By contrast, Trump has spent his presidency so far railing against Iran and threatening to undo the nuclear deal; he also approved a$110 billion arms deal with Saudi; and he used his first trip to Saudi Arabia to pat autocrats in the region on the back and promise them he wasn’t there to “lecture” them on how to govern.


The new rift in the Persian Gulf is in and of itself a big deal — it’s already being interpreted by some observers as the biggest diplomatic crisis in the region since the Gulf War in 1991. But the consequences will ripple beyond the region’s internal politics and seriously imperil US military operations in the region. Thus international institutions like UNO should take a lead role in diffusing the situation and to ensure that Saudi Arabia does not bully her neighbor as like Yemen.


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

3) The India-European Union (EU) free trade agreement (FTA) talks covering trade, investment protection and intellectual property, have remained deadlocked since 2013. Examine why. Also examine how would recent judgement by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the EU-Singapore FTA  affect India – EU free trade talks. (200 Words)

The Hindu


India and the European Union continue to struggle to conclude a bilateral Free Trade Agreement even a decade after the negotiations were first launched in 2007. Germany is pushing for the conclusion of the agreement. With the forces of globalisation in a seeming retreat, India and the European Union should “make it a point to speak up for free trade. And look for a free trade agreement,” suggested Germany’s ambassador to India, Martin Ney, recently.

Reasons for deadlock-

FTA between India and EU has remained deadlock since 2013 because of following reasons:-

  • India has an interest in getting a favourable package on services, including declared interests in Information Technology and the movement of Indian professionals.
  • Market access for agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and textiles is also a priority for India to which EU is reluctant to guarantee.
  • For the EU, concessions in the financial services are the key while Indian government is yet to expose India’s financial market to other countries fully.
  • The EU is also keen on the automobile sector where it is seeking a reduction in tariffs, much to the consternation of the Indian automobile industry, as well as a strong intellectual property regime.
  • EU demands to bring down tariff rates which India disagrees as this means more import and less export.
  • EU’s non-tariff barriers – like labeling requirements, quality standards, trademarks norms have negative impact on India’s export of different goods. The latest example being the Alphonso mangoes.
  • EU is seeking for stringent intellectual protection (IP) standard which India is reluctant to grant as it means to compromise with public interests.
  • India’s unilateral termination of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with many EU countries has left European businesses worried about investment protection in India.

How the judgement on EU-Singapore affect the India-EU free trade talks?

The FTA between EU and Singapore had included the provision of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which gives investors a choice between bringing a dispute against a host state before the national court of the country where the investment has been made and submitting the dispute to international arbitration.

The ECJ decided that EU had the exclusive competence over almost all aspects of the FTA barring non-direct foreign investment — also known as portfolio investment — and the ISDS mechanism. In other words, for agreements containing non-direct foreign investment and/or ISDS provisions, EU member states enjoy mixed competence to approve such treaties. This could have mainly three-fold effect.

  • Thus EU may negotiate FTA with India where disputes between investors and states would be resolved using the state-state dispute settlement (SSDS) mechanism. Given India’s protectionist stand on BITs and ISDS, as reflected in the 2016 Model BIT, India might be happy with this outcome. 
  • Second, the EU could negotiate an FTA with ISDS provisions subject to the treaty being approved by all EU member states. However, this option is not feasible because all EU member countries might not ratify such an FTA.
  • Third, it could negotiate the main FTA without an ISDS provision but make ISDS provisions a subject matter of an optional protocol provided this is permitted under EU law. The optional protocol could theoretically bind the EU’s partner country and only those EU member countries that ratify it and thus give their consent to the removal of investor-state disputes from their jurisdiction.


The Bilateral Trade Investment Agreement will be very significant for India-EU ties as this will be the first Free Trade Agreement for India not merely focused on the liberalisation of trade but also of investment. The conclusion of this agreement will be important not only for India’s further integration into the global economy but also to a give a boost to India-EU ties, which have failed to achieve their full potential.


General Studies – 3

Topic:   Infrastructure – energy

4) Critically evaluate the feasibility and merits of  government’s recent decision to approve the construction of ten 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). (200 Words)

The Hindu

Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor-

A pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using unenriched natural uranium as its fuel, that uses heavy water (deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and moderator. The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a typical pressurized water reactor. While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it yields greatly enhanced neutron economy, allowing the reactor to operate without fuel enrichment facilities (mitigating the additional capital cost of the heavy water) and generally enhancing the ability of the reactor to efficiently make use of alternate fuel cycles.

Feasibility of government’s decision to approve the construction of ten 700 MW PHWRs-

nuclear reactor


  • No GHG emission-

Nuclear energy stands as one of the cleanest sources of energy as it does not generate any greenhouse gases and could help India to meet its ever-increasing need of electricity generation.

  • Stable and reliable source of electricity-

Unlike other renewable energy sources like wind, solar that depend on the weather conditions, nuclear energy offers stable and reliable source of energy all-round the year. The fluctuations in the electricity production are minimum.

  • Job creation-

As predicted by government that around 34000 jobs will be created by implementing this plan.

  • Technical superiority:

India can prove its technical superiority by indigenously making these reactors and in the future can take up projects in other countries as well.

  • Boost to make in India:

This would lead to a huge boost to Make-In-India initiative that could be followed in other sectors too.


  • Economically unviable-
    1. Although the 700 MW PHWRs are cheaper than imported reactors, their electricity is likely to be costly. Even prices for solar power have dropped below those of nuclear power. For example, the winning bid at the auction for the Bhadla Phase-IV Solar Park in Rajasthan held last month was Rs. 2.44 per unit, which is fixed for 25 years.
    2. The capital invested in any plant yields no returns while the plant is being constructed. At the end of construction, the government fixes a tariff by calculating a rate of return on the nominal amount of capital invested, disregarding the value this amount could have accumulated during this idle time. As a result, the effective rate of return on equity invested in nuclear energy is significantly lower than the rate of return provided by other sources of electricity that have shorter gestation periods.
  • Jobs created are not in proportion to the money invested-

A widely cited study by three analysts from the University of California, Berkeley, found that nuclear power created only 0.14 job-years per gigawatt-hour of electricity produced. In contrast, solar photovoltaic sources were more than six times as labour intensive, creating about 0.87 job-years per gigawatt-hour of electricity. 

  • Safety hazards and environmental issues-
    1. All nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste materials because each fission event involving nuclei of uranium or plutonium gives rise to radioactive elements called fission products. Some of these remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Despite decades of research, nuclear waste remains an unavoidable long-term problem for the environment.
    2. Nuclear reactors are also capable of catastrophic accidents, as witnessed in Fukushima and Chernobyl. A single nuclear disaster can contaminate large tracts of land with radioactive materials, rendering these areas uninhabitable for decades. More than 30 years after the accident at Chernobyl, about 650,000 acres are still excluded from inhabitation.
  • Lack of credibility of nuclear companies-

Both Areva and Westinghouse had entered into agreements with the Indian government to develop nuclear plants and both have went bankrupt in their respective nations.


Thus both the merits and demerits of the government’s decision shows that considering the availability of cheap renewable energy and high safety and environmental hazards from nuclear waste, it would be unfeasible to invest such high financial resources in the PHWRs.


Topic:  Agriculture; Biotechnology

5) What are the criticism made against GM Mustard by critics? Also discuss justifications given by scientists in favour of GM Mustard. (200 Words)

The Hindu


The regulator of the genetically modified crops has given the green signal for commercial cultivation of GM mustard in the country. In a submission to the Environment Ministry, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee has given a positive recommendation but with certain conditions. With the GEAC nod, the GM mustard developed by the Delhi University gets closer to become India’s first edible GM crop. Several groups are opposing the GEAC’s decision as it might affect allied agricultural activities, health of the people etc. The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 mod bs 2.99) for the development of a new generation of hybrids.

Criticism against the GM mustard-

  • India needs technological interventions in agriculture and other fields but the issue of genetically modified crops has always been controversial. Mustard is used for edible oil, their leaves are eaten and it is also used as ayurvedic medicine. Its impact on health of the people, environment, soil, groundwater or food chain is not known yet. The glufosinate-based herbicide to which the proposed GM mustard is tolerant will also have adverse impacts on health. A herbicide-tolerant crop promotes constant exposure to a single herbicide which eventually results in weeds becoming resistant.
  • There are social and economic concerns attached to any technology as well. In this case, farmers especially in Punjab and other mustard growing areas have said that they don’t need new varieties. They need better policy, pricing and to rationalize the input costs against the cost which they get after selling it in the markets. If these problems cannot be solved, bringing in another technology might not solve the problem.
  • GEAC needs to be a transparent body it should put it in the public domain that on what grounds it has approved GM mustard for citizens to analyze and stay aware whether it is good for them or not. If there is a lack of trust on the part of people who are to use it, it will be like forcing something upon them. India is a signatory to Cartagena Protocolon biosafety where it has committed to public participation in decision making.
  • There has to be strong liability lawsif there are any environmental hazards or if something goes wrong in future which are not there in India at present.
  • The pesticide industry’s efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms globally. Their business model aims only at making profit.
  • Allowing the cultivation of GM mustard would lead to a direct attack on women involved in the mustard crop weeding.

Justification given by scientists in favor of GM mustard-

  • The scientists maintain their stands that thorough investigations and tests have been done on GM Mustard and hence it is safe to use it.
  • A system of genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard have been used by the scientists. This is generally a self-pollinating plant and is better suited to hybridization than current methods.
  • Local crop developers can more easily develop different varieties of hybrid mustard,like GM cotton, and confer traits like pest resistance and potentially improving yield.
  • The problem of insects for crops is huge in our country but these seeds are resistant to insects and pests. It also requires less water to grow up.
  • India’s dependence on edible oil importsmakes it necessary to harness GM-mustard. About $12 billion is spent by India annually on import of edible oil.
  • As the population will increase, India will have to increase its productivityof oilseed crops.
  • DMH-11 is claimed to be one of the promising technologies to improve mustard yield in India, which has been almost stagnant since the last two decades.


Agriculture is a state subject therefore, it is important for the Centre to take into consideration the views of State Governments as well. It is expected that the Supreme Court will ensure protection of Indian consumers and farmers as giving a nod to GM mustard will pave the way for clearance to other GM crops as well whether the impact is good or bad.


Topic: Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

6) Discuss the significance of launch of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, the GSLV Mark-III. (200 Words)

The Hindu


The Indian Space Research Organisation has crossed a significant milestone with the successful developmental flight of the country’s heaviest Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, the GSLV Mark-III. This is the first time a satellite weighing over 3.1 tonnes has been launched from India to reach the geostationary orbit about 36,000 km from Earth.

flights of fancy


  • The Mk-III can launch satellites weighing up to four tonnes, which almost doubles India’s current launch capacity. With communication satellites becoming heavier (up to six tonnes), the capability for larger payloads is vital.
  • Another key achievement is the use of an indigenously developed cryogenic stage, which uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen; the 2010 GSLV launch using an indigenous cryogenic stage ended in failure. It can now be said without hesitation that India belongs to the elite club of countries that have mastered cryogenic technology.
  • The Mark-III will be operational with the success of one more developmental flight, which is set to take place within a year. This will make India self-reliant in launching heavier satellites, bringing down costs substantially. Till now, heavier communication satellites have been launched on Europe’s Ariane rockets.
  • The multi-billion international satellite market is a big attraction for India and it is quite clear that ISRO has its eyes set on this commercial opportunity with the GSLV Mk III launch.  A successful launch could give India significant cost advantages in this market, making it a preferred destination for many countries that need to launch heavier satellites in the coming years. ISRO over the years has proved itself to be a reliable and cost effective choice in the PSLV segment for small and medium satellites and gaining proficiency over GSLV Mk III could have a similar impact in the heavy communication satellite launch market.
  • With fewer propulsion stages and, therefore, control systems, the Mk-III is far more reliable than the GSLV and the PSLV.
  • Heavier satellite launch vehicle also means enhanced capacity to undertake deep space exploration in a more serious manner. Combined with its ability to carry eight to 10 tonnes into a low Earth orbit, the Mk-III can be considered for human-rating certification (to transport humans) once some design changes are made. Compared with the two-member crew capacity of the GSLV, the Mk-III can carry three astronauts and have more space to carry out experiments. 


All of these developments combine to make it one of the most critical flights in Isro’s history. Although the space technology frontier has moved on, promising to keep Isro engineers busy for a long time, GSLV Mark III is the culmination of all that Isro initially set out to do when first set up in the 1960s. When fully ready, it would give Isro self-reliance and the ability to put any satellite into any orbit.