SECURE SYNOPSIS: 25 July 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: Art and culture; Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
1) It is said that the Rig Veda is being closer to the Zoroastrian text Avesta than to the later Vedas. Discuss significance of this fact in ongoing debate on origin and migration of Aryan race. (200 Words)
The recent debate around the origin and migration of Aryan race is getting fresh evidences like genetic similarities to prove the connections. Texual comparison and similarities also indicates possible migration. Many scholars also support it. According to Romila Thapar it is these central Asian migrants who wrote the Avesta in Iran and Rig-Veda in India.
- There are lots of familiar names in Avestafrom the Rig-Veda and one of the first references comes not from India or Persia, but from northern Syria. A treaty signed by the Hittites and Mitannis dating to the fourteenth century BC calls upon Indara/Indra, Mitras(il)/Mitra, Nasatianna/Nasatya and Uruvanass(il)/Varuna, all known to Rig-Veda and
- There were similarities in rituals too. In India, upanayanais a ritual by which a boy becomes a full member of his class. Zoroastrians have a similar ceremony called Navjot which is still practiced by Parsis.
- The Rig-Veda refers to the drink soma which was drunk at sacrifices and which caused invigorating effects. The Avestagives physical descriptions of the plant haoma which causes similar effects, though the plant identified as haoma by modern Parsis is a bitter herb which does not get your drunk, but just bitter.
- Like the Rig-Veda, the texts of Avestawere collated over several hundred years and have been dated linguistically to around 1000 BCE.
The significance of it lies in that it strengthens the migration theory. However all things don’t support the claims. Even though there are similar words like haoma (soma), daha(dasa), hepta (sapta), hindu (sindhu), and Ahura (Asura) in Avesta and Rig-Veda, there are reversals in religious concepts and attributes of Gods.
- Indra and the devas are demonic in Avesta, and Ahura/asura is considered the highest deity.
- At the time of composition of the Vedas, Varuna was losing his importance to Indra. In Avesta, Ahura Mazda is the main divinityand some people think that he is the same as Varuna. Varuna sat with his spies who flew all around the world and bought back reports on the conduct of mortals. He abhorred sin and loathed evil deeds prompted by anger, drink and gambling.
Hence more evidences, analysis and thoughts need to be given to the debates and related proofs in order to draw any concrete conclusion.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Art. 370 of the Indian Constitution makes a special but temporary provision to allow the State of J&K its own constitution in order to ensure it more autonomy and greater federal democracy.
The extension of the GST implementation in Jammu and Kashmir through an executive order by the President under Article 370 has been widely criticised as an attack on state’s fiscal autonomy. However, GST, by its very nature, is a centralised, uniform system of taxation that demands greater collaboration and cooperation between the Centre and the States.
This is seen as a constitutional crossroad for the Union and the State of J&K for following reasons:
- J&K, like other states, would no longer have the power to impose its own taxes other than the State GST.
- J&K would also no longer have the power to decide tax rates as GST Council is now the constitutional body to decide on tax rates.
However, the safeguards taken to preserve special status are –
- It’s done with the concurrence of the Governor after consultation with Legislative assembly (Majority), which represents people of the state of J.K.
- Moreover, JK Govt’s concurrence is made mandatory on any decision taken by GST council, if it impinges on state’s constitutional provisions.
- JK’s power to legislate under sec 5 of state constitution remains unaffected.
Other Constitutional issues of contest between Jammu and Kashmir and centre are:
- Article 35A: it permits J&K legislature to define “permanent residents”. It also bars non-J&K state subjects to settle and buy property in J&K. It was added through The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954 by Article 370.
- To levy taxes: While the authority to levy taxes is derived from Article 246, which divides such power between Centre and states, but J&K derived its power to levy taxes from the J&K constitution, which is now modified.
- Use of Presidential orders to impose legislations: As no constitutional amendment in J&K can be carried out through Art. 368, it is only possible through Presidential orders under Article 370, that too only after ratification by State Legislative Assembly and Constituent Assembly, which ceased to exist in 1956.
- SARFAESI Act: The Act provides for direct recovery of loans advanced by the banks and financial institutions by way of seizure, auction and sale of the mortgaged immovable properties and other such immovable assets which were held as security in case of default without any court intervention or hassle. The honourable Supreme Court stated it does apply to J&K, after the state High Court ruled, it does not.
Impact of the move –
- These new reforms directly take away the fiscal autonomy that was hitherto extended to the State of J&K and would bring it at a par with the rest of Indian States.
- While, economically, it is believed to benefit the State of J&K, politically it is seen as surrendering of one of the facets of the autonomy that J&K had been enjoying.
- However, the larger goal of federalism should not be seen in a negative light, as rigid federalism has only been replaced by co-operative federalism, since GST Council is composed of Finance Ministers from every state, including J&K.
- This presents a classical example of how to facilitate better assimilation of people of J&K in the mainstream nationalism through innovative measures and developmental goals, instead of coercive platitudes of nationalism. The clamor against surrendering of autonomy was not strong as people realise the long-term benefits of a uniform market through GST.
We have to understand that J&K’s financial integration through GST shall not amount to a corrosion of “special status” the state has been provided. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity for J.K.’s national integration, co-operative federalism, and J.K.’s economic development and internal confidence building. In this context, an empathetic approach of negotiation is the only solution to resolve the union-state differences.
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
In May 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office advised the NITI Aayog, it’s premier, independent think tank, to prepare a Fifteen Year Vision, Seven Year Strategy and Three Year Action Agenda. As a result, NITI Aayog Action Agenda is a large Vision Document which spans a Three Year Agenda, a seven-year strategy and a 15-year vision till fiscal year 2031-32.
How does the Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda exercise differ from the Five Year Plan process?
The 12th Five Year Plan was the last of the Five Year Plans. With an increasingly open and liberalized economy and given the new realities of the global economy, we needed to rethink the tools and approaches to conceptualizing the development process. The Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda framework will allow us to better align the development strategy with the changed reality of India.
Three Year Action Agenda –
- Agriculture: Doubling Farmers’ Incomes by 2022
- Industry and Services: Job Creation
- Urban Development
- Regional strategies
- Transport and Digital Connectivity
- Science & Technology
- Taxation and Regulation
- Education and Skill Development
- Building an Inclusive Society
- Environment and Water Resources
Positives of Action Agenda –
- Wide Ranging: Covers many sectors of the economy.
- Comprehensive:An Agenda of this scope runs the risk of saying a little something about everything but the document manages to inform, reason, and offer a sense of priorities for policy reform.
- Core dilemma of economy addressed:
– 50% of India’s workforce employed in agriculture but contributes only 15% of output.
– Firms with less than 20 workers employ 72% of the manufacturing workforce and produce merely 12% of the manufacturing output.
– 40% of the services output is produced by merely 2% of the service sector workers, employed in the largest services firms.
- Productivity-enhancing reforms listed :
– use of high-yield seeds
– improved irrigation techniques
– removal of the tariff inversion problem
– modern land-leasing law to deal with small and fragmented holdings
– China Model : development of a few Coastal Economic Zones operating under a liberal environment (eg without restrictive labour laws) and with an abundance of land.
- Agenda offers a view of existing infrastructure on Transport and physical connectivity, as well as digital connectivity and lists measures to improve the same.
However, there are certain ground realities which haven’t been effectively addressed in the Action Agenda –
- Mixed Signals:International Trade is recognised as important to growth in the Action Agenda. But India has joined countries like Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela in efforts to derail TFA in WTO.
- There is considerable unevenness across the countryin access to the digital network and in the ability to benefit from such services.
- Its push for digitisation is most needed for the judicial system,primarily in the form of electronic case registration and management.
- India’s inefficient judicial system, that leads to poor contract enforcement.
- Progress on labour reformshave so far been slow.
- Lack of Stakeholders involvement in Skill India is not addressed.
- Silent on Political Reforms and hasn’t addressed environmental sustainability concerns adequately.
Other issues Missing from the Aayog’s vision:
- Political reforms are primarily more important.
- Inclusiveness should be primary focus.
- The problem of jobless growth which leads to poverty is missing.
- Problem of agrarian crisis
- Clean water, sanitation, slums, etc.
The real job of NITI Aayog should be to realize the real challenges behind any vision and not just putting forward a manifesto. In the current situation where domestic policy is not at peace agenda lacks some political reformatory vision. The agenda should focus mainly over how to solve the crisis rather than focusing on time frame. Immediate challenges need to be focused. The GOI schemes should be in line with the Aayog’s vision and inclusiveness. Intentions of GOI is perfectly placed, the roadmap is required to be paved.
Topic: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
4) “The GST, far from being a case of “cooperative federalism”, is really an incursion into the authority that India’s States have been permitted under the Constitution.” Critically comment. (200 Words)
Goods and services tax:
Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax applicable throughout India which replaced multiple cascading taxes levied by the central and state governments. It was introduced as The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2017, following the passage of Constitution 122nd Amendment Bill. The GST is governed by a GST Council and its Chairman is the Finance Minister of India. Under GST, goods and services are taxed at the following rates, 0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. There is a special rate of 0.25% on rough precious and semi-precious stones and 3% on gold. In addition a cess of 15% or other rates on top of 28% GST applies on few items like aerated drinks, luxury cars and tobacco products.
This is the most important aspect of the Goods and Services Tax, in ways bigger than the GST bill too, as the entire structure of GST is contingent on this foundation.
It is an apex body headed by the Union Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley with the State-nominated ministers and the Union Minister of State for Finance (In charge of Revenue) as members.
It is imperative to note that the decisions of the GST Council will shape whether this ambitious tax reform will achieve its due desired effect or not.
Criticism of GST as a challenge to federalism:
- Bill subsumes State Value Added Tax/Sales Tax, Entertainment Tax (other than the tax levied by the local bodies), Central Sales Tax (levied by the Centre and collected by the States), Octroi and Entry tax, Purchase Tax, Luxury tax, Taxes on lottery, betting and gambling; and State cesses and surcharges in so far as they relate to supply of goods and services. In short, not just State governments, but local bodies will be affected by the GST proposal.
- Each state has its own socio-economic-political reasons to decide the type of tax to be levied. The GST will take away the rights of states to decide taxes according to their socio-economic situations.
- There is also an argument that, without federal powers to decide taxes according to their necessities, States will have to come with a begging bowl to the Centre frequently.
- Taxation powers cannot be viewed only as a measure of resource mobilisation. It could be used as a tool to control and restrict the consumption of some goods for social good.This aspect of taxation policy of state will be compromised due to uniform tax structure. Each state has different list of products on which the varied tax regime is applied to reduce / increase the consumption of that particular commodity.
- In this constitutional scheme, State governments are seen as equal partners, and thought it necessary to be careful in allocating the powers of taxation. The partition made for this purpose was highly intricate, and ensured that the taxes assigned to the Union and the States were mutually exclusive.
- The decision in GST council has to be taken by 75% votes with center having weightage of one third votes. It may undermine the aspiration of few states.
- There is some confusion about the GST Council’s decisions are actually binding on the various State governments. The newly introduced Article 279A, which creates the council, describes its decisions as “recommendations”, but it also grants the council the power to establish a mechanism to adjudicate any dispute that might arise between any of its members in implementing the recommendations.
There is also an argument that GST will not hamper the cooperative federalism. The points are as follows:
- Though the GST has integrated many taxes and taken out much of the heads from states, it has not prohibited states to create new taxes as such. This provision provides freedom to the states to gain revenue from some innovative heads of taxation.
- There is 5 year compensation provision in case of any losses which fills the revenue gap of the states to some extent.
- There is 2/3 representation to states in the GST council has been provided to the states. This provision protects the state interests effectively.
- As per the finance commission recommendations, state has all the discretionary authority to spend 42% tax devoluted center to the state governments. This autonomy is in symphony with cooperative federalism.
- The complicated tax-levy system categorized by distortions between States and Center which divides the country into separate economic zones with the help of GST will become one common national market.
The very objective of GST regime is to establish a unified tax structure and further to reform tax network to enhance tax base. In long term, the GST will create more revenues for state and thus it should be judge on the basis of short term impediments.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
US-India military relations derive from a common belief in freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and seek to advance shared security interests. In this wide-ranging partnership, science, technology, and innovation have played an especially vital role bringing countries closer together.
The India USA cooperation in terms of science and related fields:
- NASA, in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization, is working on an ambitious Earth Science mission called NISAR, planned for launch in 2021. NISAR will take unprecedented measurements of our planet’s most complex processes, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides; and it will be launched on an Indian rocket.
- The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), was signed by the two countries on 29 August 2016. The LEMOA permits the military of either country to use the others’ bases for re-supplying or carrying out repairs.
- The India–United States Civil Nuclear Agreement also referred to as the “123 Agreement”, signed on 10 October 2008 is a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation which governs civil nuclear trade between American and Indian firms to participate in each other’s civil nuclear energy sector.
- The Agricultural Trade relations has three main objectives: agreeing on terms that will allow India to export mangoes to the United States, permitting India’s Agricultural and Process Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to certify Indian products to the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and executing regulation procedures for approving edible wax on fruit.
- The PACE setter Fund is a joint effort between the U.S. Embassy and the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to fund innovative, small scale renewable energy solutions to bring reliable power to the over 250 million Indians who live off-grid.
- In partnership with USAID, the Millennium Alliance is a public private partnership that leverages Indian creativity and expertise to scale locally developed innovations to benefit populations across India and the world
The relations are important to India because:
- This will help to adopt global best practices as USA has expertise in many fields of science and technology.
- Both countries has the long tradition of democracy, thus the exchange of information on dual use technology and nuclear cooperation can play vital role in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapon and peaceful use of existing N technology.
- Human resource development through education facilities and exchange of knowledge services between two countries will help in long term for science and technology development.
- Contemporary digital media is making positive impacts on society, such as strengthening civil society and public debate and making governments more responsive to the needs of their citizens. This internet freedom is a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy and thus equally inspiring for Indian society.
- The future belongs to renewable energy and sustainable development. India USA relations hold all possible potential for partnership in the area of Sustainable development.
- Public private partnership between India and USA is the key area which is yet to be explored.
Key recent developments include the rapid growth of India’s economy, closer ties between the Indian and American industries especially in the Information and communications technology (ICT), engineering and medical sectors, an informal pact to manage an increasingly assertive China, robust cooperation on counter-terrorism can create a win win situation.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Reliance Jio has announced a plan that could disrupt the telecom landscape by challenging existing price points. For a refundable security deposit of Rs. 1,500 and a tenth of that as monthly charges, it plans to give away free feature phones that will support 4G services and can be returned after three years. Incumbent service providers, now saddled with high debt that could turn into non-performing assets for lenders, are naturally wary of this move
- Network neutrality, or net neutrality, is the principle that the Internet should remain open so consumers have unrestricted access to lawful web sites and online businesses and entrepreneurs can compete freely on a level playing field.
- Some broadband providers, realizing the potential for more profits, want to give preferential treatment to certain sites, such as their own content or sites willing to pay extra fees.
- Without network neutrality, broadband providers could block or slow down traffic to any web sites or services they choose. Services such as streaming video or making free or cheap phone calls over the Internet could be blocked. So could the sharing of lawful media content or access to political content.
Why it is important in the Indian context-
- The number of internet users is increasing rapidly in India. While it is important that there should be easy and cheap availability of internet to them, it should not be at the cost of independence of choosing one among all.
- The dominant Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can kill the competition in the market by offering cheap services vis-à-vis others. However in the long term, this can create monopoly of one player that could prove detrimental for the consumers’ interests.
- A Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends Report for 2017 notes that even though smartphone and data costs are declining in India, they are still too high for most. Cheaper phones as well as data are essential to bring online the next 100-200 million people. However it is important that this should not happen just by offering access to few websites at no cost or by initially offering huge discounts or even free access and then increasing the charges later.
- There is need to create right kind of environment and culture where healthy competition among service providers helps in bridging the digital divide in countries like India. Network neutrality is way to ensure the same.
- The internet and digital revolution in India should not take place at the mercy of any particular service provider, but with the help of all the stakeholders in the process. Thus it is very important that network neutrality is maintained and preserved to realize the true gains of the internet and digital services.
- The Internet has reinvented the way ideas and policies are debated. Every Indian with Internet access has a voice in the socio-economic and political processes through blogging, podcasts, or uploading videos via sites like YouTube. Unless nondiscrimination rules are established, broadband providers will be free to block legal content that they deem objectionable or simply don’t want to compete with.
Recently Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s chairman R.S. Sharma has said that network neutrality is critical in this digital era, must create an ecosystem where users are not stuck in walled garden environments offered by individual players. Hence network neutrality is important for a country like India.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of Space
Outer space treaty-
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law. The treaty was opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on 27 January 1967, and entered into force on 10 October 1967. As of July 2017, 107 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification.
The Outer Space Treaty provides the basic framework on international space law, including the following principles:
- the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
- outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
- outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
- States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
- the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
- astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
- States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
- States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
- States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.
However, the Treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit and thus some highly destructive attack strategies such as kinetic bombardment are still potentially allowable. The treaty also states that the exploration of outer space shall be done to benefit all countries and that space shall be free for exploration and use by all the States.
Amendment to the treaty: Like other treaties, the Outer Space Treaty allows for amendments or member withdrawal. Article XV permits countries to propose amendments. An amendment can only enter into force if accepted by a majority of states-parties, and it will only be binding on those countries that approve the amendment. Article XVI states a country’s withdrawal from the treaty will take effect a year after it has submitted a written notification of its intentions to the depositary states-the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Is there a necessity for new space treaty today?
Although the treaty is in force for the last 50 years, there have emerged some challenges to the treaty which are-
- The environment of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union certainly motivated this ban on military activity at a time when fractional orbital bombardment and other orbital nuclear delivery systems were being considered.
- However, the utilization of space has increased dramatically since the Cold War to the extent that everyday activities from telecommunications to financial markets to civilian navigation rely heavily on space infrastructure. Protecting these space assets is important given that their destruction would not only affect the military but could also effectively cripple economies.
- The prime danger to these space assets are anti-satellite weapons. Although technically the treaty does not allow these types of weapons (considering the ban on military activities), the fact is that these have been under development at times in the past, and may be so today. In order to protect these assets, it may be necessary to claim zones around these space assets as national territory in order to protect them. However, such a notion would clearly fly in the face of the res communis doctrine of the Outer Space Treaty.
- Also there is the additional danger of terrorism. One of the lessons of the 9/11 attacks on the United States is that terrorist activity has become increasingly sophisticated and it stands to reason that, eventually, terrorist groups may gain the technical ability to affect US space-based assets or even use space itself as a launching point for their attacks. To that end, it is necessary to develop the means to impede that activity but that would require more military activity in space, something the res communis doctrine of the Outer Space Treaty discourages and eventually looks to eliminate.
- The Outer Space Treaty, like all international law, is technically binding to those countries who sign up to it. But the obvious lack of “space police” means that it cannot be practically enforced. So, a country, individual or company could simply ignore it if they so wished. Implications for not complying could include sanctions, but mainly a lack of legitimacy and respect which is of importance in the international arena.
Thus there is need to create new treaty which creates the mechanism that ensure the strict adherence of the use of space for peaceful purposes. The earlier treaty began with three members negotiating the terms of the treaty. With the number of countries using space going up, the new treaty would have advantage of involving all the stakeholders in the negotiations of the terms. Thus the new treaty would have more legitimacy and would absolute power and authority to punish the violator of the treaty.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators
The socio religious reform movements of 18th and 19th century in India saw emergence of many great personalities. These leaders, reformers, educationist, thinkers, journalists made a strong efforts to weed out the evils present in society. Many lessons in ethics can be learnt from them as follows:-
- Visionary attitude and rational understanding:- They tried to analyse the causes of Indian political and cultural subjugation. Though they wanted to spread western ideas and institutions they didn’t go for blind imitation rather modified those ideas as per Indian needs.
- Liberal, progressive and egalitarian attitude:- Reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotiba Phule wanted to liberate Indians from clutches of evils. They emphasized equality of mankind against discrimination on basis of caste, creed, birth etc.
- Democratic and assimilatory approach:- Reformers wanted dignity for each individual, respect for all. They were inclusive in approach and were open to all good ideas from all religion, culture and society. They used force of law to pursue their cause.
- Justice, equality and fraternity :- All reformers emphasized on them in order to create and egalitarian, just society. They are also required to uphold the dignity, individuality of people.
- They were living examples of devotion, selfless ness, tolerance, peaceful existence, non -violence, humanism, compassion. These values, ethics could be seen in their personal life and their work. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was hurt by his sister in law’s Sati to extreme extend and then devoted his life for that cause. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar used to give his coat to the first needy person sighted on streets. Swami Vivekanand said service to man is service to god.
Their life and work set high ideals, ethics and goals to be followed by the generations. In today’s society their importance has become even more relevant. We must try to imbibe them into us and society.