SECURE SYNOPSIS: 10 MARCH 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: Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent);
1) The way water is used, or wasted, is as good a test as any to judge the extent to which a society is socially just and environmentally sustainable. Discuss critically water usage pattern in Indian cities and India’s readiness to combat water crises in near future. (250 Words)
- With seven major rivers and their numerous tributaries coupled with the might of Himalayas providing eternal water to these rivers, it is ironical that India is water-stressed.
- The recent Cape Town crisis is a wake-up call to India about the existing and future water emergency that many parts of the country are already facing and the way a public resource is consumed exposes the essential inequity in the societies.
Water usage pattern and concerns with readiness in Indian cities :-
- Not much attention is being paid to the availability of a resource like water, or to its distribution.
- For instance in Bengaluru’s case, population is 1.35 crore today spread over almost 800 sq km. City’s growth has not been accompanied by measures to conserve water, to ensure that wasteful consumption is penalised and minimised, and that existing water sources, like the once abundant tanks, are preserved.
- The rapid growth of population and its growing needs has meant that per capita availability of fresh water has declined sharply from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres over the past 50 years. The global average is 6,000 cubic metres.
- Delhi and Chennai are fed with supply lines stretching hundreds of kilometres.
- By 2050, energy generation is set to assume a much larger proportion of water usage. This should further nudge India towards renewable resources since thermal power plants are highly water-intensive and currently account for maximum water usage among all industrial applications.
- The absence of rational water policies have led to the relentless exploitation of groundwater resources.
- The States that now have groundwater legislation based on the model Bill conceptualised in 1970 have on the whole failed to manage to address the problem of falling water tables due to increasing use.
- In addition, there is no provision in the existing legal regime to protect and conserve groundwater at the aquifer level.
- Since the legal regime fails to give gram sabhas, panchayats and urban governing bodies a prevailing say in the regulation of water, the present framework remains mostly top-down and is incapable of addressing local situations adequately.
- Concerns with coordination and central water commission:-
- The responsibilities and activities of the commission are restricted to surface water resources resulting in a total disregard of other components of water resources in the hydrological cycle, especially the groundwater.
- The CWC does not have an expertise on issues concerning the environment and the socio-economic aspects of water
- The quality of the water pumped is increasingly becoming cause for concern due to pollution in ground water in many areas.
- A recent study by the Karnataka State’s department of mines and geology showed the groundwater in about 12 of the 30 districts in Karnataka to be highly polluted with excess concentration of fluoride, arsenic, iron, nitrate and salinity due to both anthropogenic and geogenic factors.
- Lack of effective sewage management is leading to drinking water mixed with drainage in cities.
- Scientific evidence also points to over-exploitation.
- There are specific geographical areas where the water crisis is particularly acute. For instance, in the Ganges basin, fresh water (surface water and aquifers) is being consumed in a countercyclical fashion, with water consumption being highest when water availability is lowest.
- According to a report by McKinsey, the national supply is predicted to fall 50 per cent below demand by 2030, with nearly 100 million people going to be directly affected by a severe lack of potable water resources in the country.
- With increasing demands of water, conflicts are arising between States and communities are claiming their rightful share of water.
- Agriculture is the most important sector in water use not domestic consumption. Due to this the groundwater depletion is taking place at a random pace.
- Since the 1960s, with the advent of the green revolution, water demand has grown but surface irrigation has not kept pace.
- As a result, groundwater sources are critically depleted in many parts of the country without adequate steps being taken to replenish underground aquifers.
- In the hard-rock aquifers of peninsular India, drilling 800 ft or deeper is becoming the norm. Groundwater-dependent towns and villages spend an increasing fraction of their budgets chasing the water table.
- Electricity is supplied to farmers free of cost. This policy made sense when groundwater was abundant in the 1980s. But today, where groundwater levels have fallen hundreds of feet below the ground, the subsidy is actually only utilised by the richest farmers who can afford to drill deep.
However some measures have been taken in the recent years:-
- Solid waste management rules 2016 for effective management of waste in urban areas.
- Mihir shah committee was appointed and the following main recommendation was made.
- In the new water resource governance scenario facing the country, there is a need to envisage a high-level central organisation like National water commission that is forward looking, strategic, agile and transdisciplinary in its skill set.
- It can look in the multiple areas like River rejuvenation, Aquifer mapping and participatory groundwater management, Urban and industrial water management,knowledge management and capacity building etc .
- Rain water harvesting was made mandatory in Tamilnadu so the precedent can be followed in other states as well.
- With Pradhan mantra krishi sinchayi yojana government is focussing on irrigation reforms as well.
- The National Water Policy (2012), with an emphasis on the need for appropriate ground water planning, development and management was formulated. Additionally, a ‘Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Ground Water in India’ was introduced and circulated to State Governments in 2013, envisaging construction of artificial recharge and rainwater harvesting structures
- In the new water resource governance scenario facing the country, there is a need to envisage a high-level central organisation like National water commission that is forward looking, strategic, agile and transdisciplinary in its skill set.
Way forward :-
- A new regulatory regime for the source of water that provides domestic water to around four-fifths of the population and the overwhelming majority of irrigation is urgently needed
- The proposed new regime under Ground Water bill 2017 will benefit the resource, for instance through the introduction of groundwater security plans, and will benefit the overwhelming majority of people through local decision-making.
- Technological solutions :-
- Boosting recharge through rainwater harvesting structures such as small check dams is a popular measure.
- Improve efficiency through subsidised drip irrigation or energy-saving pumps
- The Government must firstly engage advanced GPS technology to gather accurate and scientific data that provides details on groundwater depletion, availability, quality, rainfall and so on.
- This data-based approach can help understand threats to surface and groundwater water security, and therefore support long-term development and water conservation planning.
- Comprehensive water budgeting :-
- Water budgets at the watershed level will inform communities about how much water they have, so it can be equitably shared within communities. This needs a strong water governance system based on awareness building, science and a commitment to fairness and sustainability.
- Need to make changes to meet the escalating crisis through water conservation, reforestation, recycling of water through treatment plants and better infrastructure to ensure that pipes do no leak and that multiple sources are tapped for water supply rather than depending only on one resource until it is totally exhausted.
- The Government must also focus on preserving the availability of sufficient groundwater that is devoid of any pollution and which can conform to the minimum standards of water quality that have been prescribed by the World Heath Organisation (WHO).
- Groundwater recharge :-
- The administration must allow usage of the groundwater subject to conditions that enable sufficient recharge of the groundwater table. For instance, desalination and recharging the aquifer with surplus water can also partly provide assistance and boost the availability of quality groundwater.
- The Government must tweak its policies especially towards water intensive crops so that the quantum of water consumption can be brought down
- Due to the interconnectedness of water with other sectors, there is a need for coordination among different agencies. For example, the river water quality monitoring function overlaps and to some extent duplicates the work of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
- Participatory approach to water management that has been successfully tried all over the world, as also in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, needs to be adopted.
- Groundwater and surface water must also be viewed in an integrated, holistic manner. An integrated approach and the awareness by the people that if water is saved today then there will be more available tomorrow is very necessary.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Indian constitution – salient features; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections
- Historically, India is no stranger to the right to die as in most Oriental cultures, opting to die is often an act of honour, of salvation like the Santhara in Jainism, Hindu saints are known to take sanyas and even opt for Samadhi etc
- In the recent judgment made by Supreme court it upholded the right to die with dignity and gave legal sanction to passive euthanasia and execution of a living will of persons suffering from chronic terminal diseases and likely to go into a permanent vegetative state.
Supreme court judgment:-
- Passive euthanasia was recognised by Supreme court in Aruna Shanbaug in 2011.
- Now it has expanded the jurisprudence on the subject by adding to it the principle of a ‘living will’, or an advance directive, a practice whereby a person, while in a competent state of mind, leaves written instructions on the sort of medical treatment that may or may not be administered in the event of her reaching a stage of terminal illness.
- The court has invoked its inherent power under Article 142 of the Constitution to grant legal status to advance directives, and its directives will hold good until Parliament enacts legislation on the matter.
Passive and active Euthanasia:-
- Passive euthanasia essentially involves withdrawal of life support or discontinuation of life-preserving medical treatment so that a person with a terminal illness is allowed to die in the natural course.
- While active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances to end a life.
- While the Supreme Court has legalised passive euthanasia, it has not passed any judgment on active euthanasia.
- In the fundamental rights enlisted in the Constitution there is already mention of right to life with dignity (Article 21).The outcome of the judgment lays down a broad legal framework for protecting the dignity of a terminally ill patient or one in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) with no hope of cure or recovery. In such circumstances accelerating the process of death for reducing the period of suffering constitutes a right to live with dignity.
- Self determination and autonomy:–
- The core message is that all adults with the capacity to give consent have the right of self determination and autonomy and the right to refuse medical treatment is also encompassed in it.
- Burdening a dying patient with life-prolonging treatment and equipment merely because medical technology has advanced would be destructive of the patient’s dignity.
- Gives importance to consent as now patients can write living will.
- The Supreme Court accorded primacy to the constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy as it laid down procedural guidelines governing the advance directive of a living will.
- Neither the law nor the constitution can compel an individual who is competent and able to take decisions to disclose reasons for refusing medical treatment and such a refusal is not subject to the supervisory control of an outside entity.
- Living will from the patient to stop medical treatment at a certain stage helps remove regret or guilt for relatives and criminal action against doctors.
- This will help many families. It will stop a lot of pain and also lessen expenses.
- Supreme Court judgment on passive euthanasia is a big relief to family members of terminally-ill patients, emotionally, financially and legally
- The government had pointed out that the living will was a concept which contradicts a person’s instinctive urge to survive
- It must be decided by a team of domain experts otherwise in India there are chances of it being misused much more than it being used.
- The very idea of “living will” can be misused and more importantly not taking into account future growth of Science and medicine
- Law Commission in 2006 suggested a draft bill on passive euthanasia and says such pleas be made to high courts which should decide after taking experts views. Supreme court stated that High courts should constitute medical board which will decide if passive euthanasia is needed. The government need to make a act on these lines.
- While the decision to passively Euthanise oneself can be left to the patient, the conditions on when this right may be invoked can be left to a medical board. A living will makes sense if coupled with a medical power of attorney and independent third party monitoring. This will allow for a middle way between all the interests that are at play here. The Right of the patient, the State’s interest in human life and the interest of the family of the patient.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Agriculture issues
- Inhalation or overuse of deadly pesticides led to hospitalisation and deaths of more than thousands of farmers across the country last year. In the light of this government has drafted Pesticides Management Bill, 2017.
- The Pesticides Management Bill, 2017, seeks to replace the Insecticides Act of 1968
- The bill’s stated objectives are
- Ensuring availability of quality pesticides
- Minimizing the contamination of agricultural commodities by pesticide residue
- Creating awareness among users regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides.
- It puts in place detailed clauses for registration of new molecules:-
- The bill has tightened the guidelines for registration and licensing of new molecules.
- It allows provisional registration of new pesticides in India in case of “national exigency” for a period of two years.
- Includes a broader category of offences :-
- It also says that anyone who “uses” a pesticide contravening provisions under the Act can face punishment
- The bill raised penalties on the sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides to Rs50 lakh and up to five years imprisonment, from the current Rs2,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment.
- Provision for paying compensation to farmers:-
- The proposed bill provides for paying compensation to the affected farmers or users under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
- State governments role:-
- According to the draft, state governments have to report all cases of poisoning to the centre on a quarterly basis and states can also ban chemical pesticides for up to six months. Currently, states can ban a chemical for up to two months.
- Manufactures vs farmers:-
- In case of any incidents, the liability will not be on manufacturers but dealers and farmers.
- Farmers and farm workers are actually the victims of an aggressive promotion of pesticides industry and making any provisions to penalise them would not be justifiable.
- Farmers pointed out the bill is not clear on liability and how will they be compensated at times when production fall due to use of spurious pesticide.
- It does not address the core issues of applying penal provisions on companies marketing pesticides and not just manufacturing them and somewhat absolves the pesticide inspector from guilt
- Adverse effect of pesticides neglected:-
- The draft also encourages pesticides use to increase productivity instead of promoting organic farming
- Bill failed to recognize pesticides have contributed significantly to the current economic and ecological crisis in agriculture.
- Dealers issues:-
- It also states that the dealer’s license will be suspended or cancelled. Dealers complain that they do not have infrastructures to test products.
- State governments:-
- Does not ease the powers of regulation and registration to the state governments which has been a long pending demand of many governments.
- Not much powers for state governments to regulate and control the use of agrochemicals.
- Bill does not provide for automatic review of cleared pesticides after several years of usage, and farmers and labourers will not be able to seek compensation from the consumer forum as envisaged in the bill.
- It does not keep safety as a central provision; instead it places efficacy and pest control as its primary goals
- The objective of the bill should be to minimise pesticide usage and not about producing safer pesticides. The bill should also include sustainability as its aim
- Strengthen state governments role:-
- State governments must have a greater role in case of decision making on pesticide management. The existing draft provides inadequate representation to states in both pesticide board and the registration committee.
- The states should have the say on final decision making on pesticide, as they have the best understanding on the agro ecological climate, environment and soil conditions.
- Pesticides are hazardous chemicals, and should be sold only by prescription. Any one selling without a prescription should be legally punished.
- There is a need for a ban on advertisement of pesticides as they are by design suited to the commercial interest of the advertiser and aimed at influencing buying behaviour of farmers, who are often uneducated and unaware.
- The bill in 2008 was referred to a standing committee of Parliament which had suggested some changes that need to be incorporated in the new bill:-
- Pesticide inspectors should also be held responsible for growth and approval of spurious pesticide
- The intent of the bill is in broad interest of the farmers however there is a need to involve all the stakeholders to make the bill a holistic one and not degrade the environment further.
Topic: Food security; Agriculture
- Addressing food security is a top global priority as illustrated in Goal 2 of achieving “Zero Hunger” of the Sustainable Development Goals. In seeking to achieve this goal, UN countries recognise the unique role of role of biodiversity in delivering food security, which is a prerequisite for ending hunger.
- According to UN data, more than 790 million people worldwide still lack regular access to adequate amounts of dietary energy. This is in addition to the fact that by 2050, world population is expected to reach 9 billion which in terms of food availability means that global food production would need to rise by about 60%.
- Biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. Thousands of interconnected species make up a vital web of biodiversity within the ecosystems upon which global food production depends
- Biodiversity is the variation of life forms in a particular ecosystem. All levels of biodiversity are interconnected, but there are three levels at which biodiversity is broken down and studied: genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity.
- Food security refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it. For example, the World Bank defines food security as “access by all people at all times to sufficient food for an active, healthy life”
Importance of biodiversity for food security:-
- Food production relies on biodiversity and on the multiple services provided by ecosystems. It would be impossible to cultivate thousands and thousands of different crop varieties and animal breeds without the rich genetic pool of the species they originated from.
- It is estimated that about 100,000 species of insects, as well as birds and mammals, pollinate more than two-thirds of food plants and are responsible for 35% of the world’s crop production.
- It would not be possible to keep livestock, fish or grow trees and plants without the often unseen contribution of microorganisms and invertebrates on our land and waters.
- The variability and availability of living organisms ranging from micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi, protozoa) to larger meso-fauna (e.g. acari and springtails) are essential to agriculture as they ensure natural processes can take place contributing to important functions, such as soil fertility.
- Fish provides about 3 billion people with almost 20% of their intake of animal protein.
- Marine, coastal and inland areas support a rich assortment of aquatic biological diversity, which contributes to the economic, cultural, nutritional, social, recreational and spiritual betterment of human populations.
- Animals :-
- The biodiversity of approximately 35 animal species domesticated for use in agriculture and food production is the primary biological capital for livestock development and is vital to food security and sustainable rural development.
- Plants :-
- In human history, about 7 000 species of plants have been cultivated for consumption.
- Supporting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including through local knowledge and the traditional management practices associated with them, is necessary to enable farming systems to continue to evolve and meet future needs.
- Degradation of soils can be reversed to deliver multiple benefits, including improved nutrient and water management, soil organic carbon content, natural pest and disease regulation and reduced soil erosion.
- By providing a diverse range of foods, biodiversity underpins nutritious and sustainable diets, which are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security.
- Diversity of foods and farming systems is also known to support economic diversity and increase resilience to local or global economic shocks, thereby supporting livelihoods and food security.
- Biodiversity is integral to maintaining food security. It is very important to protect indigenous wild plants and crops which form an integral part of biodiversity
- Unfortunately, today India is concentrating on cultivating select crops which have high demand.
- Natural renewable resource degradation, including the loss of biodiversity and the erosion of genetic diversity, is one of the major challenges in food production today
- T he development of contemporary production systems has resulted in extensive land conversion and concomitant biodiversity loss. In order to feed an ever growing population, innovative and acceptable ways of integrating biodiversity conservation and food production need to be identified
- At the same time, about 30% of major marine stocks are overexploited, producing lower yields than their biological and ecological potential and are in need of strict management plans to restore them to their full and sustainable productivity.
- India had signed Biodiversity Finance Initiative in 2015. The first phase of the programme’s implementation (from 2015-2018) had been successfully completed and India had started moving towards the next which is the step in the right direction
- Increasing the diversity of the diet using species and varieties and methods appropriate to local cultures can make a huge contribution to nutrition and, as a result, to health and productivity,
- With the erosion of biodiversity, humankind loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change. Achieving food security for all is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of biodiversity.
- India and the world needs to recognise that land, healthy soils, water and plant genetic resources are key inputs into food production, and their growing scarcity in many parts of the world makes it imperative to use and manage them sustainably. In other words, biodiversity is inextricably linked to our ability of produce and grow food. It is actually vital to our survival
General Studies – 4
Topic: ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions;
5) Social networking technologies open up a new type of ethical space in which personal identities and communities, both ‘real’ and virtual, are constructed, presented, negotiated, managed and performed. Discuss.(150 Words)
Social psychologist Kenneth Gergen in 1991 has warned of an world where technology might saturate human beings to the point of multiphrenia, a fragmented version of the self that is pulled in so many directions the individual would be lost.
Now as the society sits here more than 20 years later with tablets and cell phones and electronic gadgets people have never been more linked, more connected, and more bound to a virtual reality that many of us can no longer live without.
Tethered to technology, people are shaken when that world ‘unplugged’ does not signify, does not satisfy. They build a following on Facebook or MySpace and wonder to what degree our followers are friends. They re-create themselves as online personae and give themselves new bodies, homes, jobs etc.
While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are powerful tools that have the potential to build communities, connect relatives in far-flung places, leverage careers etc they are also unleashing a myriad of complex psychological issues that have altered people’s collective sense of reality.
Some people use this social media to create something that they are not .Virtual world can distract people so much from their real lives that they either forget who they are or become so involved in the reality they’ve created that they don’t want to work on their own issues.
In a virtual world where it is understood that everyone exaggerates and reality is always slightly distorted, the temptation to lie or stretch the truth is more pervasive than ever .For instance people especially project the good things they have done on the social media increasing their market value and popularity , fake messages and news circulate in social media without checking for its authenticity.
A 2011 clinical report on The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families, was one of the first to raise the issue of “Facebook depression” among young people worried that they weren’t accumulating enough “friends” or “likes” to their status updates. It is the danger of slipping too far into a virtual world and losing a sense of real life, real self, and real priorities.
Overreliance on this virtual world that we create online is undermining all the progress human beings have made in addressing real-life problems. People need to appreciate that the computer is not a substitute for a real human being and as a society people need to be vigilant about taking time to unplug, to disconnect, and to reconnect with themselves and their real lives.