SECURE SYNOPSIS: 17 FEBRUARY 2018
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: Changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
- There have been glaring changes in the demography of Cauvery for example the increase in the population that lives in the basin. There has been a two fold increase from till 2011 since 1921 based on census data. This has altered the usage of water of this river.
Affected cropping pattern:-
- There has been increase in cropping area and irrigation command area between 1980 and 2000.
- Cropping pattern in Tamil Nadu has changed from two to three crops of paddy per year between the 1970s and 1990s.
- In Karnataka farmers have opted to grow paddy over much more water-efficient crops such as millets and ragi.
- Farmers in both the states have also started cultivating water-intensive sugarcane along the Cauvery basin.
Water use pattern:-
- Contributed to the scarcity of water in the river.
- Sewage and industrial effluents from hundreds of villages, towns and cities are dumped untreated into the river, reducing its quality and flow. This has degraded the quality of water.
- The water use for cultivation of rice in Cauvery basin increased This was mainly due to the popularity of growing a third paddy crop especially in Tamilnadu, for which water use more than tripled.
- Bengaluru’s current demand for water from the Cauvery comes to over 10 per cent of the total water allocated to Karnataka. 45% of the water is lost in leakages.
Land use pattern:-
- There has been a reduction in the forest area, especially close to the source of the river could potentially reduce the yield of the river in the years to come. According to the “State of Forest” reports dense forests in both these districts have declined by about 10 per cent between 2001 and 2013.
- Reports show that drop in forest cover has led to changes in the coffee-growing system that has shifted from streamfed shady plantations to irrigated plantations
- Water conservation methods like rain water harvesting need to be encouraged at the ground level.
- It would be much more efficient to restore the lakes in the city and recycle water for usage .This is especially true with Bengaluru.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
2) India’s energy requirements and greater geopolitical clout have resulted in it importing more hydrocarbon resources from Russia. Analyse how will ongoing tensions between Russia and the West, fluctuating crude oil prices, and the falling value of the rouble affect Indo–Russian cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector. (250 Words)
- Indo–Russian bilateral cooperation has been promising in the hydrocarbon sector. Of India’s hydrocarbon imports by the end of 2012, Russia’s share was $176 million.
- In the light of India’s growing energy necessity, commitment to Paris agreement there is need to diversify the energy imports and reduce dependence on Coal.
Impact on Indo –Russian cooperation:-
- With its liberal market policy on the export of natural gas and foreign investment in the country, Russia has developed major LNG projects to pump gas to Asian markets.
- Western sanctions:-
- India went ahead with the 15th Indo–Russian Bilateral Summit in 2014 despite US protesting that it was not a good time to make business with Russia as usual.
- Deprived of Western investment, Russia is turning towards Asian markets. The sanctions have created remarkable opportunities for Asian investors, particularly India, for opening joint ventures in the Russian energy sector.
- From the Russian perspective, Asian investors are particularly useful, as they provide cost-effective deals and do not engage themselves in matters of Russian foreign policy.
- The Western sanctions have prevented Russian energy companies from developing challenging exploration projects. Therefore, even though the sanctions do not affect the ongoing Russian gas trade, they definitely compromise future Russian gas supply obligations.
- Another painful consequence of the Western economic sanctions is the restriction on foreign investment.
- Alongside the decline in the price of crude, sanctions have affected bilateral business by delaying the work to be done. The Indian interest to drill shale oil in Siberia could be delayed since Russian companies have contracted US firm Liberty Resources to drill four wells in the Bazhenov shale formation in Siberia.
- Declining value of the Russian rouble :-
- The rouble has lost roughly 23% of its value vis-à-vis the dollar, the euro, and the yen, and it loses about $2 billion in revenue for every dollar fall in the price of oil
- Indian investment in Russia will give impetus to the Russian economy and help in stabilising the rouble.
- Fluctuating crude oil prices:
- Russia is especially vulnerable to those prices, since energy exports make up half of its budget.
- Due to falling oil prices India’s macro-economic indicators such as inflation, current account deficit (CAD), and trade balance improved so it will be in a better shape for trade with Russia.
- The low prices may make many new projects of Indian oil and gas companies like ONGC and OIL unviable, particularly in high-cost projects such as drilling in deepwater, in the Arctic, in Sakhalin, and the Yamal Peninsula.
- Hence, Russian and Indian companies will recover very soon and their joint investment and cooperation in the energy sector, at the national and global context, will take the momentum further.
- Moscow’s overseas quest for the 2,600 km-long overland Russia–China–India (RCI) pipeline is congruent with the shifting emphasis in the energy sector globally. If this pipeline is not operationalised, alternative pipeline options could be available for India to access Russian oil and natural gas.
- For example, the Russian pipeline that reaches Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan could be extended to connect with the ongoing Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India gas pipeline (R–TAPI).
- Russia’s involvement in the R–TAPI project will speed up the process of the ongoing TAPI project and lastly, diversifying suppliers by buying more oil from Russia will cushion India against geopolitical risks and take energy security to a higher trajectory.
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure,
- Recently the SC gave the judgement reducing the share of water of the Cauvery river allotted to Tamilnadu by the Cauvery tribunal. This brought in to forefront the issue of water disputes .
Significance and implications:-
- Water disputes:-
- By upholding the approach of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal, while slightly modifying its award, the Supreme Court has boosted the prospects of a viable water-sharing arrangement among the riparian States.
- Verdict awarded a lesser amount to Tamil Nadu considering this particular aspect of groundwater. The verdict, in principle, now allows aggrieved states engaged in inter-state river disputes to gather data and stake claims based on available levels of groundwater.
- The Supreme Court’s message is that the Centre should get down to creating a legal and technical framework to implement the Tribunal’s award, as modified by the judgment. This is the strongest affirmation so far of a basin State’s right to its share of water on a regular basis. So a Cauvery Water Management Board need to be set up.
- The court rejected an argument by the Centre that Section 6A of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 bestowed upon it discretion in framing a Cauvery water-sharing scheme. The court said the argument does not stand to reason and a scheme has to be framed under Section 6A as per the award of the CWDT.
- The Centre had argued that the parliamentary law of Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 coupled with Article 262 (2) of the Indian Constitution excluded the Supreme Court from hearing or deciding any appeals against the tribunal’s decision. The Centre had claimed the tribunal award was final.
- The apex court however held that the remedy under Article 136 was a constitutional right and it cannot be taken away by a legislation much less by invoking the principle of election
- It has thrown open the possibility of re-examining the availability of groundwater
- The Supreme Court laid down the concept of warrantable flexibility. It noted that the concept of a basin and the beneficial use of the water ought to be traced generally to the sites and population thereof located in the basin.
- It has underscored that no single State has primacy in accessing water resources and that rivers are national assets. This is a significant recognition of the principle of equitable distribution of inter-State rivers
- The court said the principle of equality among the riparian States does not imply equal division of water. Equality here means equal consideration and equal economic opportunity of the co-basin States.
- Court said the tribunal did not consider the growing needs of Bengaluru .The government allotted water to the city even though it is largely outside the Cauvery basin considering the growth of population.
- The Supreme Court referred to the Helsinki Rules of 1966, which recognise equitable use of water by each basin State taking into consideration the geography and hydrology of the basin, the climate, past utilisation of waters, economic and social needs, dependent population and availability of resources.
- The judgment also refers to the Campione Rules in the context of the Cauvery dispute. These Rules hold that basin States would in their respective territories manage the waters of an international drainage basin in an equitable and reasonable manner.
- The verdict has brought a sense of relief to farmers in the Cauvery basin area of Karnataka, who have fought for water for over two decades.
- Any further water supplied to Bengaluru would amount to trans-basin diversion in complete contravention of the principles of equitable apportionment, the National Water Policy and the Helsinki Rules, 1966. Such trans-basin diversion is detrimental and would lead to chaos
- Experts feel verdict was very favourable for Tamil Nadu.
Topic: Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Why role of civil society and people is needed in budget making?
- Citizen participation is relevant at each stage of the budget process be it resource allocation, budget execution and budget evaluation.
- The positive impact of PB [participatory budgeting] is a noticeable improvement in the accessibility and quality of various public welfare amenities in those municipalities that have adopted it.
- The participation and influence of people belonging to low-income groups in the budget allocation process are proof of their empowerment.
- Citizen participation can make local service delivery more effective
- Participation is important in developing countries as a means of improving the performance and accountability of bureaucracies and improving social justice.
- Participation can: provide information that improves technical or allocative efficiency; offer innovative solutions that would not have arisen from traditional decision-making; and raise acceptance of programmes.
- Civil society:-
- Civil society budget analysis can augment the research capacity of legislatures and the media and, sometimes, in the executive. It may provide one of the few sources of specialized data and analysis on the impact of the budget on the poor.
- Bringing new information to budget decision-making:
- Civil society budget groups are often able to be in close, regular contact with citizens and interest groups. This allows them to collate unique information on citizen priorities, non-government perspectives on the budget, expenditure tracking and project impact analysis.
- Contributing positively to public expenditure management and oversight, since they are potential sources of critical and independent information on the impact of the budget
- Building literacy on public finances among citizens and facilitating discussions and debates on budgetary issues.
- Adding new data into the budget process by collecting, synthesizing, and disseminating information on public finances
- Providing training on public finances to citizen groups, the media, and legislature. This strengthens the capacity of all of these groups for oversight and to demand accountability from government agencies.
- Examining the passage of the budget through the legislature and its subsequent implementation.
- The major benefits that arise from effective civic engagement in budget work are seen in better transparent and accountable budget processes and also efficient resource allocation and expenditures.
- Feedback from civil society budget analysis can be used as input to the development of future budgets. Activities such as Expenditure tracking and monitoring helps improve service delivery in terms of quality, quantity and effectiveness.
- Civil society’s general oversight role and information sharing strengthens the capacity of local people to demand accountability from government.
No,India did not encourage:-
- Even for the recent budget civil society expressed that only their views were asked but there was no discussion on the data presented.
- The meeting was symptomatic of how insignificant a role people play in the preparation of the annual budget of India, the world’s largest democracy.
- In a survey by International Budget Partnership ,India scored 48 out of 100 in its Open Budget Index.
- In India, the budget preparation usually starts in September but the consultation with the civil society is sometimes done very late .Any change suggested at such a late stage would have been very difficult to incorporate in the final budget document or the Economic Survey.
- It is very difficult to cite a case where these meetings managed to make the government change a decision.
- International experience shows that an inclusive budget preparation can be a developmental trigger.
- In 2010, for the first time in independent India, government introduced pre-budget consultation sessions .This mechanism has continued till date.
- In India, Pune is the only city where municipal corporation has made public participation integral to budget preparation. The initiative has been a success and witnessed a renewed interest in recent times.
- Among the states, Delhi has experimented with participatory budgeting with the formation of Mohalla Sabhas .
- There is great need by government to accept budget groups as partners in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of the national budget.
- Government should work towards creating strong linkages with such groups, it be able to develop a budget which meets the needs of the people especially the poor.
- The role of parliament is to bridge the gap between the grassroots and the executive, therefore its capacity and authority to scrutinise the National budget and the Audit reports should be enhanced.
- Though the finance ministry publishes the pre-budget consultations, it should also give details about the suggestions received and those that were accepted or rejected. This can even be a post-budget exercise to increase transparency.
General Studies – 3
- Indian agriculture is undergoing a tough time with farmer suicides still taking place .So tackling farm distress is essential to government’s target of doubling farmers income by 2022
How High input cost is perpetuating farm distress?
- The risk-bearing capacity of the farmer has been declining for a long time. His financial wherewithal is so low that failure of a single crop can throw him into distress and push him to suicide.
- Farmers face price uncertainties due to fluctuations in demand and supplyowing to bumper or poor crop production and speculation and hoarding by traders.
- The costs of farm inputshave increased faster than farm produce prices
- Lack of operational profits from the crop. Profitability depends on input quantities and their prices and output yield and its price.
MSP calculations leading to farm distress:-
- In the recent budget ,government has decided to keep MSP for all the unannounced crops of kharif at least at one and half times of their production cost .There are some doubts if the finance minister meant the entire cost of production or some reduced amount as difference between C2 which is the total cost of production and A2+FL( Only covers the partial cost of production) is substantial. The MSP has been 50% higher than A2+FL for the last ten years.
- It may also be mentioned that cost plus pricing of MSPs, be it cost A2+FL or C2, is fraught with dangers as it totally ignores the demand side.
- Only a fraction of the farmers actually have access to MSP.
- There is no provision in the budget to increase the ambit of farmers who are covered by MSP and that is a problem in addition to how the MSP is calculated
- Farmers also argue that MSP is only announced for 25 crops, while for other crops they have to deal with market volatility. There is no MSP for fruits and vegetables.
- MSP often does not reach farmers as the government does not procure on time and the farmer has to make distress sales at rates lower than the MSP.
- There is no clarity on how the implementation takes place.
- There are concerns whether all states would agree with that cost
- Also as MSP and Inflation highly co-related and any increase in MSP will eventually resulted into price hike of many agricultural products,
Issues with crop insurance:-
- Even with Pradhan Mantri fasal Bhima yojana issues with crop insurance remain.
- Gaps in assessment of crop loss:
- The sample size in each village was not large enough to capture the scale and diversity of crop losses.
- In many cases, district or block level agricultural department officials do not conduct such sampling on ground and complete the formalities only on paper.
- There is lack of trained outsourced agencies, scope of corruption during implementation and the non-utilisation of technologies like smart phones and drones to improve reliability of such sampling
- Less number of notified crops than can avail insurance,
- Inadequate and delayed claim payment:
- Insurance companies, in many cases, did not investigate losses due to a localised calamity and, therefore, did not pay claims.
- Only 32 per cent of the reported claims were paid out by insurance companies, even when in many states the governments had paid their part of premium.
- High actuarial premium rates
- Insurance companies charged high actuarial premium rates
- Massive profits for insurance companies
- Coverage only for loanee farmers:
- PMFBY remains a scheme for loanee farmers farmers who take loans from banks are mandatorily required to take insurance. Like previous crop insurance schemes, PMFBY fails to cover sharecropper and tenant farmers
- Poor capacity to deliver:
- There has been no concerted effort by the state government and insurance companies to build awareness of farmers on PMFBY.
- Insurance companies have failed to set-up infrastructure for proper implementation of PMFBY.
- There is still no direct linkage between insurance companies and farmers.
- Insured farmers receive no insurance policy document or receipt.
- Delayed notification by state governments
- PMBY is not beneficial for farmers in vulnerable regions as factors like low indemnity levels, low threshold yields, low sum insured and default on loans make it a poor scheme to safeguard against extreme weather events.
- There have been farmers’ protests in various states against compulsory coverage of loanee farmers under this scheme. Farmer activists fear that this scheme might end up benefitting insurance companies more than the farmers.
- CAG report:-
- Private companies are not properly monitored and premium subsidy is released to them simply on the basis of affidavits provided by these companies without checking actual situation on the ground.
Other reasons leading to farm distress are:
- There has been a steady declining trend in land holdings leading to less returns for the farmer.
- Since small and marginal farmers have little marketable surplus, they are left with low bargaining power and no say over prices.
- The absence of marketing infrastructure and profiteering by middlemen adds to the financial distress of farmers.
- Also, the predominance of informal sources of credit, mainly through moneylenders, and lack of capital for short term and long term loans have resulted in the absence of stable incomes and profits.
- The absence of a robust market for buying and selling forward-looking contracts
- Uncertain policies and regulations such as those of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee, besides low irrigation coverage, drought, flooding and unseasonal rains, are some other factors that hit farmers hard.
Measures taken by the government:-
- In the recent budget :-
- Ujjwala scheme is expanded with coverage increased from 3 crore to 8 crore beneficiaries.
- For cleaning of India’s polluted rivers, the budget has increased fund allocation for the National River Conservation Programme from last year’s INR 7.23 billion (USD 114 million) to INR 7.70 billion (USD 121 million) for 2018-19, an increase of only 6.5 per cent.
- Operation Green on the lines of Operation Flood for enhancing the production of tomato, onion and potatoes. A sum of Rs 500 crore has been allocated for this new measure.
- Government will launch a scheme for Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBARDHAN) that will promote composting and promote usage of biofuels .
- Issue of air pollution due to crop burning in Delhi-NCR region as tackled as a special scheme to subsidise machinery required for in-situ management of crop residues was announced.
- Groundwater augmentation and management is an important method of ensuring adequate and timely availability of water for crops. Fortunately, the concept of ‘more crop per drop’ is being promoted by the government.
- Pradhan mantri krishi Sinchayi Yojana ,Soil health card etc
- There need to be reforms in APMC acts to ensure farmer selling directly to farmers
- Government needs to analyse the recommendation of the M.S Swaminathan Report which suggested MSP over C2
- Crop insurance
- Insurance unit has to be brought down to individual farm level
- Currently insurance unit is at village level. This scheme does not guarantee relief for individual farmer in the event of crop loss. Bringing insurance unit at individual farm level is a major technological challenge, which should be addressed at the earliest.
- Making claims payment fast and transparent
- There should be strict compliance of timelines with regard to the process of claim settlement to provide adequate and timely compensation to farmers.
- Danger of discouraging mixed cropping and crop diversification
- A limited number of crops are notified by states under PMFBY. This can act as an impediment to crop diversification. PMFBY will have to make insurance relevant to farmers by including more and more crops under notification and by allowing insurance for mixed cropping.
- Improve scheme monitoring and grievance redressal mechanism
- Dedicated common toll-free numbers should be channelised to address all queries, concerns and grievances of farmers with respect to crop insurance. This toll-free number should serve as a one-stop solution for crop insurance. Farmers should be able to avail of a single window that is accountable to them for all aspects of the scheme.
- Coverage of losses expanded:-
- Coverage of tenant and sharecropper farmers should increase
- Damage caused by wild animals, fire, cold waves and frost to crops should also be considered at the individual level. Damage caused by unforeseen weather events like hailstorms should also be included in the category of post-harvest losses.
- Farmers must be informed before deducting crop insurance premium. They must be given a proper insurance policy document, with all relevant details.
- Capacity building:-
- Panchayati Raj Institutions and farmers need to be involved at different stages of implementation.
- Incentivise groups of small farmers or women farmers and promote group insurance.
- Robust assessment of crop loss should be done through capacity building of state governments, involvement of PRIs and farmers in loss assessment, auditing and multi-level checking to ensure credibility of data and testing incorporating technology such as remote sensing, drones and online transmission of data.
- In some countries farmers sell half their crop in futures, thereby protecting their investment. Since there are no futures markets in India we need to find a creative solution.
- Input usage can be brought down by using integrated farming methods in which there is a balance between preventive agronomic methods and some curative chemical methods without sacrificing yields and quality.
- There is a need to reduce tillage and promote better soil structures. Minimum tillage helps prevent soil erosion.
- Soil structures, damaged because of indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers, need to be restored. Biotechnology solutions like nitrogen-use efficiency gene and phosphorus-use efficiency gene reduce consumption of fertilisers significantly.
- Input prices may be reduced by creating a digital marketplace which will eliminate middlemen.
- The Government should create a unified, reliable data base of farmers with complete details. It should be accessible by paying a fee. It can help in integrating many services.
- In rainfed areas, water security primarily depends upon rainwater harvesting and the efficient use of the available water through techniques like drip irrigation, and the appropriate choice of farming systems.
- The government must resolve to address the structural issues and there is a need to give farmers not just a better, but also more stable, return on their crops.
- Insurance unit has to be brought down to individual farm level
Topic: Irrigation; Resources (Paper-1)
- The Union Government has formulated ambitious water conservation scheme Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) to tackle ever-deepening crisis of depleting groundwater level.
- The Rs 6,000-crore will be piloted under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation. It is awaiting cabinet’s clearance.
- The objective of scheme“Atal Bhujal Yojana” is to
- Recharge ground water
- Create sufficient water storage for agricultural purposes.
- It also focuses on revival of surface water bodies so that ground water level can be increased especially in the rural areas.
- It will give emphasis to recharging ground water sources and ensure efficient use of water by involving people at local level.
- This scheme will help those who are in need for constant ground water supply especially farmers who have been hard impacted by acute shortage of ground water for past several years.
- Its focus is primarily on involvement of communities and convergence with different water schemes.
- Its major component is making society responsible and bringing about behaviour change to manage groundwater resource.
- It will help improve overall outlook towards water resource.
- The scheme Atal Bhujal Yojana would seek to bring in innovative and successful practices to revive water bodies, improve ground water levels as well as conserve water,
- By the implementation of this scheme ground water will recharge consequently increasing the level of ground water.
- Under this scheme, ground water will recharge and hence it will provide sufficient water for the use of agriculture purposes because in the past several years the ground water has decreased to a great extent.
- This scheme will also revive the water bodies like rivers so that the level of ground water can be increased especially in the rural areas.
- Farmers are facing acute shortage of ground water for the past several years this scheme “Atal Bhoojal Yojana” will surely help those who are in the need of pure ground water.
- The program will help states where water level has depleted.
- By creating awareness and catering to the implementation challenges successfully this scheme can change the water crisis especially in rural areas.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Corporate governance
Mahatma Gandhi once quoted “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. However there is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions especially in banks.
In the Punjab National bank scandal some employees found risk management systems and existing regulations incredibly easy to subvert and got employees of other Indian banks to play along as well.
Ethical lessons needed are:-
- Banking sector:-
- Adequate auditing and internal control
- Strengthening internal processes to monitor and mitigate risks
- An emphasis on ethics should also be placed on the recruitment process and career promotion mechanisms, as prescribed by the Financial stability board.
- Assessing whether a bank has a sound risk culture and proper internal controls
- Supervisors should check that mechanisms are in place and ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place throughout the organisation, as well as proper accountability and transparency provisions.
- Banking industry could be made more ethical if the right mix of financial penalties for misbehavior were put in place.
- Also strengthen the corporate governance framework by requiring that the governance arrangements include an organisational structure with clear reporting lines, control mechanisms and remuneration policies that promote sound and effective risk management.
- Private ownership effectively gives the RBI powers to punish managements and boards of banks when they fail to perform their key role of managing risk.
- Any instance of crony capitalism and influential business man involved need to be punished severely to gain public trust.
- Other stakeholders like customers, investors etc:-
- Customers need to be made aware that the guilty ill be punished and not take the scam as an excuse to perpetuate the corrupt attitude.
- Know your customer norms need to be made even more stricter.
Ethics are inextricably connected to the financial world as they form the basis for trust. Without trust the system is either dysfunctional or unstable or both, as the recent experience has shown.
Topic: Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators
In the poem Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where the knowledge is free Rabindranath tagore held that in a truly free country every person should be fearless and should have a sense of self dignity and everybody should be allowed to acquire knowledge through education. This imbibes rational thinking and provides a judgment to assess right and wrong, not believe anything without logic. This thought is in sync with Nehru idea that mind functions well when a person is free from any ideology/bias/ prejudice/belief without logic.
For instance the impact of science and the modern world have brought a greater appreciation of facts, a more critical faculty, a weighing of evidence, a refusal to accept tradition just because it is tradition but even today people believe in some superstitions like seeing a black cat on the road is bad .This lacks proper explanation and highlights the lack of scientific temper.
When a person thinks about an issue without objectivity the thinking lands in bias and mind does not think in independent manner. For instance in India and all over the world there have been rising instances of rumours believed to be true especially in social media be it political/economical issues or any other thing.
In short, people’s thought should be monitored by rational thinking, not by superstition; logic should rule over old baseless beliefs. People should be open-minded and do something unusual or extraordinary, overcoming the narrowness of mind.