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[Mission 2024] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 7 September 2023

 

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


General Studies – 1


 

Topic: Role of women and women’s organization; Social empowerment.

1. Empowering women through education, financial inclusion, and gender equality contributes to improved economic outcomes and overall societal development. Analyse. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Live Mint

Why the question:

The article underscores the crucial link between women’s empowerment and economic prosperity in modern societies.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the steps that must be taken for empowering women in a true sense.

Directive word: 

Analyse – When asked to analyse, you must examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by defining women empowerment in India.

Body:

First, write about unequal pay – its various manifestations and its impact.

Next, write about inferior work – the notions that women agency is not as developed as men, its impact.

Next, denial of rights for women and not involving them in matters that affect them. Write about its impact.

Next, write about the steps required to bridge the above to achieve empowerment in a true sense.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

Introduction

The policy of women’s empowerment is incorporated well into the constitution of India which became effective in the year 1950. Article 14 ensures the right to equality for women; Article 15(1) prohibits gender discrimination; Article 15(3) empowers the state to take affirmative steps in favour of women, to name a few.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 says men and women will have pay equality in 257 years. Of the 153 countries studied for the report, India ranks 112th on the overall Global Gender Gap Index. The economic gender gap runs particularly deep and has gotten significantly wider.

Body

Gender inequality in India

  • India scores quite low in when it comes to gender inequality, according to latest UNDP Human development report, India is ranked 125 of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index (GII).
  • Labour participation: In terms of labour participation only 23.3% of women (79.1% men) above 15 years are part of India’s labour force.
  • Wage gap: Research from India’ leading diversity and inclusion consulting firm Avtar Group shows that women are paid 34% less than men for performing the same job with the same qualifications.
  • Lack of Economic Empowerment: Women are underrepresented in senior managerial position and overrepresented in low paying jobs. Oxford Survey shows that globally only 19% firms have a female senior manager.
  • Access to productive capital: It is harder for women to access funds and capital for farming, starting a business or for other developmental works.
  • Secondary Education for women is lower than man in majority of countries while this stands at less than 80% in India.
  • Social norms and stereotypes: Classifying men as “bread winners” and women pursuing jobs as “career women” was reported by Oxford University Survey. It also highlighted that most of the unpaid work is seen as a women’s job.

Measures needed to bridge the gap and empower women

  • Behavioral Nudge: For instance, by using taxes to incentivize fairly sharing child-care responsibilities, or by encouraging women and girls to enter traditionally male-dominated sectors such as the armed forces and information technology. Eg Supreme Court in India declared that women could now hold commanding positions in Army.
    • Paternity leaves for men, to share the responsibility of child rearing.
    • Incentivizing companies to employ women, and reach 50% target.
  • Strong laws and policies wrt equal pay for equal work, maternity benefits are needed to promote women’s representation in economy.
  • Maternity and paternity: An amendment to the Act in 2017 increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. Though well-meaning, this unfortunately fortifies notions of care-giving being primarily the onus of the woman, and thus reinforces and raises the risk of women being subject to the motherhood penalty.
    • An explicit law for mandatory paternity benefits will go a long way towards equalizing gender roles and reducing employer bias
  • Better work conditions: The provision and strengthening of childcare facilities for working mothers are very important.
    • The Maternity Benefit Act mandates the setting up of creche facilities for organizations with over 50 employees.
    • A better policy measure would be to provide mothers in need of childcare with a monthly allowance. This will also help mothers working from home.
  • Political Representation: India has provided 33% reservation for women in the Panchayats and Local Bodies. Capacity Building and training can increase their capabilities further.

Conclusion

Gender equality is a human right which entitles all persons irrespective of their gender to live with dignity and with freedom. Gender equality is also a precondition for development and reducing of poverty. Gender shouldn’t be an unreasonable determining factor curbing the potential of women.

 

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

2. The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in India have played a significant role in decentralized governance since their inception. However, their performance has been mixed, with both successes and limitations. Critically examine. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 2 and mentioned as part of Mission-2024 Secure timetable.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the shortcomings of PRIs on fiscal and functional decentralisation and suggest measures to overcome them.

Directive word: 

Critically examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we have to look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by writing about the aims and objectives of 73rd Constitution Amendment Act.

Body:

First, write in detail about how political decentralisation has been a success with respect to PRI’s. Write about the various achievements of these bodies.

Next, write about various shortcomings of PRIs on fiscal decentralisation – lack of funds, issues with CSS, lack of agency to generate own revenues etc.

Next, write about various shortcomings of PRIs on functional decentralisation – overlapping functions with state government, absence of a proper workforce, accountability issues etc.

Next, suggest measures to overcome the above.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward.

Introduction

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act 1992 is a significant landmark in the evolution of grassroot democratic institutions in the country. It transformed the representative democracy into participatory democracy. It is a revolutionary concept to build democracy at the grassroot level in the country.

However, after decades of this historic amendment, Panchayati Raj Institutions have remained laggard in the developmental process.

Body

Success of Panchayati Raj

Gandhiji’s dream of Gram Swaraj and Oceanic Circles of Power were realised through the Panchayati Raj System.

  • The PRIs are the local self-governing bodies that ensure the opportunity for people’s participation and involvement in the formulation and implementation of rural development programmes.
  • The main objective of Panchayat System in India is to strengthen the base of democracy at the grass root level.
  • It was introduced as a real democratic political apparatus which would bring the masses into active political control from below, from the vast majority of the weaker, poor sections of rural India.
  • They play the role of a catalytic agent in integrating development of tribal masses in rural areas.
  • Plan documents of both the central and state governments and various committees have emphasised the importance of these bodies in the polity. Five-year plans have also laid special emphasis on the role of Panchayats in rural developments.
  • Rural Development includes measures to strengthen the democratic structure of society through the PRIs.
  • PRIs have been used to improve the rural infrastructure, income of rural households and delivery systems pertaining to education, health and safety mechanisms. These institutions are to be galvanised to become effective instruments of social and economic change at the local level.
  • Reservation for women (33%) has increased their presence in the public life.

Failures of democratic decentralisation especially in Panchayats

  • Overwhelming dependency on government funding: Panchayat’s own resource base to raise finances is low and the financial resources are tied to certain schemes and initiatives. When Panchayats do not raise resources and instead depend on external funding, people are less likely to enforce social audit and efficacy of the schemes.
    • Eg: In case of Urban local bodies, majority of municipalities have not increased property tax since many years and have not leveraged the municipal bonds for betterment of city infrastructure.
  • Creation of Parallel Bodies: Parallel Bodies have usurped the legitimate space of local bodies. For instance, Smart City scheme is being implemented in major cities through Special Purpose Vehicles, squeezing the limited space of urban local governance in municipalities.
  • Lack of adequate Devolution: Many states have not devolved the 3F’s of function, funds and functionaries, to enable local bodies to discharge their constitutionally stipulated functions.
  • Excessive control by bureaucracy
    • In many Gram Panchayats, Sarpanches have to spend an extra ordinary amount of time visiting block Officers for funds and/or technical approval. These interactions with the Block staff office distort the role of Sarpanches as elected representatives.
    • Multiple institutions like parastatals, development authorities, public works departments, and ULBs themselves report to different departments of the state government and have been entrusted with overlapping responsibilities.
  • Poor Infrastructure: It is found that nearly 25% of Gram Panchayats do not have basic office buildings. Capacity building of elected representatives is another hindrance in the grass roots democracy. In case of urban local bodies, Mayor position is merely cermonial.

Measures Need to strengthen Panchayats

  • Central Government has started the Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyaan. The campaign is undertaken under the name of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Gaon, Sabka Vikas”.
    • It aims to draw up Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) in the country and place them on a website where anyone can see the status of the various government’s flagship schemes.
    • Gram Panchayats have been mandated for the preparation of GPDP for economic development and social justice utilizing the resources available to them.
    • Government of India formulated E-Panchayat Mission Mode Project for e-enablement of all the Panchayats, to make their functioning more efficient and transparent.
  • Social Audit: The power of social audit was proven by Jan Sunwai in Rajasthan. Transparent, third party Social Audit can enable people to hold the representatives accountable.
  • Citizen Participation: In case of Gram Sabhas, their functions and roles must be clearly defined as in the PESA Act, to enable to function effectively.

Conclusion

The need of the hour is to bring about a holistic change in the lives of people among the villagers by uplifting their socioeconomic and health status through effective linkages through community, governmental and other developmental agencies. People’s demands for the sustainable decentralisation and advocacy should focus on a decentralisation agenda. The framework needs to be evolved to accommodate the demand for decentralisation.

 

Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

3. Local body elections are vital for Indian democracy, but they suffer from several problems that hinder their effectiveness and inclusivity. Analyse. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Insights on India

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 2 and mentioned as part of Mission-2024 Secure timetable.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the issues with local body election in India and ways to resolve them.

Directive word: 

Critically examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we have to look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Briefly explain the significance of local body elections in India.

Body:

First, write about the Issues in Local Body Elections in India -Lack of awareness and voter education, Low voter turnout, Limited knowledge about candidates and inadequate representation and inclusivity etc.

Next, write about the steps to counter issues in local body elections.

Conclusion:

Suggest a way forward.

Introduction

Local Self Government is the management of local affairs by such local bodies who have been elected by the local people. The local self-Government includes both rural and urban government. It is the third level of the government. There are 2 types of local government in operation – panchayatas in rural areas and Municipalities in urban areas.

Body

Local body elections plagued by issues

  • Lack of voter awareness: Many citizens, especially in rural areas, lack awareness about the importance of local body elections, the roles and responsibilities of local representatives, and the impact of their votes. This leads to low voter turnout and undermines the democratic process.
  • Political violence: Local body elections often suffer from significant political interference, with political parties attempting to influence the outcomes by promoting their candidates or engaging in unethical practices. This can result in unfair competition and undermine the principles of free and fair elections.
    • Eg: In West Bengal Opposition parties have not been able to file nominations in about 50 of the 341 blocks of the State amid reports of the intimidation of candidates.
  • Money power and corruption: Local body elections in India are notorious for the influence of money power. Candidates, especially those backed by major political parties, often engage in bribery and other corrupt practices to secure votes. This marginalizes genuine candidates who lack financial resources and hampers the representation of the people’s true choice.
  • Caste and identity politics: Local body elections frequently witness the exploitation of caste and identity-based divisions. Candidates often leverage these divisions to secure votes along caste or religious lines, leading to polarization and a distortion of the democratic process. This undermines the focus on development and governance issues.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and logistics: Elections require substantial infrastructure and logistical support, such as polling booths, ballot papers, electronic voting machines, and adequate security measures. In many cases, these arrangements are inadequate or poorly managed, leading to confusion, delays, and voter disenfranchisement.
    • Eg: The State government and the SEC do not have enough resources at their disposal to conduct the mammoth exercise across the State on a single day
  • Women’s underrepresentation: Local body elections often witness low representation of women candidates and elected representatives. Despite reservation quotas for women, there are challenges in implementing them effectively, and deep-rooted patriarchal norms and social barriers still limit women’s participation and influence in local governance.
    • Pati Panchayat is rampant all over India where women are only the mouthpiece of their male counterparts.
  • Lack of accountability: Once elected, local body representatives may lack mechanisms for accountability to their constituents. This can result in poor governance, corruption, and neglect of local issues. Inadequate oversight and monitoring mechanisms exacerbate this problem.
    • The elected candidates are often illiterate and there is no substantial outcome.

 

Strategies to address the issues

  • Increasing voter awareness through civic education and outreach programs.
  • Strengthening regulatory bodies to curb political interference and ensure fair elections.
  • Implementing effective measures to reduce money power and corruption, such as transparent campaign financing and stricter enforcement of election expenditure limits.
  • Promoting social inclusion and discouraging identity-based politics through public discourse and awareness campaigns.
  • Enhancing infrastructure and logistical arrangements to ensure smooth and efficient elections.
  • Encouraging greater participation of women through affirmative action, awareness campaigns, and capacity-building programs.
  • Establishing robust mechanisms for monitoring and holding local body representatives accountable for their actions and performance.

Conclusion

It is important for government bodies, civil society organizations, and citizens to collaborate in addressing these challenges and strengthening the democratic fabric of local body elections in India.

Value Addition

  • Rural Local Governments:
    • Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) is a system of rural local self-government in India.
    • PRI was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to build democracy at the grass roots level and was entrusted with the task of rural development in the country.
      • This act has added a new Part-IX to the Constitution of India. This part is entitled as ‘The Panchayats’ and consists of provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O.
      • In addition, the act has also added a new Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution. This schedule contains 29 functional items of the panchayats. It deals with Article 243-G.
    • In its present form and structure PRI has completed 30 years of existence. However, a lot remains to be done in order to further decentralization and strengthen democracy at the grass root level.
  • Urban Local Governments:
    • Urban Local Governments were established with the purpose of democratic decentralisation.
    • There are eight types of urban local governments in India – Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Notified Area Committee, Town Area Committee, Cantonment Board, township, port trust, special purpose agency.
    • At the Central level the subject of ‘urban local government’ is dealt with by the following three Ministries.
      • The Ministry of Urban Development was created as a separate ministry in 1985 (now Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs).
      • Ministry of Defense in the case of cantonment boards.
      • Ministry of Home Affairs in the case of Union Territories.
    • The 74th Amendment Act pertaining to urban local government was passed during the regime of P.V. Narsimha Rao’s government in 1992. It came into force on 1st June, 1993.
      • Added Part IX -A and consists of provisions from articles 243-P to 243-ZG.
      • Added 12th Schedule to the Constitution. It contains 18 functional items of Municipalities and deals with Article 243 W.

 

Topic: Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

4. Addressing hunger and malnutrition is a complex challenge that requires a sustained and coordinated effort at local, national, and global levels. Examine its impact and suggest solutions. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: The Hindu

Why the question:

The article discusses a successful approach to addressing malnutrition in the Bemetara district, emphasizing community participation, locally sourced nutrition, and women’s empowerment as key elements of the strategy.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about causes and impact of hunger and malnutrition and ways to tackle it.

Directive word: 

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must investigate the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by giving a statistic regarding Hunger and malnutrition in India.

Body:

Describe the impact of hunger and malnutrition in India – status of child mortality, stunting and wasting in India, loss of demographic dividend, extreme poverty etc.

Next write about the causes – there are social factors like early marriage etc all of which contribute to the undernourishment, stunting and wasting of children.

Next, write about the measures that are needed at local, national, and global levels to overcome hunger and malnutrition in the country.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

Introduction

India has 5,772,472 children below five years affected by severe wasting, the most in the world, alerted UNICEF. It had been reported in 2017 by the National Health Survey that approximately 19 crore people in the country were compelled to sleep on an empty stomach every night.

Underweight is most common among the poor, the rural population, adults who have no education and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Hence it clear that hunger and malnutrition is also a direct consequence of socio-economic status of people in India.

Body

Malnutrition in India

  • India, currently has the largest number of undernourished people in the worlde. around 195 million.
  • Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India do not meet their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.
  • 9% of children under 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively.
  • Rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise, affecting almost a fifth of the adults, at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.
  • Inequities in food and health systems increase inequalities in nutrition outcomes that in turn can lead to more inequity, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Causes of hunger and malnutrition in India

  • Poverty: Poverty restricts the food choices and has been the causative factor of hunger related deaths.
    • If the persistent high prices of food items and the regional disparities in terms of development, especially the backwardness among the hilly and tribal areas also taken into account, the percentage of people who cannot afford balanced nutrition will be much higher in India.
  • Poor access to safe drinking water: Safe and tap drinking water is still a luxury in many parts of rural India and urban slums/shanties. Unsafe water causes water borne diseases and children are prone to it more than adults.
  • Issues with agriculture: The change from multi to mono cropping systems limits the diversity of agricultural products.
    • Inclination towards cash crops and changing food habits result in malnutrition, undernutrition and even micro-nutrient deficiencies.
    • Local cuisine such as millets are not being consumed causing nutrient deficiencies and anaemia.
  • Food wastage: Food wastage is also an emerging challenge that undermines the efforts to end hunger and malnutrition. According to the FAO, the global volume of food wastage is estimated at 6 billion tonnes of primary product equivalents.
  • Poor health services: The relationship between poverty and access to health care can be seen as part of a larger cycle, where poverty leads to ill health and ill health maintains poverty.
  • Insufficient education and training: In developing countries, children do not have access to basic education because of inequalities that originate in sex, health and cultural identity. It has been revealed in reports that illiteracy and lack of education are common factor that lead to poverty and in turn hunger.
  • Covid-19 impact: The momentum set by this entire nutrition movement was disturbed once Covid lockdowns led to the shutting of schools, Anganwadi centres, Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres.
    • Further, frontline workers had to be engaged in Covid-related work that took precedence over their daily duties, which entailed identifying, referring and monitoring children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and moderate acute malnutrition among other nutrition-strengthening activities.
  • States tried to cope to the best of their abilities by replacing hot-cooked meals with dry ration or cash transfers.
  • Moreover, indirect forces triggered by the pandemic such as disruption in food systems, dried-up income sources, job losses and consequent financial hardships also mean that access to nutrient-rich food might have reduced among economically vulnerable people.

Measures needed to tackle hunger

  • Agriculture-Nutrition linkage schemes have the potential for greater impact in dealing with malnutrition and thus, needs greater emphasis.
    • Recognising the importance of this link, the Ministry for Women and Child Development launched the Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh in 2019.
    • There is a need to promote schemes directed to nutrition-agriculture link activities in rural areas. However, implementation remains the key.
  • Early fund disbursement: The government needs to ensure early disbursement of funds and optimum utilisation of funds in schemes linked to nutrition.
  • Underutilisation of Resources: It has been pointed out many a times that expenditure made under many nutrition-based schemes is considerably lower than what was allocated under them. Thus, emphasis needs to be on implementation.
  • Convergence with other Schemes: Nutrition goes beyond just food, with economic, health, water, sanitation, gender perspectives and social norms contributing to better nutrition. This is why the proper implementation of other schemes can also contribute to better nutrition.
    • The convergence of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Jal Jeevan Mission with schemes pertaining to nutrition, will bring holistic changes to India’s nutrition scenario.
  • Mid-Day Meal Scheme: The Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to enhance the nutrition of school children by providing a balanced diet in schools.
    • By including milk and eggs in each states’ menu, preparing a menu based on climatic conditions, local foods etc. can help in providing the right nutrition to children in different States.

Conclusion

Welfare measures must continue to reach the most vulnerable population and children and mothers must be at the centre of the focus to target hunger and malnutrition. Achieving zero hunger requires agriculture and food systems to become more efficient, sustainable, climate-smart and nutritionsensitive. It is important to look at the future of food production to achieve the zero-hunger goal. Human resource capacity building is the key as is access to education and health services and empowering the poor through partnerships.

Value Addition

Government welfare measures

  • Eat Right India: An outreach activity organised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for citizens to nudge them towards eating right.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana: A centrally sponsored scheme executed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is a maternity benefit programme being implemented in all districts of the country with effect from 1st January, 2017.
  • Food Fortification: Food Fortification or Food Enrichment is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content.
  • National Food Security Act, 2013: It legally entitled up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
  • Mission Indradhanush: It targets children under 2 years of age and pregnant women for immunization against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD).
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme: Launched on 2nd October, 1975, the ICDS Scheme offers a package of six services to children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
    • Supplementary Nutrition,
    • Pre-school non-formal education,
    • Nutrition & health education,
    • Immunization,
    • Health check-up and
    • Referral services.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan: Also called National Nutrition Mission, was launched by the government on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on 8th March, 2018.
  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce Stunting, undernutrition, Anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • It also targets to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 4% to 25% by 2022.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

5. Expanding India’s tax base is of significant importance for the country’s economic growth and fiscal stability. Discuss. (250 words)

Difficulty level: Easy

Reference: Indian Express

Why the question:

The article discusses the growth of the tax base in India and emphasizes the importance of the government utilizing this opportunity effectively for the country’s development.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the steps that are needed to harness India’s food processing potential.

Directive word: 

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you must debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You must give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by giving a statistic about current status of India’s tax base.

Body:

First, in detail, write about the advantages of a broader tax base – generates more revenue for essential services. It enhances infrastructure development, social services, and investor confidence, promoting economic growth and fairness in the tax system.

Next, write about the its role in fiscal stability – promoting fairness and compliance in the tax system, Reducing Budget Deficits etc.

Next, write about that are needed to broaden the tax base.

Conclusion:

Conclude by writing a way forward.

Introduction

In the run up to almost every budget, when asked to spend, the common refrain has been that, constrained by its limited tax revenues, the Union government hardly has any room to manoeuvre. However, contrary to the widely held notion that only a small section of society pays taxes, there has been a steady increase in both direct and indirect tax payers over the past few years.

While, ideally, this expansion should have raised the tax to GDP ratio, creating greater fiscal space for the government to spend on public goods, cuts in both direct and indirect tax rates (GST), along with the pandemic-induced economic disruptions, have depressed the fiscal gains accruing from this surge in tax payers.

Body

Taxpayers in India

  • During the assessment year 2014-15, the number of companies paying tax stood at 7.46 lakh.
  • By 2022-23, they had risen to 10.7 lakh — an increase of around 43 per cent.
  • Over the same period, the number of individual taxpayers grew by 65 per cent, rising from 5.38 crore to 8.9 crore.
  • The disaggregated data shows that small taxpayers (those with incomes less than Rs 5 lakh) account for a sizable number of these new tax payers.
  • The number of active GST payers (as of June 2023) stood at 1.4 crore, up from 1.2 crore in 2019. Around 80 per cent of these taxpayers are proprietorships, while another 10 per cent are partnerships. These two categories, in fact, account for most of the increase in the tax base over these years.

Advantages of growing tax base

  • Fiscal Sustainability: With an expanding economy and tax base, there is potential for improved fiscal sustainability. If managed effectively, this can provide the government with more resources to meet its long-term financial commitments.
  • Development Opportunities: The growth in the tax base offers opportunities for increased public investment in critical sectors, fostering economic development, and improving the overall quality of life for citizens.
  • Reduced Reliance on Borrowing: An increased tax base can reduce the government’s reliance on borrowing to meet budgetary needs, potentially leading to lower interest payments and debt management challenges.
  • Incentive for Formalization: As more individuals and businesses enter the tax net, there’s a natural incentive for greater formalization of the economy. This can reduce the size of the informal sector and promote economic stability.
  • Policy Flexibility: A broader tax base can provide the government with greater policy flexibility. It can consider adjustments to tax rates, exemptions, and deductions to support specific policy goals, such as promoting investment or addressing income inequality.
  • Enhanced Economic Growth: With appropriate fiscal policies, the increased revenue potential from a growing tax base can contribute to sustained economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction.

 

Challenges to government

  • Revenue Sustainability: A challenge arises in ensuring that the gains from an expanding tax base translate into sustainable revenue streams. Despite the increase in taxpayers, tax cuts and disruptions may limit the fiscal benefits.
  • Tax Evasion and Avoidance: Addressing tax evasion and avoidance remains a significant challenge. Although the formalization of the economy makes tax evasion more complicated, it requires effective measures to combat tax evasion further.
  • Balancing Tax Cuts: The reduction in tax rates, such as the corporate tax cut, has implications for government revenue. Striking a balance between encouraging economic growth through lower taxes and maintaining adequate fiscal resources is a constant challenge.
  • Targeted Spending: As the government’s fiscal space expands with a growing tax base, it faces the challenge of allocating resources effectively. Prioritizing and targeting spending on key development objectives while avoiding wasteful expenditures is essential.

 

Measures to broaden tax base

  • Formalisation of the Economy: The informal sector accounts for a significant part of India’s economy, but many businesses and workers operate outside the tax net.
    • According to a paper, ‘Measuring Informal Economy in India, Indian experience’, out of the total workforce in 2017-18, 7% was employed by the informal sector.
    • Formalising the economy by bringing these businesses and workers under the tax net can increase the tax base.
    • This can be achieved by providing incentives for businesses to register themselves and comply with tax laws, and by simplifying tax laws to make compliance easier.
    • Also, it can be done with some help from the GST system. One of the objectives of the GST regime in its original form was to nudge those in the unorganised sector to shift to the formal sector and file GST returns in order to avail input tax credits or to continue supplying to larger buyers.
  • Identifying High-Income Earners in the Informal Sector: Many high-income earners operate in the informal sector, but they are not currently paying taxes.
    • Identifying and bringing these individuals into the tax net can increase the tax base.
    • This can be achieved by collecting data on income and assets through various means such as bank transactions, property purchases, etc. and using this data to identify potential taxpayers.
  • Bringing Agricultural Income into the Tax Net: Currently, agricultural income is exempt from income tax in India. However, many wealthy farmers earn a significant income from agriculture, but they do not pay taxes.
    • Bringing agricultural income into the tax net can increase the tax base.
    • This can be achieved by setting a minimum threshold for agricultural income to be taxed, and by incentivising farmers to report their income.
  • Tax collection at source (TCS): Collecting tax at source for purchase of certain goods and services is another way to identify those who earn a tidy sum every year but are not paying any taxes.
    • As of now, TCS is collected for high value goods such as expensive motor vehicles, gold jewellery or overseas remittances.
    • The ambit of TCS can be expanded to consumer durables, domestic luxury travel, stays in expensive hotels etc.
    • This can help identify those operating in the informal sector and earning high income, yet evading tax.
    • While this could hit honest taxpayers, they can reclaim the tax in their annual return.

 

Conclusion

The government’s strategic choices regarding tax rates have influenced the country’s tax landscape, expanded the taxpayer base while maintained stable tax-to-GDP ratios. As India’s economy continues to evolve, these gains should not be squandered through excessive giveaways but rather strategically allocated to promote sustainable development and economic growth.

 

 


General Studies – 4


 

Topic: Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity;

6. Combating collusive corruption and breaking the cycle that perpetuates it in India requires not only strong political will but also active participation from the public. Analyse. (150 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 4.

Key Demand of the question:

To write about the factors behind collusive corruption and measures need to prevent it.

Directive word: 

Analyse – When asked to analyse, you must examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by defining collusive corruption.

Body:

First, write about the factors that aid collusive corruption – opportunity costs, quid pro quo, acceptance of corruption etc. Write about its impact.

Next, suggest various measures to break the cycle of collusive corruption. Give examples to substantiate.

Conclusion:

Conclude by Summarising,

Introduction

Collusive Corruption is a form of corruption in which bribe giver and bribe taker together fleece society for personal gains creating a win-win situation for themselves. There are two dimensions of corruption. One is the exploitative corruption where the public servant exploits the helpless poor citizen. The other is collusive corruption where the citizen corrupts the public servant by a bribe because he gets financially better benefits.

Body

Factors that aid collusive corruption in India

  • Collusive corruption depends on black money. There is more than 5 lakh crores of black money in circulation in India even after demonetisation.
  • There is a lot of discretionary powers to civil servants which lead to corruption. Even petty corruption is aided by bribe givers.
  • Due to non-transparency in working of a government office and non-implementation of citizen charter, collusive corruption is rampant. This is especially true in RTO’s, check posts etc where public interaction is high.
  • Places of collusive corruption: Awarding of contracts for public works and procurement of goods and services, recruitment of employees, evasion of taxes, substandard projects, collusive violation of regulations, adulteration of foods and drugs, obstruction of justice and concealing or doctoring evidence in investigation are all examples of such dangerous forms of collusive corruption.
  • As the economy is freed from state controls, extortionary corruption declines and collusive corruption tends to increase.
  • We need to fashion strong and effective instruments to deal with this growing menace of collusive corruption, which is undermining the very foundations of our democracy and endangering society.

Measures suggested by Second ARC to put an end to collusive corruption

  • Collusive Bribery: Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act needs to be amended to provide for a special offence of ‘collusive bribery’.
    • An Offence could be classified as ‘collusive bribery’ if the outcome or intended outcome of the transaction leads to a loss to the state, public or public interest;
    • In all such cases if it is established that the interest of the state or public has suffered because of an act of a public servant, then the court shall presume that the public servant and the beneficiary of the decision committed an offence of ‘collusive bribery’;
  • Punishment: The punishment for all such cases of collusive bribery should be double that of other cases of bribery. The law may be suitably amended in this regard.
  • Burden of Proof: The Commission is of the view that ‘collusive’ corruption needs to be dealt with by effective legal measures so that both the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker do not escape punishment.
  • Sanction for Prosecution: Prior sanction should not be necessary for prosecuting a public servant who has been trapped red-handed or in cases of possessing assets disproportionate to the known sources of income.
    • The Prevention of Corruption Act should be amended to ensure that sanctioning authorities are not summoned and instead the documents can be obtained and produced before the courts by the appropriate authority.
    • The Presiding Officer of a House of Legislature should be designated as the sanctioning authority for MPs and MLAs respectively.
    • The requirement of prior sanction for prosecution now applicable to serving public servants should also apply to retired public servants for acts performed while in service.
  • Speeding up Trials under the Prevention of Corruption Act: A legal provision needs to be introduced fixing a time limit for various stages of trial. This could be done by amendments to the CrPC.
  • Confiscation of Properties Illegally Acquired by Corrupt Means: The Corrupt Public Servants (Forfeiture of Property) Bill as suggested by the Law Commission should be enacted without further delay.
  • Protection to Whistle-blowers: Legislation should be enacted immediately to provide protection to whistle-blowers on the following lines proposed by the Law Commission:
    • Whistle-blowers exposing false claims, fraud or corruption should be protected by ensuring confidentiality and anonymity, protection from victimization in career, and other administrative measures to prevent bodily harm and harassment.

Conclusion

The Mahatma’s vision of a strong and prosperous India – Purna Swaraj – can never become a reality if we do not address the issue of the stranglehold of corruption on our polity, economy and society in general. Governance is admittedly the weak link in our quest for prosperity and equity. Elimination of corruption is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity for a nation aspiring to catch up with the rest of the world.

 

Topic: Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.

7. Reforms in the civil service should consider its unique challenges and incorporate lessons from the private sector. Examine. (150 Words)

Difficulty Level: Tough

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 4.

Key Demand of the question:

To write how private sector meritocracy can be used as a yardstick for civil service reforms and its limitations.

Directive word: 

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must investigate the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Begin by giving context regarding private sector’s achievements in meritocracy with examples.

Body:

Next, mention the valuable lessons that can be emulated in civil services from private sector’s achievements in meritocracy. Argue as to how these will help improve the performance and effectiveness of civil services.

Next, mention the limitations and hindrances of such emulations.

Conclusion:

Conclude by giving a balanced opinion on civil service reforms.

Introduction

While the private sector and bureaucracy in India operate in distinct contexts, there are certain private sector practices that can provide valuable insights to improve the functioning and efficiency of the bureaucracy.

However, it comes with its own set of challenges, responsibilities, and constraints. Therefore, any reforms should be tailored to suit the specific needs and requirements of the civil service while incorporating relevant lessons from the private sector in Indian context

Body

Private sector practices that bureaucracy needs

  • Performance management and goal-setting: The private sector often employs performance management systems that set clear goals and expectations for employees and evaluate their performance against these objectives. Implementing similar systems in the bureaucracy can help align individual and organizational goals, promote accountability, and improve overall performance.
  • Streamlining processes and reducing bureaucracy: Private sector organizations often emphasize streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, and eliminating inefficiencies. Applying these principles within the bureaucracy can help simplify procedures, reduce red tape, and enhance service delivery to citizens.
  • Embracing technology and digitization: The private sector has been at the forefront of leveraging technology to improve efficiency and productivity. Adopting similar approaches within the bureaucracy can involve digitizing processes, implementing e-governance solutions, and using technology for data management, automation, and citizen engagement. This can lead to faster and more accurate service delivery, reduced paperwork, and enhanced transparency.
  • Customer-centric approach: Private sector organizations prioritize customer satisfaction and tailor their products and services to meet customer needs. Similarly, the bureaucracy can benefit from adopting a customer-centric approach, where citizens are treated as valued clients. This involves focusing on citizen feedback, designing user-friendly interfaces, and providing timely and efficient services.
  • Result-oriented decision-making: Private sector organizations often make decisions based on data, market research, and cost-benefit analysis. In the bureaucracy, adopting evidence-based decision-making can lead to more informed policy choices, effective resource allocation, and improved outcomes.

Measures needed to strengthen bureaucracy

  • Training and capacity building: Enhancing the skills and capabilities of civil servants is crucial. This includes providing specialized training programs to develop expertise in areas such as project management, data analysis, communication, and leadership. The training should focus on the unique challenges and responsibilities faced by civil servants.
  • Performance evaluation and accountability: Implementing robust performance evaluation systems can incentivize civil servants to perform better. However, it is important to consider the unique nature of public service and incorporate appropriate metrics that reflect the diverse roles and objectives of civil servants. Performance evaluations should be tied to specific goals and outcomes aligned with public service delivery and citizen welfare.
  • Flexibility and agility: The civil service can benefit from adopting more flexible and agile approaches to decision-making and implementation. This includes streamlining bureaucratic processes, reducing unnecessary red tape, and promoting a culture of innovation and risk-taking within the boundaries of the public sector’s legal and ethical framework.
  • Collaboration and partnerships: Encouraging collaboration between the civil service and external stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society organizations, and academia, can foster knowledge sharing, innovation, and efficiency. Public-private partnerships and collaborations can be explored to leverage the strengths of both sectors in areas like infrastructure development, healthcare, and education.
  • Technology adoption: Embracing technology can significantly improve efficiency and service delivery in the civil service. This includes digitizing processes, implementing e-governance solutions, utilizing data analytics for evidence-based decision-making, and leveraging emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain where applicable.
  • Ethical considerations: While incorporating private sector practices, it is crucial to uphold the principles of integrity, transparency, and accountability within the civil service. Efforts should be made to strengthen ethical frameworks, promote anti-corruption measures, and enforce strict disciplinary actions against misconduct or malpractice.
  • Contextual adaptation: Reforms should be sensitive to the cultural, social, and economic realities of India. Simply adopting private sector practices without considering the unique challenges and requirements of the civil service may not yield the desired results. Contextual adaptation of reforms is crucial for their effective implementation and success.

Conclusion

To ensure successful reforms, it is important to involve civil servants, professional associations, and relevant stakeholders in the process. Consultations, feedback mechanisms, and pilot projects can help gather insights and ensure that reforms are tailored appropriately to suit the Indian civil service’s specific needs and context.


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