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[Mission 2022] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 June 2022

 

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.

Answer the following questions in 150 words:


General Studies – 1


 

1. Do you think that a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) could be a possible solution to end communalism in the Indian society? Critically comment. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India proposes to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set of laws governing every citizen.

The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44, as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

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Issues with personal laws in India

  • Communalism: Different personal laws promote communalism and it leads to discrimination at two levels.
    • First, between people of different religions.
    • Second, between the two sexes
  • Gender bias: Another reason why a uniform civil code is needed is gender justice. The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim.
    • The practice of triple talaq was a classic example. Even today polygamous marriages are allowed in certain religions which may deny rights to a woman.
  • Against fundamental rights: Many practices governed by religious tradition are at odds with the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.
    • Courts have also often said in their judgements that the government should move towards a uniform civil code including the judgement in the Shah Bano case.
    • The Supreme Court in Shayara Bano case (2017) had declared the practise of Triple Talaq (talaq-e-bidat) as unconstitutional.

Role of UCC to bring a balance in development of the nation

A secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.

  • Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society:
    • The UCC aims to provide protection to vulnerable sections as envisaged by Ambedkar including women and religious minorities, while also promoting nationalistic fervour through unity.
  • Simplification of Laws:
    • The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their faith.
  • Adhering to Ideal of Secularism:
    • Secularism is the objective enshrined in the Preamble; a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
  • Gender Justice:
    • If a UCC is enacted, all personal laws will cease to exist. It will do away with gender biases in existing laws.

Arguments against UCC in India

The Law commission made certain sharp observation in this regard as follows.

  • According to the 21st Law commission, a uniform civil code “is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage”.
  • Commission suggests certain measures in marriage and divorce that should be uniformly accepted in the personal laws of all religions.
  • Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.
  • A unified nation did not necessarily need to have “uniformity”. ”Efforts have to be made to reconcile our diversity with universal and indisputable arguments on human rights.
  • In fact, term “secularism” has meaning only if it assured the expression of any form of difference. This diversity, both religious and regional, should not get subsumed under the louder voice of the majority.
  • At the same time, the Commission said, discriminatory practices within a religion should not hide behind the cloak of that faith to gain legitimacy.
  • It said the way forward may not be a uniform civil code, but the codification of all personal laws so that prejudices and stereotypes in every one of them would come to light and could be tested on the anvil of fundamental rights of the Constitution.
  • By codification of different personal laws, one can arrive at certain universal principles that prioritise equity rather than imposition of a uniform code, which would discourage many from using the law altogether, given that matters of marriage and divorce can also be settled extra-judicially.
  • Significantly, the Commission suggested that nikahnama s should make it clear that polygamy is a criminal offence and this should apply to “all communities”.
    • This is not recommended owing to merely a moral position on bigamy, or to glorify monogamy, but emanates from the fact that only a man is permitted multiple wives, which is unfair

Way forward

  • The social transformation from diverse civil code to uniformity shall be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government must adopt a “Piecemeal” approach.
  • Government could bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession and maintenance into a uniform civil code in stages
  • Government must emulate Goan practice of a common civil code, which has been the law since 1867, when the state was under the Portuguese colonial rule.
  • Moreover, when constitution espouses the cause of Uniform civil code in its article 44, it shouldn’t be misconstrued to be a “common law”.
  • The word uniform here means that all communities must be governed by uniform principles of gender justice and human justice.
  • It will mean modernization and humanization of each personal law.
  • It would mean, not a common law, but different personal laws based on principles of equality, liberty and justice.
  • Government has to take steps towards increasing the awareness among the public, especially minorities, about the importance of having a UCC.

Conclusion

If the framers of the Constitution had intended to have a Uniform Civil Code, they would have given exclusive jurisdiction to Parliament in respect of personal laws, by including this subject in the Union List. Even the law commission has suggested in against of the idea. The government needs to find a moral backing a unanimous support across the sections of the society to undertake such an move.


General Studies – 2


 

2: What do you understand by digital democracy? Examine its relations with various aspects of governance. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Digital democracy is, in a sense, the next phase of democracy as it encompasses all the opportunities and challenges of asserting sovereignty for nation states. It is important to understand that countries must now cooperate not only in politics, trade and humanitarian issues, but a vital aspect of cooperation is transborder technological cooperation to assert sovereignty, including to multinational tech giants.

The most important task in such an era is the construction of technological architecture as a public good—which is owned not by any one private entity. In building and deploying such architecture at scale (for more than a billion people), India has shown unique innovation skills and achieved unprecedented success.

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India and digital democracy

  • According to recent independent research reports, digital transactions in India could rise to $10 trillion in value by 2026.
  • Two out of five transactions in India are estimated to be using digital tools, and it is set to rise exponentially in the next few years.
  • Whether in financial technology or identity architecture, India is today building bigger and better digital public infrastructure at scale than any other democracy in the world.
  • It, therefore, is the natural leader of the world of digital or digitising democracies.
  • India is not only building such technologies and infrastructure at home, but is also pitching to deploy it around the world.
  •  The India pitch is mass-use digital technology that can be utilised as public infrastructure by countries to digitise their governance processes and public goods delivery mechanisms.

Digital democracy and aspects of governance

  • Public diplomacy: The use of digital technology among democracies is one of the most important platforms for public diplomacy today and this will become more necessary in the near future.
    • A country with the size and complexity of India can showcase not only how technology can be used but also how to effectively curb its adverse impact and misuse. Therefore, this is one area where India is a natural leader.
  • Innovation and service delivery: It can bring to the table the full weight of its enormous expertise in running programmes like Aadhaar, direct-benefit transfer, and ongoing efforts to improve digital health and education.
  • Financial technology: Apart from this, India has innovations like the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) (which powers fintech and has created a unique level playing field) and is working towards creating a unified digital platform for commerce.
  • Soft power: There is an underlying logic to this—democracies must cooperate both non-digitally and digitally to take on the challenges of the so-called decentralised Web3 world of blockchain and artificial intelligence that is emerging.
    • India can and should lead such cooperation. It has both the size and the cutting-edge technology and can offer both expertise and scale.

Conclusion

This leadership role for India, already apparent, is set to expand considerably in the years to come as democracies that extensively use digital tools come together to boost ease of living for their citizens and tackle crises that require worldwide collaboration.

 

3. The Speaker has to remain neutral and act independently of political morality and pressure. How can we guarantee the Speaker’s impartiality? (250 words)

Reference: Insights on India

Introduction

The Speaker is the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the lower house of the Parliament of India. The speaker is elected generally in the very first meeting of the Lok Sabha following general elections. Serving for a term of five years, the speaker chosen from sitting members of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), and is by convention a member of the ruling party or alliance.

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Importance of office of Speaker:

  • The office of the Speaker occupies a pivotal position in our parliamentary democracy.
  • It has been said of the office of the Speaker that while the members of Parliament represent the individual constituencies, the Speaker represents the full authority of the House itself.
  • She symbolizes the dignity and power of the House over which she is presiding.
  • In the Lok Sabha, as in the United Kingdom, the Speaker is the supreme authority; she has vast powers and it is his primary duty to ensure the orderly conduct of the business of the House.
  • Every textbook of constitutional law points out the two essential qualities of a Speaker: Independence and impartiality.
  • GV Mavlankar, the first Speaker, observed: “Once a person is elected Speaker, he is expected to be above parties, above politics. In other words, he belongs to all the members or belongs to none. He holds the scales of justice evenly, irrespective of party or person”.
  • Pandit Nehru referred to the Speaker as “the symbol of the nation’s freedom and liberty” and emphasised that Speakers should be men of “outstanding ability and impartiality”.
  • MN Kaul and SL Shakdher, in their book Practice and Procedure of Parliament, refer to him as the conscience and guardian of the House.
  • As the principal spokesperson of the Lok Sabha, the Speaker represents its collective voice and speaks for the House as a whole.
  • Her unique position is illustrated by the fact that she is placed very high in the Warrant of Precedence in our country, standing next only to the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister.
  • In India, through the Constitution of the land, through the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and through the practices and conventions, adequate powers are vested in the office of the Speaker to help her in the smooth conduct of the parliamentary proceedings and for protecting the independence and impartiality of the office.
  • The Constitution of India provides that the Speaker’s salary and allowances are not to be voted by Parliament and are to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Therefore, it is expected that the holder of this office of high dignity has to be one who can represent the House in all its manifestations.

However, there have been many instances when the Speaker’s office has been in the dock:

  • Appointment and tenure: The structural issues regarding the manner in which the Speaker is appointed and his tenure in office. Usually, the speaker is from the ruling party and this makes it a more of a political liability on speaker to favour his party.
  • Lack of Tenure security: With no security in the continuity of office, the Speaker is dependent on his or her political party for re-election. This makes the Speaker susceptible to pulls and pressures from her/his political party in the conduct of the proceedings of the Lok Sabha.
  • Anti-defection law: In recent times, there are number of instances where the role of speaker has been criticized for decision on membership of MLAs under the anti-defection law and their ruling have been challenged in courts. The Tenth Schedule says the Speaker’s/Chairperson’s decision on questions of disqualification on ground of defection shall be final and can’t be questioned in courts. It was anticipated that giving Speakers the power to expel legislators would prevent unnecessary delays by courts and make anti-defection law more effective.
  • Discretionary power: There are various instances where the Rules vest the Speakers with unbridled powers such as in case of declaration of bill as money bill (Lok Sabha Speaker). This discretionary power comes under criticism when Aadhar bill was introduced in Lok Sabha as Money Bill.
  • Referral to DSRCs: The Speaker is also empowered to refer the Bill to a Standing Committee. As per prevailing practice house members or speaker usually refers all important bills to the concerned Departmentally Related Standing Committees for examination and report. But in recent time speaker uses its discretionary power to pass many important bills on day after introduction of bill without proper discussion and references.
  • Increased disruptions: Frequent disruptions reduced the time required for important discussions and compel speaker to allocate less time for discussion. This often questions the impartiality of speaker as he allegedly provides more time to ruling party. Also, it is alleged that speaker took harsh punishment against the disrupting member of opposition compared to government
  • Elections: The position of the Indian Speaker is paradoxical. They contest the election for the post on a party ticket. Yet they are expected to conduct themselves in a non-partisan manner, while being beholden to the party for a ticket for the next election.
  • Political Aspirations: The position is often used to woo the political parties by favouring them to harbour political ambitions. The need for re-election also skews incentives for the Speaker. The fear of losing the position in case of not favouring their political parties also pushes them to compromise neutrality.

Measures needed to ensure Speaker’s impartiality:

  • The Page Committee, headed by V.S. Page, suggested that if the Speaker had conducted himself or herself in an impartial and efficient manner during the tenure of his or her office, he or she should be allowed to continue in the next Parliament.
  • Anyone seeking the office of the Speaker might be asked to run for election on an independent ticket.
  • Any Speaker should be barred from future political office, except for the post of President, while being given a pension for life.
  • Following the UK model of Speaker where the Speaker elect compulsorily resigns from the party membership. This will ensure neutrality of the office.
  • The Speaker should be allowed to recommend a range of disciplinary actions like cuts in salary, reduction in speaking time for the member based on the recommendation of the parliamentary committee.
  • The Speaker can arrange informal sessions with the members who frequently disrupt the house. He can try to resolve their grievances if any with respect to the conduct of the house.
  • A code of ethics for MPs must be formed to clearly define cases for suspension and dismissals.
  • Power must be given to speaker to form a parliamentary committee to recommend removal of MPs regularly disrupting the house. The decision of the committee must be subject to judicial review.
  • Ethics committee of Lok Sabha need to be given more mandate like other mature democracies

Conclusion:

The office of the Speaker in India is a living and dynamic institution which deals with the actual needs and problems of Parliament in the performance of its functions. It is in her that the responsibility of conducting the business of the House in a manner befitting the place of the institution in a representative democracy is invested.

The founding fathers of our Constitution had recognized the importance of this office in our democratic set-up and it was this recognition that guided them in establishing this office as one of the prominent and dignified ones in the scheme of governance of the country smoothly.

Value addition

Functions and powers of Lok Sabha speaker:

  • Speaker of Lok Sabha is basically the head of the house and presides over the sittings of Parliament and controls its working.
  • The constitution has tried to ensure the independence of Speaker by charging his salary on the consolidated Fund of India and the same is not subject to vote of Parliament.
  • While debating or during general discussion on a bill, the members of the parliament have to address only to the Speaker.
  • Whenever there is a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha), the Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over this meeting.
  • In the normal circumstances the Speaker does not cast his vote over any matter in Lok Sabha. But whenever there is a tie on votes between the ruling party and opposition, the Speaker at that time can exercise his vote.
  • It is the Speaker who decides the agenda of various discussions.
  • The speaker has the power to adjourn or suspend the house/meetings if the quorum is not met.
  • The Speaker ensures the discipline and decorum of the house. If the speaker finds the behaviour and a member of Parliament is not good, he/she can punish the unruly members by suspending.
  • The Speaker decides whether a bill brought to the house is a money bill or not. In the case Speaker decides some bill as a money bill, this decision cannot be challenged.
  • Speaker is the final and sole authority to allow different types of motions and resolutions such as No Confidence Motion, Motion of Adjournment, Censure Motion
  • The Speaker of Lok Sabha does not leave the office just after dissolution of the assembly. He continues to be in the office till the newly formed assembly takes its first meeting and elects the new Speaker.

 


General Studies – 3


 

4. What is Plasticulture? Do you think its environmental costs outweigh its economic benefits? Critically comment. (250 words)

Reference: Hindustan Times

Introduction

Plasticulture refers to the use of plastic in agricultural activities. This can include soil fumigation, irrigation, the packaging of agricultural products, and the protection of harvests from precipitation. Plastic also appears as a mulch or greenhouse cover.

While plasticulture has been touted as a way for farmers to efficiently grow crops with less water and fewer fertilizers and pesticides, it has also been called into question for being environmentally unsustainable. Problems cited include the contamination of soil, water, and food; air pollution; and large quantities of plastic waste. 

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Background

  • The history of plasticulture started with the mass production of plastics, which began in the 1930s.
  • Researchers discovered that one type of plastic, polyethylene, was well-suited to agricultural use because of its durability, flexibility, and chemical resistance.
  • It was first used as a greenhouse construction material in the 1940s as an alternative to glass.
  • The widespread use of plastic as an artificial mulch soon followed.

Benefits of plasticulture

  • Mulching: Plastic mulch, which utilizes sheets of plastic that cover the soil with holes allowing plants to grow through, became commercially available in the 1960s. Since then, it has become the most widely-used form of plasticulture.
  • Silage, Piping, Planters, and Storage: Another application of plasticulture today is as an airtight cover for silage or other animal feed grains.
    • Flexible plastic sheets can be wrapped tightly around harvested grains and straw bales; this keeps them dry and fresh for months or more at a time.
    • Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and polyethylene are both commonly used in pipes for irrigation and hydroponic systems.
    • These relatively light plastic tubing materials also resist corrosion, making them an attractive alternative to metal pipes.
    • Petroleum-based nursery pots, crates, and other containers made from durable but lightweight plastics represent another significant category of plasticulture.
  • Artificial ponds: Creation of artificial ponds using plastic to conserve water during the monsoons. Domestically, Rajasthan and Maharashtra are at the forefront of promoting pond liners in a big way and are witnessing robust growth prospects.
  • Greenhouses: A farming technique wherein the crop is grown in a controlled environment and is covered through firm nets or plastics through a frame.

Economic benefits outweigh environmental costs

  • Plasticulture’s potential environmental benefits are often outweighed by adverse environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions, contamination of soil, water, air, and food, and the generation of enormous quantities of plastic waste.
  • Un-recycled agricultural plastics constitute an enormous volume of waste that creates further environmental hazards when it is buried, burned, or dumped in landfills.
    • This is a particular concern in developing countries that lack adequate waste management infrastructure, but an enormous dilemma for developed countries as well.
  • Climate impact: A study of plastic greenhouses in China found that they were associated with greater climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which is also a culprit in air pollution by contributing to particulate matter and ozone.
  • Pollution: Conventional plastics are petroleum-based products made from fossil fuels. In addition to pumping climate-altering greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the plastics manufacturing process creates air and water pollution that can affect workers and nearby communities.
  • Microplastic hazard: Another emerging concern involves how much plasticulture may be contributing to the presence of microplastics in soil and water.
    • Thin mulching film, in particular, is prone to deteriorate into tiny pieces of plastic, which can affect soil quality, impacting microbes and other creatures that live in the soil.
    • The plastic particles are flushed into surface waters and ultimately oceans by rain and irrigation, and they can also be absorbed by plants, potentially ending up in the food system.
  • While some of the heavy plastic used in greenhouse construction can be recycled or reused, a significant portion is not. Even less of the lighter plastic used in mulching gets recycled because it is very thin and often contaminated with pesticides, dirt, and fertilizers, making reuse or recycling labour-intensive and expensive.

Conclusion and way forward

  • Scientists are beginning to develop biodegradable alternatives to conventional plastic mulch
  • Biodegradables can be converted to carbon dioxide, water, and other natural substances by soil microbes.
  • Instead of necessitating removal like their conventional polyethylene counterparts, these can be tilled back into the soil.
  • Although using more biodegradable plastics and non-plastic alternatives cannot completely resolve the environmental problems associated with plasticulture, they help make a significant dent in combatting the detrimental effects of plastics in agriculture.
  • The more growers, consumers, and governments support sustainable alternatives to agricultural plastics—while amplifying practices like water conservation and reduced chemical fertilizer and pesticide use—the healthier our communities, food system, and planet will be.

 

5. What is stagflation? What are the factors that lead stagflation? How can the Indian economy avoid it amidst rising inflationary pressures? Discuss.

Reference: Live MintThe Hindu

Introduction

Stagflation, as defined by Princeton economist Alan S. Blinder, is “the simultaneous occurrence of economic stagnation and comparatively high rates of inflation”. Stagflation is an economic condition that’s caused by a combination of slow economic growth, high unemployment, and rising prices. It is said to happen when an economy faces stagnant growth as well as persistently high inflation.

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Background

  • While economic growth prospects remain wobbly, India has been witnessing a hardening inflationary environment over the past few months.
  • Producer prices, reflected in the wholesale price index growth, have been rising by double-digits for some months now.
  • This is now feeding into end-user prices, with the consumer price index rising by 7.8% in April 2022.
  • The latest policy statement of RBI remains “focused on withdrawal of accommodation to ensure that inflation remains within the target going forward, while supporting growth”.

Factors that lead to stagflation

  • The two root causes of stagflation economists generally agree upon are supply shocks and fiscal and monetary policies.
  • A supply shock is anything that reduces the economy’s capacity to produce goods and services at given prices. For example, throughout the pandemic, there have been supply shocks in:
    • Labor, with fewer people working
    • Goods, for example, semiconductor shortages, which started even before the pandemic
    • Services, as people postponed elective surgeries and other health-care procedures
  • The instability and uncertainty in the global economy that exacerbates the apprehensions of stagflation.
  • Recent happenings
  • The outbreak of Covid-19 and lockdowns followed by subsequent fiscal and Monetary Measures taken to address the downturn, including substantial increases in liquidity in most of the advanced economies, fuelled a sharp upsurge in inflation.
  • The ongoing war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion and the consequent Western sanctions on Moscow have caused a fresh and as yet hard-to-quantify ‘supply shock’.

Measures needed to tackle stagflation

  • A strong monetary policy support for a sustained and inclusive recovery is the need of the hour.
  • The focus should be to normalise the prudential policies and the strengthen the insolvency frameworks and restructure mechanisms, including for the overhang of public and private debt.
  • There is a need to increase aggregate supply through supply-side policies, for example, privatisation and deregulation to increase efficiency and reduce costs of production.
  • Private sector must be incentivised to invest more and to increase supply through tax measures.
  • Higher liquidity and disposable income, and increased employment can pull us out of the quagmire.
  • reduction and reform of direct individual and corporate taxes, and indirect taxes.
  • Frictions in the labour market should be reduced by reducing the time and cost involved in obtaining information about employment opportunities.
  • Barriers which either limit entry into a profession or maintain wages at artificially high rates should be removed.
  • The government needs to hold granular conversations with the private sector.
  • A skills and industrial policy which can make full use of an abundant pool of reasonably priced labour

Conclusion

There is a need to control Stagflation at the earliest by arresting inflation through policy and structural means. Meanwhile, the government should engage all stakeholders to address the supply-side issues, a calming down of food prices will help the government to prevent stagflation in the economy.

Value addition

Stagflation:

  • Stagflation is a portmanteau of stagnant growth and rising inflation.
  • Typically, inflation rises when the economy is growing fast.
  • That’s because people are earning more and more money and are capable of paying higher prices for the same quantity of goods.
  • When the economy stalls, inflation tends to dip as well – again because there is less money now chasing the same quantity of goods.
  • Stagflation is said to happen when an economy faces stagnant growth as well as persistently high inflation.
  • That’s because with stalled economic growth, unemployment tends to rise and existing incomes do not rise fast enough and yet, people have to contend with rising inflation.
  • So people find themselves pressurised from both sides as their purchasing power is reduced.

 

Answer the following questions in 250 words(15 marks each):


General Studies – 1


 

6. The Chola period witnessed remarkable development in sculptures and bronze works with a special emphasis on Hindu iconography. They portray a classic grace, grandeur and taste. Discuss. (250 words)

Reference: Indian ExpressInsights on India

Introduction

The Cholas belonged to one of the three mighty dynasties that ruled the Tamil country in the early historical period. Described as the Muvendhar in the Sangam literature, they were known for the valour and for their patronage of the Tamil language.

Bronze sculptures and statuettes of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain icons have been discovered from many regions of India dating from the second century until the sixteenth century. Most of these were used for ritual worship and are characterised by exquisite beauty and aesthetic appeal. the ‘Dancing Girl’ from Mohenjo-Daro is the earliest bronze sculpture datable to 2500 BCE.

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Sculptures:

  • The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes.
  • The sculptures and bronzes show classic grace, grandeur and taste. The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nataraja, the Divine Dancer.
  • After Nataraja, the next most popular image is Somaskanda where Shiva is depicted sitting with his consort Uma and his son Skanda dancing between them on a platform.
  • Kalyanasundara Murti is a 9th century art where marriage is represented by 2 separate statuettes; Shiva and Parvati’s marriage or panigrahana.
  • Ardhanarishwar with half Shiva and half Shakti is another popular image

Chola bronze sculptures:

  • The cire-perdu or ‘lost-wax’ process for casting was learnt as long ago as the Indus Valley Culture.
  • Along with it was discovered the process of making alloy of metals by mixing copper, zinc and tin which is called bronze.
  • The bronze casting technique and making of bronze images of traditional icons reached a high stage of development in South India during the medieval period.
  • Although bronze images were modelled and cast during the Pallava Period in the eighth and ninth centuries, some of the most beautiful and exquisite statues were produced during the Chola Period in Tamil Nadu from the tenth to the twelfth century.
  • Exquisite pieces of art developed during this period. This technique is still practised in south India, particularly in Kumbakonam.
  • The distinguished patron during the tenth century was the widowed Chola queen, Sembiyan Maha Devi.
  • Chola bronzes are the most sought-after collectors’ items by art lovers all over the world.
  • The well-known dancing figure of Shiva as Nataraja was evolved and fully developed during the Chola Period and since then many variations of this complex bronze image have been modelled.
  • A wide range of Shiva iconography was evolved in the Thanjavur (Tanjore) region of Tamil Nadu. The ninth century kalyanasundara murti is highly remarkable for the manner in which Panigrahana (ceremony of marriage) is represented by two separate statuettes.
  • Shiva with his extended right hand accepts Parvati’s (the bride’s) right hand, who is depicted with a bashful expression and taking a step forward.
  • The union of Shiva and Parvati is very ingeniously represented in the ardhanarisvara murti in a single image.
  • Beautiful independent figurines of Parvati have also been modelled, standing in graceful tribhanga posture.

Conclusion

Given these unique features, great demand of Chola bronze sculptures not only among the devotees but also among the art collectors across the world. Thus, Chola bronze sculptures give us a glimpse of the finesse in metallurgy during the early medieval India. Hence appreciated by the art lovers across the world.

 


General Studies – 2


 

7. For India to transform into a deeply participatory democracy, India needs a strong Pre-Legislative Consultative Policy which strengthens the legitimacy and credibility of the legislative action and facilitates accountability. Examine. (250 words)

Reference: Live Mint

Introduction

Pre-Legislative Consultation is a process through which citizens engage with the government by providing feedback and comments on policies and draft bills. A draft bill is a proposal made to the Parliament to become a law. It is this draft bill that is placed before the public for their feedback. The Union Government has listed 29 Bills to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.

In 2014, the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy was adopted, mandating a host of rules, including that whenever the Government makes any law, it must place a draft version of it in the public domain for at least 30 days.

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Pre – legislative consultation policy 2014

  • The policy also says that along with the draft, a note explaining the law in simple language and justifying the proposal, its financial implication, impact on the environment and fundamental rights, a study on the social and financial costs of the bill, etc. should be uploaded.
  • The respective departments should also upload the summary of all the feedback that they receive on the circulated draft.
  • It aimed to create an institutionalised space for public participation in law-making processes.

Importance of Pre-legislative consultation policy 2014

  • This policy provides a forum for citizens and relevant stakeholders to interact with the policymakers in the executive during the initial stages of law-making.
  • Protests in the recent past over laws such as the farm laws, the RTI Amendment Act, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, etc. have all highlighted that there is discontent among relevant stakeholders and the public at large since they were not looped in while framing such laws.
  • Public consultations enhance transparency, increase accountability and could result in the building of an informed Government where citizens are treated as partners and not as subjects.
  • For example, concerns raised by civil society members (#SaveTheInternet campaign) were addressed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority in its framing of the net neutrality rules after extensive consultation and deliberation processes adopted by them.

Performance of Pre-legislative consultation policy 2014

  • During the 16th Lok Sabha (May 2014 to May 2019) 186 bills were introduced in Parliament, of which 142 saw no consultation prior to introduction.
  • From the 44 bills placed in the public domain for receipt of comments, 24 did not adhere to the 30-day deadline.
  • During the 17th Lok Sabha (June 2019 to present), 115 bills were introduced in Parliament, of which 85 saw no consultation prior to introduction.
  • From the 30 bills placed in public domain for receipt of comment, 16 of them did not adhere to the 30-day deadline.

Challenges faced

  • Though it is required that the mandates of an approved policy be heeded by all Government departments, the absence of a statutory or constitutional right has watered down its effect.
  • The effective implementation of the policy requires subsequent amendments in executive procedural guidelines like the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures and Handbook on Writing Cabinet Notes.
  • The main issues being faced by the government are in terms of awareness of the Pre-legislative consultation process.
  • At times consultations are put out in the public domain but there are no responses from the citizens.
  • On the other hand, large volumes of feedback are often not processed because of internal capacity constraints.

Way forward

  • The effective implementation of the policy requires subsequent amendments in executive procedural guidelines like the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures and Handbook on Writing Cabinet Notes.
  • Incorporation of pre-legislative consultation in the procedures of the Cabinet, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha etc. should be prioritized.
  • Similarly, it must be required of ministers while introducing the bill to place an addendum note on the details of the pre-legislative consultation.
  • Empowering citizens with a right to participate in pre-legislative consultations through a statutory and constitutional commitment could be a gamechanger.

Value addition

  • Importance of Consultation:
    • Inclusive, regular and meaningful consultation between national governments and stakeholders – including civil society – is essential for SDG implementation and accountability.
    • It provides opportunities for diverse voices to be heard on issues that matter to citizens, allowing people to share their knowledge, insight and experience to advance implementation.
    • Solutions and laws reflect real needs and provide more forward-looking solutions
    • Increased legitimacy of proposed changes and enhanced compliance in implementation
    • Increased confidence in government institutions and trust amongst partners
    • Establishment of a cross-sector dialogue and information sharing
    • Less conflicts amongst different groups and between the private sector and government agencies
    • Partnership, ownership and responsibility in implementation
    • More effective and forward-looking harmonization and simplification efforts.
  • From protests against laws redefining citizenship and Agri-marketing to suspicions over the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine and leaks about internal differences over economic policy, government appears to be suffering from a severe case of hubris.
  • The implacable and strident tone of the farmer protests after nine rounds of talks, multiple concessions, and a Supreme Court-mandated committee are good examples of the current dissonance between the governed and the government.
  • Despite the progressive intent of the laws, the roughshod manner in which they were passed has detracted from their merits.
  • Appearing first as Ordinances, the government leveraged its brute majority in Parliament to rush through the Bills in a monsoon session, truncated by Covid-19 with the minimum of debate.
  • Later, when farmers hunkered down on Delhi’s borders, the government claimed that it had held extensive pre-legislative discussions with farm lobbies and then wielded the security agencies against key protestors.
  • Now, the agriculture ministry has admitted in reply to an application under the Right to Information Act that it has no record of such consultations. Examples such as this do not encourage trust in the government.
  • The upshot has been that, despite assurances that the minimum support price would remain and that the laws amended to remove the administrative restraints on contractual appeals in court, the farmers are disinclined to take the government at its word.
  • This trust deficit had manifested in nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, of which Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh became a potent symbol.
  • Both protests have demonstrated that the absence of a meaningful opposition party does not preclude the citizenry from mobilizing on its own initiative when it perceives its interests are at stake.
  • In the case of the Covid-19 vaccine drive, the relatively poor turnout in several states points to distrust over the approval granted to Bharat Biotech’s candidate Covaxin because Phase III clinical trials had not been completed.
  • The fact that this vaccine is administered after the recipient signs a consent form is unlikely to instill confidence in a large majority of the population that is ill-equipped to comprehend the risks embedded in clinical trials.
  • Now, it transpires from the minutes of the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) meetings, which were released by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, that the SEC initially expressed reservations about Covaxin but approved it just two days later without explanation.
  • The trust deficit appears to be manifesting itself within government too.

 

8. The formation of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) holds good potential for India with respect to economic growth and integration but India must be careful of the pitfalls it may pose in the future. Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

In the presence of United States President Joe Biden in Tokyo, Indian  Prime Minister announced India’s partnership in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), the US-led economic initiative that has on board the four Quad partners apart from South Korea and New Zealand and seven of the 10 Southeast Asian nations.

The IPEF will focus on trade, supply chains, clean energy, taxation and anti-corruption measures. It is a declaration of the collective will to make the region an engine of global economic growth while pushing for “trust, transparency and timeliness” as the three main pillars of resilient supply chains.

Body

Background: IPEF

  • The move of these 13 nations to strengthen economic partnership to enhance resilience, sustainability, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific is significant, given China’s economic and military assertiveness in the region.
  • The door has been left open for more nations in the region.
  • Apart from the Quad members US, India, Australia and Japan, the new grouping contains Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Potential of IPEF for India

  • Economy: The Indo-Pacific covers half the population of the world and more than 60% of the global GDP and the nations who will join this framework in the future, are signing up to work toward an economic vision that will deliver for all people.
  • Trade: It intends to build high-standard, inclusive, free, and fair-trade commitments and develop new and creative approaches in trade and technology policy that advance a broad set of objectives that fuels economic activity and investment, promotes sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and benefits workers and consumers.
  • Supply Chains: IPEF is committed to improving transparency, diversity, security, and sustainability in supply chains to make them more resilient and well-integrated.
    • To coordinate crisis response measures; expand cooperation to better prepare for and mitigate the effects of disruptions to better ensure business continuity; improve logistical efficiency and support; and ensure access to key raw and processed materials, semiconductors, critical minerals, and clean energy technology.
  • Clean Energy, Decarbonization, and Infrastructure: In line with the Paris Agreement goals and efforts to support the livelihood of peoples and workers, it plans to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies to decarbonize our economies and build resilience to climate impacts.
    • This also involves deepening cooperation on technologies, on mobilizing finance, including concessional finance, and on seeking ways to improve competitiveness and enhance connectivity by supporting the development of sustainable and durable infrastructure and by providing technical assistance.
  • Tax and Anti-Corruption: It is committed to promoting fair competition by enacting and enforcing effective and robust tax, anti-money laundering, and anti-bribery regimes in line with existing multilateral obligations, standards, and agreements to curb tax evasion and corruption in the Indo-Pacific region.
    • This involves sharing expertise and seeking ways to support the capacity building necessary to advance accountable and transparent systems.

Challenges and pitfalls of IPEF for India

  • Issue of IPRs: One notable exclusion from this list is intellectual property rights (IPRs) that have generally been at the heart of the U.S.’ economic engagements with its partner countries.
    • But this may soon change and IPRs could soon figure in the IPEF negotiations.
    • India has historically not been aligned with USA on the issue of IPR’s as it may prove costly to developing economies.
  • Labour rights: Enforcement of labour rights using trade rules is quite contentious, having been rejected by the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on several occasions.
    • India should also be wary of the considerable emphasis that is being given to strengthening labour rights in the on-going discussions on the IPEF, both by corporate interests and members of the Congress.
  • Environment: As regards the environment, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had cautioned that “measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade”.
    • The IPEF could threaten abrogation of these decisions at the WTO and the UNFCCC.
  • Data portability: A third set of issues, whose ramifications on the future of the digital economy and beyond can be far reaching, are those related to standards on cross-border data flows and data localisations.
    • On this issue of data localisation, the Government of India has not yet taken a clear position.
    • In 2019, its likely preference was revealed in the Draft National e-Commerce Policy, wherein it had backed restrictions on cross-border data flows.
    • The key challenge for India is to sustain this diametrically opposite view to an uncompromising position of the U.S. on data localisation.

Conclusion and way forward

  • India needs to go beyond bilateral pacts and focus on broad competitiveness instead of two-way particulars.
  • On its part, the US would do well not to insist on caveats that could blunt any Indian advantage.
  • Our put-offs will have to be spelt out with clarity right at the onset of IPEF talks.
  • But then, just as the White House is seized of the need to keep Indo-Pacific sea-lanes free of a Chinese shadow, it must also be aware of how constraints on Indian export success could work against the Quad’s geopolitical goals.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

9. Evaluate India’s response to the climate change crisis. Has India has prioritised economic growth over environmental sustainability? (250 words)

Reference: Financial Express

Introduction

The latest Environmental Performance Index (EPI), brought out by Yale University and Columbia University, has sought to paint India as a climate villain. India is now ranked last in a list of 180 countries compared to 168th in 2020, having prioritised, per the report, “economic growth over environmental sustainability”. It has been ranked poorly across 40 indicators divided into 11 categories—climate change mitigation, air quality, waste management, water and sanitation, heavy metals, biodiversity and habitat, ecosystem services, fisheries, agriculture, acid rain, and water resources.

Body

India’s performance in Nationally Determined Contributions

  • At the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (December 2020), India was the only G20 nation compliant with the agreement.
  • India has been ranked within the top 10 for two years consecutively in the Climate Change Performance Index.
  • The Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme is the world’s largest zero-subsidy LED bulb programme for domestic consumers.
  • India provided leadership for setting up the International Solar Alliance, a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Evaluation of India’s response to climate change

  • Exceeding the NDC commitment: India is on track (as reports/documents show) to meet and exceed the NDC commitment to achieve 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based sources by 2030.
  • Reduction in emission intensity of GDP: Against the voluntary declaration for reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 20%-25% by 2020, India has reduced it by 24% between 2005-2016.
  • More importantly, we achieved these targets with around 2% out of the S.$100 billion committed to developing nations in Copenhagen (2009), realised by 2015.
  • Renewable energy expansion: India is implementing one of the most extensive renewable energy expansion programmes to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.
  • Investment in green measures: As part of the fiscal stimulus after the pandemic, the government announced several green measures, including:
    • a $26.5-billion investment in biogas and cleaner fuels,
    • $3.5 billion in incentives for producing efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) and advanced chemistry cell battery, and $780 million towards an afforestation programme.
  • India’s contribution to global emissions is well below its equitable share of the worldwide carbon budget by any equity criterion.

India’s action for Climate Change

  • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): outlines existing and future policies and programs addressing climate mitigation and adaptation. The Action Plan identifies eight core “national missions” running through to 2017: Solar Energy; Enhanced Energy Efficiency; Sustainable Habitat; Water; Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem; Green India; Sustainable Agriculture; and Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change. Most of these missions have strong adaptation imperatives.
  • National Clean Energy Fund: The Government of India created the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) in 2010 for financing and promoting clean energy initiatives and funding research in the area of clean energy in the country. The corpus of the fund is built by levying a cess of INR 50 (subsequently increased to INR 100 in 2014) per tonne of coal produced domestically or imported.
  • Paris Agreement: Under the Paris Agreement, India has made three commitments. India’s greenhouse gas emission intensity of its GDP will be reduced by 33-35% below 2005 levels by 2030. Alongside, 40% of India’s power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources. At the same time, India will create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Co2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • International Solar Alliance: ISA was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on 30 November 2015 by India and France, in the presence of Mr. Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
  • Bharat Stage (BS) Emission Norms: Emissions from vehicles are one of the top contributors to air pollution, which led the government at the time to introduce the BS 2000 (Bharat Stage 1) vehicle emission norms from April 2000, followed by BS-II in 2005. BS-III was implemented nationwide in 2010. However, in 2016, the government decided to meet the global best practices and leapfrog to BS-VI norms by skipping BS V altogether.

Conclusion and way forward

  • Any self-sacrificial declaration of carbon neutrality today in the current international scenario would be a wasted gesture reducing the burden of the developed world and transferring it to the backs of the Indian people.
  • India’s twin burden of low-carbon development and adaptation to climate impacts, is onerous and no doubt requires serious, concerted action.
  • India’s approach to eventual net-zero emissions is contingent on deep first world emissions reductions and an adequate and unambiguous global carbon budget.
  • Meanwhile, India must reject any attempt to restrict its options and be led into a low-development trap, based on pseudo-scientific narratives.

 

10. What is assistive technology? Discuss its role in lowering barriers faced by People with disabilities. What steps are required to ensure that this technology is available to the masses with minimal cost? (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software programme, or product system that is used to help people with disabilities increase, maintain, or improve their functional abilities. Examples: Prosthetics, braces, walkers, customised switches, special-purpose computers, screen readers, and specialist curricular software.

The 2011 Census puts the national estimate of the number of people with disabilities at 2.21% of the total population (26.8 million persons), including persons with visual, hearing, speech, locomotor and mental disabilities with the majority in the 19-59 age group. The country’s disabled population increased by 22.4% between 2001 and 2011 census periods; the total population increased by 17.6% however. 

Body:

Importance of Assistive technology

  • It is estimated that approximately one in every 10 children in the world has a disability and less than 10% of children with disabilities in low-income countries go to school.
  • Around the world, an estimated 93 million children under the age of 15 are living with some kind of disability.
  • Besides poverty and prejudice, the lack of access to assistive technology, as well as inaccessible transport and school environments are major barriers, which restrict children with disabilities to access education and to participate in the community.
  • Assistive technology is a life changer — it opens the door to education for children with impairments, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and an independent life of dignity for older persons

Measures needed to ensure that this technology is available to the masses with minimal cost:

  • The Assistance to Disabled persons for purchasing/fitting of aids/appliances (ADIP) scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • It aims to assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation, by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential.
  • People with disabilities need to be better integrated into society by overcoming stigma
  • State-wise strategies on education for children with special needs need to be devised.
  • There should be proper teacher training to address the needs of differently-abled children and facilitate their inclusion in regular schools
  • Further there should be more special schools and ensure educational material for differently-abled children
  • Safety measures like road safety, safety in residential areas, public transport system etc, should be taken up
  • Further, it should be made legally binding to make buildings disabled-friendly
  • More budgetary allocation for welfare of the disabled. There should be a disability budgeting on line of gender budget.
  • Proper implementation of schemes should be ensured. There should be proper monitoring mechanisms and accountability of public funds.

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