SECURE SYNOPSIS: 26 DECEMBER 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: Salient features of Indian society; Social empowerment; Population and associated issues
Caste is scripturally legitimised, socially pervasive and politically relevant system of birth-based discrimination continues to haunt and hurt the Scheduled Castes of India, also called Dalits.
United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) special rapporteur noted that there had ben a significant increase in crimes against Dalits. The report also pointed to state complicity in institutionalising the practice of manual scavenging, which continues to kill Dalit sanitation workers and is rampant in India despite laws to the contrary.
This provides a compelling reason to evaluate if recognition of caste-based discriminations as racial discrimination by India – and the consequent international scrutiny this will attract – may have some tangible effect.
International law and caste discrimination
- The International Convention on Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination is a major international instrument that aims to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations from the world.
- India is a party to the convention and as per Article 9 is mandated to submit a report, every two years, stating the measures taken in furtherance of the objectives of the convention. This report needs to be submitted to a committee, referred to as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), established under Article 8 of the convention.
- The convention defines racial discrimination to mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
- The word ‘caste’ is not expressly mentioned in this definition; however the CERD, in its 61st session in 2002, recommended that: “Discrimination based on descent includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights.”
- India has consistently reiterated that ‘caste’ cannot be equated with ‘race’ or covered under ‘descent’ and thus has refused any information pertaining to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or issues related to this group in the periodic reports it submits to the CERD.
- India justifies its stand by taking recourse to its constitutional provisions in which the terms caste, race and descent are used separately and thus are mutually exclusive.
- When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was being drafted, India actually advocated that caste should be recognised as a prohibited ground of discrimination at the international level, albeit this did not fructify. The words “other status” and “social origin” were sufficiently broad to cover the whole field” of discrimination.
- This clearly illustrates the fact India’s stance on recognition of caste as a prohibited ground of discrimination at the international level has changed over the years to shield itself from international scrutiny.
How bringing caste in would help India’s Dalits
- Affirmative action for all dalits irrespective of religion
- First, one of the notable recommendations of the committee was that the affirmative action benefits must be given to all Dalits irrespective of their religion.
- India, till date, takes away caste-based entitlements from Dalits who decide to embrace Islam or Christianity based on a 1950 Presidential Order. The order provides that only Hindus (including Sikhs and Buddhists) can be Scheduled Caste.
- This has been vehemently criticised even by the government-appointed Gopal Singh committee in 1983. The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Soosai v. Union of India, has also conceded that caste continues to exist even after conversion.
2.Affirmative action in private sector
- Second, the CERD has recommended that reservation benefits to Dalits must be extended to the private sector.
- The fact that government jobs constitute only 3% of all jobs in the country, it is imperativve to provide reservation in the remaining 97% for the Dalits who are economically vulnerable to contemporary economic activities as well.
- Caste is not actually racial
- India is an extremely diverse country with unique socio-cultural entity. Racial definitions are not enough to describe the nature of caste based discrimination.
- Caste is something that cuts across the race, and place of origin.
- For example both upper castes and lower castes can be found in North Indians, South Indians, and North-Easterns.
2.Demographic profile may be disturbed
- Extension of affirmative action to all religions can lead to mass conversions and swift disturbance of demographic profile of the country.
3.Caste politics divisiveness
- Indian politics that is already saturated with and suffering from caste based politics and vote banks is bound to further become more divisive and dysfunctional.
- However, there is no denying the fact that caste forms the basis of social and economic life in India and is thus to come in the discourse in myriad forms, if not identity.
- Since India continues to regard caste-based discrimination as outside the purview of the CERD, these recommendations, relevant as they are, remain on paper – not even meriting attention from the government.
- It may not be able to brush the CERD’s recommendations completely under the carpet once it recognises caste-based discriminations to be within its purview. India’s periodic reports to the CERD have been pending since 2008.
- India should go a step further and make a declaration under Article 14 of the convention and allow individual aggrieved Dalits to directly approach the CERD.
- Indian people, civil society and state are better equipped to determine the nature of caste system and determine the way and course of its elimination from social life.
- The idea of treating caste as race has already been denied by Indian Constituent Assembly as it would further reinforce caste and divide the country. Indian Constitution has already assured Equality, Non-Discrimination and Prohibition of Untouchability as Fundamental Rights.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Trade Multilateralism can be defined as the progress of world trade in goods and services at a scale covering and connecting multiple economies. It stands for a regime of open and trade with very few restrictions. The WTO has been established with the mandate of trade multilateralism and in ensuring the benefits of trade worldwide.
However, since the formation of WTO, a crisis has emerged in aspects of trade multilateralism. The reasons can be attributed as follows
Areas where WTO faltered
- Nature of the original agreements
- The original agreements have been one-sided denying full potential of global trade to be realised by the poor countries.
- As a result, the north-south divide which persisted after the centuries of colonialism could not be bridged.
3.BRICS emergence as an alternative and lobby
- Aggression of the BRICS lobby on subsidies, agriculture and food security
4.Negotiations became extreme
- From secret anteroom negotiations and the subtle ways of global diplomacy, today, countries are quick to state their extreme negotiation positions publicly—seemingly more for the benefit of their constituencies at home.
- This makes negotiations more cumbersome.
5.Dispute settlement mechanism suffering and thus interests of small countries
- The dispute resolution mechanism, which has been in place since the WTO’s inception in 1995, has served its purpose well.
- It has been a great leveller and has enabled smaller countries like Barbados and Antigua to take the US to the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) and prevail. It has been widely hailed as the biggest success of the WTO.
- WTO dispute settlement mechanism involves consultations, panel proceedings, appellate body proceedings, and implementation and enforcement. US has refused to participate in the appointment of new judges to the appellate body. Members are usually appointed by consensus, and the US is a major participant.
- The delays will compel WTO members to look for other solutions, potentially elsewhere.
- Outside the WTO system, weaker countries will be disadvantaged.
6.Trump’s America First protectionism
- US policies will have long-term effects on global trade.
- Scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement
- Undermining of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement
7.Weakened EU after Brexit
- Add to this mix a weakened EU and a Britain with a dire need to either be part of a robust multilateral system or have its own trade agreements.
Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.
- India’s Jerusalem vote can be interpreted as a continuing adherence to its traditional policy of nonalignment. But a more appropriate interpretation of the vote is possible within the framework of India’s leading power ambitions.
- India supported a move by Mauritius to take its sovereignty claims over the British-controlled Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), against the wishes of the U.S.
- In November when India won a seat on the ICJ, in spite of active opposition from the U.S.
Leading power ambition
- The goal is to transform India from being a ‘balancing power’ to a ‘leading power’ on the international stage. U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy released recently offers support for this aspiration of India to emerge as a ‘leading power.’
- Supporters of the ‘leading power’ doctrine often argue, rightly, that India must be more forthright and articulate in expressing its position on issues confronting the world. As it did, for instance, by speaking up on the Belt and Road Initiative. So, abstaining was not an attractive option for an aspiring leading power.
- Possibilities in US’s transition phase
- Asthe U.S. under Mr. Trump is undergoing a transition from being a hegemon to being a bully in its leadership role, the disruptive streak opens new possibilities for India’s leading power ambitions, but that cannot be achieved by blindly following American diktats.
- Mauritius wanted the UNGA to request the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on its sovereignty claim over archipelago as it considers it as an unfinished agenda of decolonisation. The U.S. recognises U.K. sovereignty over the territory of Chagos Archipelago and they jointly operate the Diego Garcia military base there. India voted in support of the resolution, overcoming the fear of a bilateral dispute being taken to ICJ. “The process of decolonisation that started with our own independence, still remains unfinished seven decades later,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said in a statement on India’s vote.
- In November, the U.S. supported the U.K. in its contest against India for an ICJ seat, as did all other permanent members of the Security Council. India stood its ground and won the day as the UNGA overwhelmingly supported it, forcing other permanent members to limit their support to the U.K., which finally withdrew its candidate.
2.Staying with global groupings and general opinion
- India keeps itself in the company of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), groupings that India continues to value.
- While BRICS and the SCO stayed together, the American-led NATO split on the issue, and even the Five Eyes countries of the English-speaking West — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. — did not stay together on most crucial votes in the UN in recent times.
- Leading power ambitions are not realised by declaring unquestioning allegiance to anyone.
- Three UNGA votes over six months are more about multilateral diplomacy coming of age. India can be great friends with the U.S. and Israel and still disagree with them on some issues.
Topic: Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
- NCRB reports point towards the increase in the number of crime against women in different parts of the country.
- As criminal justice solutions have largely been inaccessible to socially precarious women, a more inclusive alternative is to have collective-based resolution mechanisms.
- The potential of large-scale groups of women, such as self-help groups (SHGs), becomes critical in the Indian context.
Role of women collectives
- Work with government, community and private sector
- They work with governments, community groups and the private sector
2.Implementation and evaluation of projects
- They develop and implement programs, monitor and evaluate their progress
- They help train people working on those projects.
4.Reach upto most vulnerable women
- They’re considered more nimble than other institutions in accomplishing development goals because they can reach the most vulnerable or disaffected people in a community and find innovative solutions to problems.
- Although their funding streams and institutional decision-making structures are typically multinational, NGOs’ legitimacy, indeed, often rests on perceptions of them being “local” and “close to the people.”
5.Act as dispute resolution platform for crime against women
- India has experimented with many models of community dispute resolution mechanisms — the Nari Adalats (women courts) in various States, Women’s Resource Centres (Rajasthan), Shalishi (West Bengal), and Mahila Panchayats (Delhi) — which have seen intimate partner violence, IPV as a public issue rather than a personal problem.
- Several NGOs have co-opted these models so that women can resolve cases of violence without getting entangled in tedious legal processes
- The SHGs have shown good results in socio-economic conditions in different parts of India. But most of these are only concentrated in certain pockets of country.
- So there is need to address this imbalance and use them as conduit to reach the marginalized sections of women for their empowerment.
- Collectives of women need adequate investment for building their capacities; there must be investment in specific training, and gender analysis processes. SHGs are mostly seen as administrative entities. Their social role can be enhanced to tackle the widespread problem of IPV.
Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
- Just like US states, Indian states can serve as laboratories of democracy—and their experiments are getting more and more cutting edge.
- States made digital governance a focus of their reforms across a wide variety of sectors. Their efforts showed that states recognize the importance of citizen involvement as a link to political support.
- Easy access to governance
- Nagaland has moved its entire Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme payment architecture to digital payments. Workers’ wages will now be credited directly to their bank accounts, increasing transparency and minimizing opportunities for fraud.
- Maharashtra launched the MahaDBT portal, which will allow beneficiaries of all state government schemes to have cash benefits deposited directly into their bank accounts.
- Six states (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh) as well as the Union territory of Puducherry announced that they would use the Central government e-marketplace (GeM) to conduct procurements.
- Karnataka’s agriculture department is working with Microsoft to use Big Data to develop a price forecasting model that will help farmers determine what crops to plant to obtain the best return on their investment.
- In a boost for manual labourers, the Punjab labour department has decided to use an online portal to register construction workers and to increase transparency and accuracy in the distribution of benefits to them.
2.Enhancing capabilities of masses
- Gujarat signed a memorandum of understanding with Google to advance its ‘Digital Gujarat’ agenda to train small and medium entrepreneurs to use digital platforms for business development
- Haryana’s chief minister partnered with the Dell Foundation to create a cell in his office to lead efforts to raise the quality of education and skills training in the state.
- Chhattisgarh has decided that empowering women through distribution of smartphones will be a way to improve access to services and information which can be used to conduct small business.
- West Bengal has decided to launch a new portal to support a new state agency created by the passage of the state’s Single Window System Bill to expedite industrial clearances for businesses.
3.Delivery of healthcare services
- Telangana signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft India to use cloud-based analytics to improve the state’s child-health screenings. The programme will draw on the Big Data contained in Microsoft’s Intelligent Network for Eyecare to catch vision issues before they are detectable.
- Telangana, specifically Hyderabad, is also home to a pilot of digital health records that will test whether digitization can increase access to state-provided benefits for women and children while also reducing the administrative load.
- Karnataka is partnering with Tata Trusts to open a health services hub that will use digitization of health records to better track whether area residents are receiving benefits using Aadhar. The project hopes to increase use of local primary healthcare centres by 50%.
- Uttar Pradesh will introduce telemedicine clinics to expand healthcare reach to citizens who are not in areas with easy access to hospitals. Control rooms in five cities will be armed with a team of doctors available 24×7 to provide consultations to patients.
- Digital governance holds out the exciting possibility that even India’s smallest and least-developed states can see huge gains in their governance capabilities.
- Given the global interest in the potential for innovation in this area, states should have no trouble finding partners willing to provide funds and expertise.
- But truly achieving the potential for digital innovation requires that state governments be willing to accept the need for transparency and reform.
General Studies – 3
- India is urbanising fast with over 7,000 cities and towns of different population and sizes. The country’s cities and towns constitute 11 per cent of the world’s urban population. Various studies predict that 40 per cent of the country’s population will be living in cities and towns by 2030.
- As per the UN’s projections, India’s share in the world’s urban population will rise to 13 per cent by 2030.
- Making smart cities inclusive is also consistent with Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Smart City Project deficiency
- A smart city plan should provide for core infrastructure, which while ensuring a decent quality of life to its citizens, also focuses on a creating a sustainable and inclusive environment.
- However, while current smart city plans seem to focus on tangible outcomes that pertain to physical aspects of development, they fall short of addressing the requirements of the country’s human capital, including the welfare and well-being of all children.
- One such reality is the issue of migration from rural to urban centres. Such migrations almost always include children, many of whom get displaced and end up in street situations.
Children in cities
- More than 3.6 crore children (in the age group of 0 to 6 years) live in urban areas, of whom at least 81 lakh live in slums.
- According to Save the Children’s recent report, ‘Life on the Street’, there are well over 20 lakh children on the streets of India.
- Save the Children and The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights recently developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for children in street situations. The SOP has been endorsed by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development and needs to implemented on a pan-India basis.
How to make cities children friendly?
- According to the UN’s Smart City Framework, a “child-friendly city” should be a multi-dimensional and comprehensive concept, where, children are active agents and their opinion influences the decision-making process.
- A child-friendly city is one that has a system of local governance, and is committed to fulfilling children’s rights, which include influencing decisions about the city, expressing their opinion, participating in social life, receiving basic services, walking and playing safely, living in an unpolluted environment and being an equal citizen.
- Reaping of the demographic dividend will require focus on urban governance, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education.
- The focus needs to be on smaller towns and cities in India. This is important because 68 per cent of India’s urban population does not live in metros but in towns that have a population of less than 100,000.
- The smart city concept in India is at a nascent stage. It could still include components that will make it amenable to children’s needs. It could aim to ensure that children do not end up in street situations. This would require comprehensive planning and partnership among various policy-makers and stakeholders.
- The country’s young population is its biggest strength. But realising the full potential of this section will require including children from the most vulnerable and marginalised classes in the nation-building process.
- Addressing the needs of 20 lakh children in street situations, as well as other children across all smart cities, is not merely a question of their survival and dignity, but is vital for ensuring a peaceful, prosperous and just India.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration
Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin.
Many politicians and administrators are often been influenced by superstitions and blind faith. It shows their wanting in emotional Intelligence, scientific temper and belief in oneself.
It causes harm to governance in the following ways
- Decision making influenced
- Due to blind faith , superstition often prevails over the reason in their decisions and policies. It makes the decision and policies ineffective which not only cost the exchequer but also hampers the trust of citizens in the government.
- A superstitious politicians can not solve problems with the help of science and logic. E.g the issue of black magic, infanticide should be dealt with liberal and scientific mindset, otherwise it would create disharmony in the society.
- Superstition mars the scientific rationale. Administrators advocating this type of attitude indirectly promote irrationality among people. Society becomes prone to vulnerability.
- Such influenced politicians deprive sections of people who are considered to be inauspicious. Inclusive growth is hampered. It creates an environment of deprivation, partiality, anguish, distrust among those people.
- Eg politicians not visiting a particular place because it is inauspicious hampers the growth of that particular place.
4.Clouds accountability through superstitions
- Superstitous politicians and their blind faith do not let them to see through their shortcomings in their functioning. It hampers the democratic nature of our governance, it lacks transparency, accountability and reliability on their part.
- As is said, “CONSCIENCE WITHOUT JUDGEMENT IS SUPERSTITION”
- As our constitution deems it as a Fundamental Duty to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform, it is required that politicians and other administrators should avoid all the superstitous practices in their official capacities so that they do not percolate through the public discourse.